– Immense presence
– Immense power
– Immense cabin
– Immense size
– Immense price
– Immense fuel consumption
As with any Bentley, driving the Continental Flying Spur Speed is an event in itself. Driving it over several days is akin to an entire festival. The four-door version of the Continental GT may have lost some of the shapely curves, but it gains a whole lot more in passenger luxury.
While not as head-turning as its showboat coupe cousin, the Continental Flying Spur is an attractive sedan in its own right. Unofficially known as a baby Bentley, it is still larger than most other full-size sedans. It looks a lot like the GT coupe, only longer and with a raised roofline. We had no idea we had received the top version until we saw “Speed” engraved on the door sills. That is pretty much the only hint, as there are no other “Speed” badges.
Our tester had a bright custom interior, with every inch covered in stitched red leather, including the dashboard, seats, doors and even the headliner. There were patches of real aluminium, while areas where we expected wood were instead dressed in glossy black. Indeed, it was just a demonstration of how customisable the cabin can be at the time of ordering one of these massive cars.
There was no shortage of space both front and back. The ceiling is a bit low, but very tall people should just about manage. The four main seating positions could be electrically adjusted, and amazingly enough, all four also had a massage feature. The front seats were decently bolstered, while the two proper seats in the rear can be reclined, with ample legroom to spare. There is also a massive cargo compartment under the motorised boot lid, but inside the car, storage spaces within the cabin are unfortunately limited to four cup-holders, a small glovebox and a few tight door pockets.
While driving around all day being massaged for free, it is easy to overlook the other luxury gadgets in the Flying Spur. Features include navigation, thumping excellent CD stereo, fancy graphical tyre-pressure monitor, reverse camera with guiding lines and sensors, sunroof, full keyless entry with starter button, numerous airbags, HID headlights, and a Bluetooth phone system with two extra wireless phones stored in the front and rear armrests, ready for private conversations. Unfortunately, the VW-sourced phone system refused to connect to our smartphones, after making us play a 16-digit PIN-code game again and again. The digital a/c, with front and rear controls as well as vents all over the cabin, worked well, but then again, we tested the car in February. The doors also ‘suck’ in and close when left slightly open, so they don’t have to be slammed.
Powered by one of the most powerful engine ever dropped into a production four-door sedan, the all-wheel-drive Flying Spur Speed is motivated by a 6.0-litre V12, delivering 600 hp at 6000 rpm, and more importantly, 750 Nm of torque at only 1750 rpm. This heavyweight car probably has more kick at idle than a Civic does at full throttle. Standard is a smooth 6-speed automatic with thin plastic paddle-shifters. Our 0-to-100 kph run netted us a decent figure of 5.3 seconds, although better runs are likely possible with more abusive launches. Of course, during our entire test that involved lots of highway driving, we netted 19.1 litres/100 km of ‘Super’ RON98 fuel consumption, similar to a full-size SUV. We also didn’t try its claim as the world’s fastest production sedan, with its top speed of 322 kph.
It may be a pain to park, but the Flying Spur Speed is otherwise a supremely comfortable vehicle. It makes on-road imperfections disappear, and all unwanted external noises are muted, although not completely eliminated above 100 kph. But it is always interesting when a car riding on low-profile 275/35 tyres on 20-inch alloys manages this level of comfort. Features of note include the adjustable air suspension that can raise the ride height by an inch, while the adaptive cruise control feature changes speeds automatically based on the speed of the car ahead. The suspension has four settings between ‘comfort’ and ‘sport,’ but it is impossible to discern any difference by feel alone. All settings felt comfortable, while still retaining the uncanny handling.
It was also easily evident that the Flying Spur Speed is more comfortable than the Continental GT Speed. The smooth ride quality was surprising, given the miniscule body roll and flat handling. It would seem that Bentley has retuned the suspension since the release of the GT, as the Flying Spur sailed over bumps that the GT felt jittery on. The Spur’s steering was also less firm than that of the GT, although still retaining its lack of feedback. It is obvious that Bentley has softened up the larger four-door version, but that just makes it a better cruiser. They also seem to have sorted out the overly-delayed throttle response found in our previous GT tester, as the Spur responds to inputs better. Leaving the stability control on or off doesn’t really matter at street-level speeds, as the all-wheel-drive system is perfectly capable of keeping the car in line. And the massive ABS-assisted brakes do their job extremely well.
The Flying Spur Speed certainly flies speedily into history as the best Bentley yet, improving on their previous GT Speed effort, becoming the fastest sedan ever, and regaining its practical comfort quotient. Even more interesting is that its price has fallen due to the weak British currency, although it still costs as much as a small villa. And with that, piloting a small villa will continue to remain the privilege of a few.
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