There’s a sense of pride and pleasure that comes from driving an elite expensive car – a subtle confirmation you’ve finally made it. I’m not there yet, but I can savour the moment briefly, driving an all-new 2014 Bentley Flying Spur ultra-luxury sedan.
Admittedly, I was embarrassed to pick up a Bentley while driving a lime-green 2013 Chevy Spark. The Spark was the ideal car for the TV interview I had done hours before on budget cars, but the lot at Grand Touring Automobiles in Toronto was covered with Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Aston Martin and Jaguars, so I decided to park on the street.
The 2014 Bentley Flying Spur gets a refreshed design inside and outside as well as a new chassis, more electronics, extra power and a shorter name (the previous version was called the Continental Flying Spur). Behind its conservative shell is a wolf in sheep’s clothing; while the 6-litre twin-turbo W12 is a carryover, it will launch the 2,473-kilogram Flying Spur from 0-100 km in 4.6 seconds on the way to a top speed of 320 km/h.
Mated to the engine is an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission that is ultra smooth and always in the optimum gear. It’s a big improvement over the former Spur’s six-speed automatic. The all-wheel-drive system has a sporty 40:60 rear-torque bias; but when needed, the system can transfer up to 85 per cent of the available power to the rear wheels and 65 per cent to the front. While it looks intimidating and large, it doesn’t feel cumbersome to drive or park.
Hit the push-button start, and the engine note is subdued; it’s not disturbing or annoyingly loud. Yet, when you need power, it’s there quickly, with only a subtle moan from the exhaust signifying the W12 is kicking into high gear. A sport mode gives you a little more rumble and more get up and go.
The steering is tight and direct; it requires little input from the driver. Acceleration is quick; the gear changes barely noticeable. And the cabin remains whisper quiet with only a pleasant hint of the engine’s rumble seeping inside.
This Bentley hugs the roads beautifully, absorbing bumps and other degradations perfectly. Sure, it’s thirsty – averaging 14.7 litres/100 km in combined city/highway driving. But there’s good news on the horizon. Bentley is introducing a more fuel-efficient four-litre V-8 next year.
Crisp lines and flowing curves give the Flying Spur an authoritative stance that matches its powerful performance. A low roof, bright chrome radiator matrix grille and jewel front headlamps give it eye-catching appeal.
My tester is a top W12 Mulliner trim (Mulliner was a coachbuilder in Britain that became part of Bentley in 1959). The trim adds a lower front bumper grille in chrome, stunning 21-inch, five-spoke, highly polished wheels, jewel fuel filler caps and real dark fiddleback eucalyptus wood. There are 17 standard paint colours offered, but really the colour choice is limited to your imagination. Paint specialists can colour match anything and reproduce it for your car.
The cabin is opulently appointed with top-quality dials and buttons positioned within the driver’s reach. The front leather seats are firmer and more comfortable than ever. They’re also heated, cooled and adjust 14 ways for extra comfort. Diamond-quilted stitching on the seats and door panels with perforated hides and a beefy two-tone multifunction leather steering wheel raise the bar even higher.
But it’s the rear seats that stand out – heated and cavernous with exceptional leg and headroom. It’s the ideal chauffeur’s car; ideal for Bentley’s growing market in China.
An optional rear-seat entertainment system includes two DVD players, wireless headphones and dual 10-inch LCD screens along with ports so you can connect tablets, cameras and phones. You can also connect to the Web via the optional in-car WiFi hub. There’s a 64 GB hard drive for storing documents, music and videos, veneered picnic tables and rear blinds add privacy. A detachable touch-screen remote control, located in the rear console, lets you adjust the climate, radio, blinds and navigation system. A tiny fridge, nestled behind the rear centre arm rest, keeps water or, if you prefer, Champagne cool on long rides.
The new Flying Spur is available in two trims. The Flying Spur W12 costs $242,660, while the Flying Spur W12 Mulliner costs $292,000. For now, I’ll have to settle for the $11,945 Chevy Spark parked on the street.
2014 Bentley Flying Spur
Type: Ultra-luxury sedan
Price: $242,660 for base W12; $292,000 for W12 Mulliner (plus $9,700 for freight, PDI, air tax and green levy)
Engine: 6-litre, twin-turbo, DOHC, W12
Horsepower/torque: 616 hp/590 lb-ft
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 22.4 city/10.2 highway/14.7 combined; premium gas
Alternatives: Aston Martin Rapide, Rolls Royce Ghost, Maserati Quattroporte, Mercedes-Benz S-Class AMG