The names from the stable created by Bentley founder Walter Owen Bentley are legendary: MkVI, R-Type & T-Type, Continental S1&S2, Mulsanne, and Arnage. Fine coach-built chariots for those desiring speed, luxury and exclusivity. Since 1919, and through several changes in ownership, Bentley Motors has prevailed.
The latest offerings from the factory on Pyms Lane in Crewe, United Kingdom continue the fine tradition. For a great many years, Bentleys were seen as “poor man’s” Rolls-Royces, partly due to joint development of the two marques under different owners, clouding some of the innovation and new technology developed over the years by Bentley engineers.
Then came 2005 and the introduction of the Continental GT. The car was not “traditional” Bentley in many respects, most notably in the price area. The GT was an “entry level” Bentley, coming in at about $160,000, but in terms of status, the GT catapulted Bentley to the top of the luxury car game. Everyone wanted to own or be seen in the GT. Paris Hilton, Jay-Z, NBA ballers and other pro athletes – everyone wanted part of the “new” Bentley mystique.
Following the GT was the Flying Spur, essentially a four-door version of the GT. But enthusiasts wanted more, and the Continental GT Speed was born. With a top speed just over 200 mph, this car instantly had supercar credentials.
Well, the folks who wanted performance and four doors also made some noise, and Bentley has responded with the 2009 Continental Flying Spur Speed. At a recent press event in Boston, Massachusetts, new U.S. corporate home for Bentley, Automotive Rhythms got the chance to wring out the newest beauty from Crewe. And while the new Flying Spur Speed, like other new Bentleys, shares technology and parts from corporate cousin Audi, make no mistake that even with German ownership of Bentley, this is a proper British car in the finest tradition.
And in the Continental Flying Spur Speed, that means yards and yards of extremely supple leather inside, double stitched by hand of course. Just stitching the steering wheel takes a craftsman three hours! And the goods don’t stop there, as Burr walnut adorns the fascia (dash), console, and door waistrails. And if you don’t like the color choice of 17 standard interior hide colors, or if the pattern in the wood is not to your liking, the good folks at Bentley will be more than happy with you opening your wallet to make your Flying Spur Speed truly bespoke. For example, marquetry wood inlays can be added, as can aluminum inlays should you want a sportier interior. Bentley’s “hands on” customization program is called “Mulliner Driving Specification,” but you should check the extensive list of standard luxury features on this car before you decide to go further.
Some of those interior standards include traditional “Bulls Eye” dash vents, “Organ Stop” push-pull vent controls (one of my favorites!), memory front seats with heat, Bluetooth, voice dialing, navigation, six-disc CD changer, a Breitling clock, four-zone climate control and more. The “Speed” model ups the ante over the base Flying Spur with unique interior features including sillplates bearing the “Speed” name, diamond quilted seat facings and door panels, Bentley emblem embroidery on the headrests, a special three-spoke multi function steering wheel, a shift lever finished in knurled chrome and drilled alloy foot pedals.
So you get the picture – inside the Flying Spur Speed is the full luxe treatment. But this upper end luxury segment is at war, and the big boys in the game are always raising the stakes. Consider the impressive audio systems found in high end cars and even some econo cars these days. The SYNC system in the new Ford Focus is impressive, and the car costs less than 20 grand. Well heaven forbid that a stately car like the Flying Spur Speed be outdone in the audio department by an econobox. So Bentley contacted fellow British firm Naim (pronounced “name”) to save the respect of the Crown. Bentley and Naim claim the “Naim for Bentley” is the world’s best in-car audio system. They will get no arguments from me. The system features the world’s most powerful in-car production amplifier, combined with a state-of-the-art speaker system. With 1100 Watts, 15 speakers and a next-generation Digital Signal Processor (DSP), the Naim for Bentley system is powerfully impressive. For those who want bass shaking woofers and thunderous amplification, this is not the system for you. Go to Best Buy and they will hook up your Crown Victoria. This system is about sound, and about reproducing that sound in the purest way possible. For example, the DSP offers eight modes to enhance your listening experience. Most in-car DSP systems adjust equalization by using a small microphone to read background noise. Naim uses variable equalizer settings based on the speed of the car, supplying a new setting for every one-kilometer of speed change it senses. Carlos Santana never sounded better!
Road manners in the Flying Spur Speed are equally impressive. The 552-horsepower W12 engine in the base Flying Spur has been massaged to output a whopping 600-horsepower. This car weighs over 5400 pounds, yet accelerates like an Italian sports car. In the Flying Spur Speed, you are supremely isolated from the aural assaults you endure in lesser automobiles, yet the right amount of engine noise, when you aggressively accelerate, enters the premium cabin. Road taming chores are handled by a computer controlled, self-leveling, multi-link air suspension. Pirelli P-Zero Rosso tires link the Flying Spur Speed’s all-wheel drive system to terra firma. Ride quality is excellent.
To slow rapid forward progress, gigantic 420 mm (16.54”) carbon/silicon carbide cross drilled discs are a must have option (405 mm discs standard). Huge multi-piston calipers clamp these discs that are larger than the wheels on many cars!
It seems that no stone was left unturned in the development of this fine motorcar. Bentley research shows that 95% of people who buy a Flying Spur still own one or more Bentleys. The 2009 Continental Flying Spur Speed will undoubtedly continue to hold the interest of Bentley devotees, as well as “spur” new interest in those who desire an upscale motoring experience.