2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
July 3, 2009

The 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur merges Bentley's racing and motor sports heritage with its more recent history of strong, silent, and spacious luxury sedans—and it works splendidly.

TheCarConnection.com studied reviews and road tests from a wide range of sources to bring you this review on the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur. TheCarConnection.com editors also incorporated their experiences driving the Flying Spur sedan to help you make the best purchase decision.

Although the Bentley brand languished behind Rolls-Royce for several decades, the tide has turned in recent years. While Rolls-Royce (now part of BMW) hasn't gained as much traction in the ultra-luxury market, Bentley has surged in popularity under the control of the Volkswagen Group. The Continental Flying Spur sedan and the Continental GT coupe have been key to that success.

The 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur is a long, wide, and very rakish sedan, with a streamlined version of the traditional upright Bentley grille in front and bright chromed mesh grilles and air intakes flanked by quad-oval headlights. A character line runs around the front wheel well and to the taillights, which are rounded trapezoids, and the back of the trunk is distinctively clean and neat. Overall, the big Bentley is conservatively ostentatious and racier than you might expect, but it's not particularly flamboyant—even when you're up close and see all the detailing and the assertive stance. Arguably, the more contemporary exterior styling is starting to look dated, at least for those in the know; the general public will still be wowed.

Under that rather low hoodline is a 6.0-liter, twin-turbocharged W12 engine making 552 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, and it's delivered through a six-speed automatic transmission and full-time all-wheel drive. The unusual "W" engine layout uses offset engine cylinders that allow the engine to be naturally very well balanced and silky-smooth—and far more compact than other V-12 designs. Despite a hefty 5,400-pound curb weight, the Flying Spur can rocket to 60 mph in less than five seconds and hit a top speed of 194 mph.

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New for 2009 is the Bentley Flying Spur Speed, a model that ups the output of the engine to 600 horsepower and 553 pound-feet, achieving 0-60 times of 4.5 seconds and a 200-mph top speed. To make all that extra power a little more enjoyable, there's a lowered suspension, a retuned suspension, and new 20-inch wheels, along with available carbon-ceramic brakes.

Despite the Flying Spur's capabilities, the driving experience is all about refinement and sophistication. "Strong," "silent," and "very fast" are all words that come to mind. The 2009 Continental Flying Spur cruises quite effortlessly at 100 miles per hour, and it feels so solid, stable, and quiet inside that without a frame of reference of how quickly the road is ticking by, you'd think you were doing 70. A low rumble comes out of the twin oval exhaust tips at idle; the turbos kick in more noticeably and the exhaust note changes from a smooth whoosh to more of a rumble, though it's all very muted inside. No smoky burnouts here—it's sophisticated business, and the all-wheel-drive system is hard to fluster despite all that torque, which pins you back in the seat.

This much power requires good brakes; Bentley claims the huge ventilated discs to be the largest on any production car for sale today. The steering doesn't transmit any real feel of the road (no surprise), but it's precise for such a big car and the Flying Spur is surprisingly maneuverable for a vehicle that's well over 17 feet long. Out on the open road, the Flying Spur's heft pays off; it feels tremendously stable and stays glued to the road even when the surface is rough, thanks to a sophisticated computer-controlled suspension system.

The 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur has a very well-designed cabin, with room for five if need be. Front seats are soft and plush but also supportive, and plenty of adjustability will bring a good driving position for all, but legroom is a bit tighter than expected in back and lacks the requisite drinks cabinet of the pricier, stodgier models—this is a vehicle in which the wealthy can drive themselves. However, backseat passengers can control the Spur's entertainment system. Switchgear is quite straightforward, though critics will spot that some of it consists of fancier versions of what Volkswagen installed in its Phaeton flagship a few years back (the two are related).

In terms of features or technology, you'll find most of the luxury and safety equipment you might get in a car like the S-Class or 7-Series, such as separate rear climate-control settings, power latches for all the doors, lumbar-adjustable seats with massage function, a navigation system, and a screen-driven control system in the middle of the dashboard. Adaptive cruise control is now offered, as well as a "Naim for Bentley" audio system. The limit is really the depth (or width) of your wallet. The way Bentleys are sold, the technology and luxury features come standard, while options are treated as means of personalizing the car.

The tremendous detail and craftsmanship are what really separates the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur from lesser (cheaper) cars—including your typical Mercedes or Lexus. While a $30,000 sedan might have leather upholstery and even bits of real wood trim, the Bentley outdoes that with hand-fitted hides available in a wide range of colors (Linen and Imperial Blue are new hues for '09) and wood veneers that are sure to impress the most jaded passengers. Whereas wood trim in new cars is typically very heavily treated and coated, Bentley uses only natural, unstained, and unbleached veneers. In the Flying Spur, the walnut or chestnut veneers are precisely hand-cut and matched to create a mirror-image grain symmetry across the vehicle. Then there are details like the Breitling timepiece at the top of the center console, the hand-stitched leather steering wheel, stainless-steel pedals and footrest, and real chrome handles for the air vents.

Because the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur is a very low-volume (and very expensive) model, it hasn't been crash-tested by any of the major agencies. A full roster of airbags and safety features—including side and side-curtain airbags and electronic stability control—is included.

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2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur

Styling

Even though the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur's exterior isn't tremendously flashy, it will still draw a crowd wherever it goes.

The exterior of the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur stands in stark contrast to the upright and squared-off presence of its Rolls-Royce competition. Whereas the edges of the Rolls look sharp enough to cut an ogling bystander, the 2009 Bentley Flying Spur lineup is much more streamlined, although styling has not been updated in a while and it's beginning to appear a tad dated. Overall, however, reviewers still feel that the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur strikes an appropriate balance between luxury and sportiness.

The 2009 Bentley Continental's sheetmetal is quite similar to last year's, and Edmunds points out that there have been only "minor cosmetic revisions" to this "four-door Bentley." The 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur is, according to Edmunds, "a high-performance ultraluxury sedan that is offered in one very well-appointed trim level." However, the 2009 Bentley Flying Spur lineup also includes the "new $204,795 Speed" model, according to Motor Trend, which is distinguished by "dark-tinted front grilles, wider tail pipes, and split-spoke 20-in. alloys." Reviewers at Autoblog also point out that the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed gets "sill plates emblazoned with the word 'Speed' on all four doors." Both versions of the 2009 Bentley Continental sport a long character line that runs the length of the sedan, as well as quad-oval headlights that do a magnificent job of illuminating the road ahead. There's nothing over the top about this 2009 Bentley Flying Spur, but it will still turn heads with ease.

Inside, the 2009 Bentley Flying Spur lineup simply screams luxury. Unlike some luxury brands, the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur's interior trimmings are also quite functional, and ConsumerGuide praises the "large, boldly marked gauges [that] are clear and easy to read." Edmunds adds that the "switchgear is much more functional than the fussy knobs and buttons from previous models—though it must be said that the controls lack a bit of the panache and romance from the past." Real leather and wood only increase the luxurious ambiance that permeates the 2009 Bentley Continental's cabin, and accents like the Breitling timepiece sitting front and center on the dash make for a truly top-of-the-class driving environment.

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2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur

Performance

The 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur lineup outperforms expectations and is one of the stealthiest high-performance vehicles available.

With the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur, Bentley has turned a magic trick worthy of David Blaine. Despite a size and weight that would seem to eliminate any pretense of spirited performance driving, the 2009 Bentley Flying Spur lineup boasts truly astonishing performance numbers, including braking performance that tops that of the Lamborghini Murcielago LP640.

Few cars on the road today feature 12-cylinder engines, and even fewer offer them in the arrangement found on the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur. The 2009 Bentley Continental lineup boasts a rather unique W-12 engine arrangement that essentially joins a pair of V-6 engines, staggered side by side, in order to squeeze a full 12 cylinders into a surprisingly small area. On the base 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur, Edmunds reports that the "6.0-liter twin-turbo W12...produces an astounding 552 hp and 479 pound-feet of torque." If that's not enough, Car and Driver notes that the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed gets an uprated engine "now good for an even 600 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque." For those worried about turbo lag, Car and Driver offers some news to put your mind at ease by stating that "max torque [comes] at a low 1750 rpm." ConsumerGuide reviewers are very impressed by the engine, observing that "power comes on immediately, even from a stop." Even in the base version of the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur, Edmunds reviewers record "a 0-60-mph time under 5 seconds...and a top speed of 194 mph," which might lead you to "think there was a supercar underneath" the skin of this luxury sedan.

TheCarConnection.com's research shows that the transmission tasked with harnessing all the power of the 2009 Bentley Continental is more than up to the task. ConsumerGuide says that "wheel slip is non-existent thanks to standard AWD," which allows the 2009 Bentley Continental to rocket forward off the line with neck-snapping responsiveness. Edmunds adds that the engine's "power is channeled through a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control," and Road and Track reviewers report that the combination of the six-speed and AWD allows the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed to "charge to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds." The only criticism of the 2009 Bentley Continental's transmission comes from ConsumerGuide, where "some testers found the transmission slow to downshift as needed at highway speed."

Fuel economy for the 2009 Bentley Flying Spur lineup is about what you would expect with all those thirsty cylinders banging away under the hood. According to the official EPA estimates, the 2009 Bentley Continental should return 10 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the highway. Surprisingly, Road and Track reviewers discover that "the Speed model also sees a 3.5-percent improvement in fuel economy" despite its increased power, thanks to increased drivetrain efficiencies. Keeping the 2009 Bentley Flying Spur gassed certainly won't be cheap, but anyone driving a Bentley in the first place probably won't be too concerned about the fuel bill.

From the outside, it doesn't look like the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur would be a willing companion on twisty roads, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that this Bentley sedan is more than comfortable on back roads. Edmunds reports that the 2009 Bentley Flying Spur has "respectable handling ability," while ConsumerGuide says it "imparts more sportiness than might be expected." The driver-adjustable suspension offers several settings, and in the softest setting Edmunds remarks that the Bentley offers a "serene ride." In terms of differences between the two models of the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur, Road and Track comments, "Speed definitely rides more stiffly (even with the suspension set to its softest), and the steering transmits more road imperfections back to the driver," but there is nothing unbearable about the ride in the upgraded Speed version. The capable chassis and brakes on the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur combine to post some very impressive braking numbers, and Car and Driver notes that the Speed has a "165-foot 70-to-0-mph stopping distance—a foot shorter than a Lamborghini Murcielago LP640." The standard 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur isn't quite as capable in the stopping department, with ConsumerGuide observing that "a spongy pedal marred overall brake feel."

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2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur has an unfortunately cramped rear seat, but most owners will be driving themselves and enjoying the otherwise opulent interior.

Expectations are understandably high on any $150,000-plus vehicle when it comes to comfort and quality, but the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur rises to the occasion in almost every category.

The seating arrangement inside the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur is magnificent up front, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com point out several problems with the rear seats. First, the good: ConsumerGuide asserts that the "huge supportive [front] seats supply imperial long-distance comfort, though headroom is only adequate for taller drivers." Continuing with their praise for the 2009 Bentley Continental lineup, ConsumerGuide says that "the daunting array of seat adjustments can confuse at first, but allow for extreme comfort customization" for front-seat occupants. Unfortunately, behind those wonderful front seats Edmunds reports that there is a "somewhat cramped rear seat." Motor Trend reviewers point out that the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur "now offers a rear bench seat with electrically adjustable outboard seats," but Edmunds contends that "the rear seats lack the adjustment and advanced features (such as cooling) available in competing sedans. Rear legroom, too, is comparatively scarce."

Although the rear seats may be a bit cramped, the 2009 Bentley Flying Spur lineup does offer quite a bit of available cargo space in the trunk. ConsumerGuide reviewers feel that the "trunk seems larger than the quoted 17-cubic-foot capacity," and a "large opening and low liftover add to [the trunk's] overall usefulness." However, once inside the cabin the available space disappears in a hurry. ConsumerGuide reviewers again offer the most insight here, noting that "the CD changer and navigation-system DVD player consumer much of the glove box, and console storage is limited to a small ash tray and tiny in-armrest cubbies."

While the 2009 Bentley Flying Spur's cabin loses points for interior storage, it more than makes up for it when it comes to materials and build quality. Despite the stratospheric starting price for the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur, Road and Track reviewers feel that it is "fair to say the build quality, craftsmanship and driving experience are worthy of a car of this price." ConsumerGuide agrees, calling the interior "glorious" and noting that "nothing that can be touched is of anything but the highest-grade materials." Car and Driver observes that "decadent trappings abound, from the Naim stereo—plucked from a couple of shelves above the top shelf—and the Breitling timepiece embedded in the dash to the exquisite dimpled headliner and quilted inserts for the seats and doors." Edmunds reviewers can only add that the "leather- and lumber-lined cabin won't win any awards from environmentalists or animal rights activists, but it's still one of the most exquisitely constructed automotive interiors on the market today."

One of the advantages of such tremendous build quality is that it virtually eliminates all exterior noise from the cabin of the 2009 Bentley Continental. ConsumerGuide reports that "wind noise...is entirely suppressed" in both versions of the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur lineup, while Motor Trend says that additions to this Bentley sedan bring about "a 5 db reduction in interior noise." The only real problem with all that sound suppression, according to Car and Driver, is that you can never hear the rumble of the 2009 Bentley Continental's W12 engine, since "the exhaust is overwhelmed by wind noise with the windows down and simply eliminated with the double-paned glass up."

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2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur

Safety

The large and luxurious 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur will keep occupants very safe, thanks to its impressive stability control and full complement of airbags.

Anyone interested in purchasing the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur will likely expect nothing but the very best, and Bentley has gone to great lengths to make sure that nothing but the finest safety equipment makes it into this 2009 Bentley Continental.

NHTSA has, quite understandably, not yet crash tested this exclusive luxury exotic, and the editors at TheCarConnection.com don't expect any 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spurs to be sacrificed in the name of crash testing in the near future. The other major crash-testing authority in the United States, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, has likewise not yet tested the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur due to cost and production quantity issues. However, TheCarConnection.com can still rate this 2009 Bentley Flying Spur highly in the safety department thanks to an outstanding lineup of standard safety features that Bentley has installed. According to reviewers at Edmunds, the 2009 Bentley Continental lineup comes "standard with side and side curtain airbags front and rear," while ConsumerGuide points out that "safety features include ABS [and] an antiskid system." Other standard safety features on the 2009 Bentley Continental include active headrests for the rear seats that help reduce the likelihood of whiplash injuries, as well as a modified stability control system that Edmunds reports "has been further enhanced over last year's 'sport traction' mode to be less intrusive."

One area of concern with some of the larger luxury vehicles on the road today is driver visibility, which can be compromised by some of the large A and C pillars. However, TheCarConnection.com's research shows that the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur has, for the most part, managed to avoid the visibility problems that plague some of its competitors. ConsumerGuide reviewers are the most vocal in their praise of the visibility from the driver's seat of the 2009 Bentley Flying Spur, reporting that "visibility is generally good all around, though thickish front pillars compromise [the] forward view to the corners."

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2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur

Features

The 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur lives up to its desired reputation as one of the most luxurious, feature-laden luxury cruisers on the road.

When your brand is built around luxury more than performance or styling, as is the case with Bentley, features become an all-important selling point and one of the most critical aspects of success. With so much riding on the interior features, it's no surprise that Bentley continues to amaze with both the basics and the upscale features—with the notable exception of the interactive center console.

The 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur comes standard with a long list of features that should appease even the most luxury-minded consumers. Edmunds reviewers report that "standard features include 19-inch wheels, an adjustable air suspension, bi-xenon headlamps, four-zone automatic climate control, [and] heated rear seats with lumbar massage." ConsumerGuide adds that "a navigation system, wireless cell-phone link, heated front seats with memory, [and] driver-seat lumbar massage" are also standard on the 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur lineup. While reviewers surveyed by TheCarConnection.com generally rave about the luxurious appointments within the 2009 Bentley Continental's cabin, Edmunds does take exception to the "outdated infotainment interface" that some reviewers feel would be much more at home in a late-'90s model car than a 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur. Other than that somewhat disappointing arrangement, the 2009 Bentley Flying Spur's standard features are top-notch.

In addition to the standard features on the 2009 Bentley Continental, Bentley offers a number of options, some of which cost more individually than a few of today's economy cars. The one option that automotive experts enjoy the most is the newly available Naim sound system, which Road and Track reviewers call the "coolest new option for 2009." They add that "Naim is a well-known high-end British home audio maker, and its non-flashy designs seem a perfect fit for Bentley." The upgraded sound system is almost absurdly powerful, featuring 15 speakers and an 1,100-watt amplifier to produce sound that Road and Track deems "crisp, clear, [and] amazing." ConsumerGuide lists some of the other available features for the 2009 Bentley Flying Spur as "a heated steering wheel, front passenger lumbar massage, power opening and closing trunklid, and satellite radio." If that's not enough, Edmunds adds that the 2009 Bentley Flying Spur can be outfitted with "power-adjustable rear seats with a full rear center console, flip-down wooden picnic tables for rear passengers, a full-length three passenger rear seat...[and] a rear-seat entertainment system with twin display screens."

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Styling 8
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