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The 2014 Bentley Flying Spur is a golden ticket into an entirely different plane of luxury. Even if you're accustomed to $100,000 luxosedans, the Spur's swank accoutrements and sybaritic surroundings seem a world away. It's one of the finest vehicles made, when measured by the amount of hand-stitched leather and hand-planed wood applied to its cozy cabin. Drive one, and you've arrived.The Flying Spur has been a Continental for most of its life, but there's a slight change for the new model and the new model year. Bentley's sold some 20,000 Flying Spurs since 2005, all with that Continental first name. Now, Bentley feels the Flying Spur needs to expand its reach, move out on its own. Hence the slight name change--there's no more "Continental" prefix in its name--and a stronger emphasis on a more emphatic look, as well as a suite of infotainment and powertrain enhancements to match its subtle changes in style.
The sleekly pared-down body has begun to distance itself from its companion two-door Continental GT. At the front end, the LED headlights are still ovals, but the larger ones are outboard--GTs move those inboard. The grille's set at a more vertical angle. The sheetmetal's formed with crisper and tighter creases, and Bentley's "B" is stamped on the fender vent. It's a clubby stance that relaxes as it moves from nose to tail, with a slight flare to the rear fenders and a gentle slope to the roofline. Square taillamps anchor the rear decklid, while oval tailpipes call back to the headlights. The interior remains a paradigm: it's functionally fit, fabulously finished, bespoke to a certain degree in its palette of trim and color choices.
As the most powerful and fastest Bentley sedan ever, the Flying Spur hasn't lacked for attention under the metal, either. The powertrain is latest version of the 6.0-liter W-12 that executives say is the brand's hallmark--no matter what green regulations come down. Output is 616 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. It's coupled to an eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive with a variable torque split set at 40:60 from launch, but capable of shifting to 65 percent front or 85 percent rear as traction needs arise. Bentley quotes a 0-60 mph times of 4.3 seconds, and an astonishing top speed of 200 mph--in a car that weighs almost 5,500 pounds. It reels off whiplashes of power, controlled deftly by a paddle-shifted eight-speed automatic that merits wheel-mounted, heavy-gauge paddles--not the flimsy ones it's given. The new transmission and the use of more aluminum has improved gas mileage to 12 miles per gallon city, 20 miles per gallon highway, or 15 mpg combined.
The Flying Spur sells best in the United States, but since China is becoming a critical outlet, engineers have tailored the ride with both sets of driving tastes in mind--with more ride compliance from taller tire sidewalls and vertical shock layout for chauffered passengers, and with standard 19-inch and available 21-inch wheels and tires for enthusiastic drivers. Adjustable electronic dampers are able to lower the Spur's ride height for better stability and ride control as it approaches its speed limits. Revamped exhaust tuning lowers internal noise levels by 12 decibels. Light, natural steering feel complements the early-warning traction signals built into grippy Pirelli P-Zero tires; the Spur's more than willing to dive into tight corners, and setting its adaptive dampers to Sport gives it the lateral confidence to back up its promise, though it's less compliant when the road unkinks.
Where the Flying Spur turns on the executive levels of charm is inside. Quiet and tastefully rendered, the Flying Spur's cabin is filled with muted details, and studded with "B" logos, all framing a large LCD screen for infotainment functions that can be controlled by front-seat and by back-seat passengers via remote control. The remote also governs the twin 10-inch flat screens embedded in the front-seat headrests for those rear passengers--offering them in-car Internet and wireless connectivity and entertainment.
The cabin can be trimmed out as a four-seater with 14-way power adjustment and memory, heating and ventilation at all seating positions, or with a "plus-one" middle seat without those added controls. Some 17 interior leather colors and seven wood trims are offered, and 17 stitching colors--a palette that runs from sober grey to magnificent damson. A Mulliner Driving Specification adds the best flourishes: diamond-quilted seats, drilled alloy foot pedals, a knurled sports shift lever, jeweled filler cap, and 21-inch two-piece alloy wheels wrap up the package. An optional Naim 1,100-watt audio system is available.
Prices start from $200,500 for the five-seat Flying Spur, or $211,430 for the Mulliner, not including a stiff $2,725 destination charge.