2014 Bentley Continental Flying Spur Performance

8.0
Performance

The Flying Spur's one massive machine, but its acceleration and grip are of an even higher magnitude.

The drivetrain flips the usual equation. Bentley's larger, far more expensive Mulsanne sedan makes do with a twin-turbo V-8 with just 505 horsepower. In the Flying Spur, power comes from a twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter W-12 engine, rated at 616 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. It's a prestige play, even though the unusual "W" configuration renders a less evocative purr and more vibration than most well-balanced eights.

Massive W-12 power and torque hurl the Flying Spur like a dagger; its adaptive suspension responds with a softer touch.

Even so, the Flying Spur has more of everything, including acceleration: it's put at 4.3 seconds from 0-60 mph, and a top speed of 200 mph. The torque hits its peak from 2000 rpm and maintains it to about 6000 rpm, and all of it gets distributed to the ground via all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shift controls--big ones affixed to the steering column, not the wheel, not cast in some exotic metal.

It takes almost no pressure on the pedal to stir the Flying Spur to attention. It picks up speed effortlessly; hitting 100 mph takes under 10 seconds from a standstill. At highway speeds, passing is easy work, just a matter of shuffling down through a few long gas-mileage top gears to tap into its substantial reserves.

The Spur still finds a way to eke out better fuel economy, mostly from the 110-pound weight loss it's achieved with lighter body panels and with the new eight-speed automatic. EPA estimates of 12 miles per gallon city, 20 mpg highway, and 15 mpg combined are better, but still fairly unworried.

The Spur carries over its all-wheel-drive system, with a power split set at 40:60, variable to 85 percent rear or 65 percent front as conditions require. We may have encountered every instance of grip along that infinite curve on our first drive--ever--in China's picturesque countryside. It takes some focus to pilot the Spur smoothly through villages, since it's so torque-rich and eager to tip into it. Through canyon roads that looked eerily like Malibu, the Spur's sweet variable-effort hydraulic steering pointed accurately around tightly composed turns; it's very light at low speeds, but builds up effort in a believable, usable way, something we still have yet to find in most electric-steering racks.

In other ways, the Flying Spur's dynamics have been adapted to a more global audience. The suspension has been softened (the springs, by up to 13 percent, and anti-roll bars have shrunk by up to 15 percent), and its adaptive dampers have been given wider latitude. By fiddling with a four-position indicator on its LCD screen, it's possible to choose a more velvety ride.

Put it in full Sport there and in the shift gate, and you're venturing into future Flying Spur Speed territory. Cornering flattens out, but the Spur loses some of the supple compliance a big car should have, though its Pirelli P-Zero tires will warn well in advance that the 5,451-pound sedan is adapting millions of ways per second to the changing conditions. Most drivers will settle with the dampers in the middle position, tapping into Sport when the roads require more evasive maneuvers.

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