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LUXURY ON THE FLY

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Jul 22, 2007

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

LUXURY ON THE FLY By Roy Nakano

Few car companies have had such a dramatic makeover in such a short time as that experienced by Bentley in the last few years. Fortunately for Bentley, it's all been positive. Not that the Bentley image was ever negative. For many members of the general public, however, Bentley was once thought of as a product of badge engineering - a re-tuned Rolls Royce with a fancy grille and a Flying B logo.

EXTREME MAKEOVER That all began to change around 10 years ago, when BMW and Volkswagen were in a bidding war to purchase Rolls Royce. VW purchased the factory, but the Rolls Royce name was owned by BMW. To avoid a protracted legal battle, the two automakers agreed to allow VW to own all rights to the Bentley brand, while BMW would own Rolls Royce. By most accounts, VW appeared to receive the short end of the stick, having lost the coveted Rolls Royce ownership it sought. On the contrary, a series of fortunate events happened to elevate the Bentley brand to new heights and allow VW to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. First on the agenda was the development of the Continental GT - Bentley's maiden voyage under the new ownership. The Continental GT turned out to be a stunning design and a runaway sales success.

Then came the crème de la crème of auto racing: The 24 Hours of Le Mans. Bentley had dominated Le Mans back in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but retired from the event thereafter. To come back and take the checkered flag would be both an historic event and a monumental task. In 2003, however, Bentley accomplished the seemingly impossible by taking first and second at Le Mans. Thereafter, Bentley went immediately back into retirement as the undefeated champion. In 2005, the mark followed up the success of the Continental GT with the addition of a four-door model, the Continental Flying Spur. With top speeds just under 200 miles per hour, both the GT and Flying Spur reclaimed Bentley's image as performance cars. Sales of Bentleys have been spectacular since the introduction of the Continentals. More significantly, the Bentley brand has climbed to the top of the coolness pyramid among the young and the rich. While several brands evoke luxury, Bentley also conveys an image of performance, youthfulness and style.

DRIVING ON THE FLY One can imagine young Bentley engineers taking the new four-door creation for a road test and exclaiming, "it's so fly!" Alas, that's not how the car got its name. "Flying Spur" was penned to a previous Bentley four-door from the 1950s. It is befitting, however, that its name contains a modern day slang term synonymous for "cool." On the road, the Flying Spur performs like no other four-door luxury sedan of this size. Despite its long-wheelbase luxury car dimensions, the twin-turbocharged, 12-cylinder Flying Spur moves in a fashion not unlike the Space Mountain ride at Disneyland - very quick but also very smooth. The six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift facility and steering wheel-mounted shift paddles enhances the performance personality of this car. The Flying Spur is every bit the car that embodies Bentley's new image. Inside, the vehicle displays a level of hardware that is a couple notches above the luxury class. In addition, fit and finish will not disappoint. Our review sample was missing a few features that one might expect in a car of this class, like a DVD player for rear-seat passengers. However, Bentley's philosophy is to tailor each car to the individual buyer's desires. So, while some may prefer multiple DVD screens in the rear compartment, others may not. On the other hand, if there's anything you want specified on your particular Flying Spur, chances are that Bentley can fit it for your car (a rear entertainment package incorporating two LCD screens to headrests and DVD multichanger is an available option, by the way).

MULLINER DRIVING SPECIFICATION This brings us to our test car's unique new features. For 2007, Bentley introduced an even higher performance version of the world's fastest four-door sedan - The Continental Flying Spur Mulliner Driving Specification. Bentleys have always built cars specified to an owner's individual needs. With the Mulliner Driving Specification, the customer is given options that push the performance envelope higher than ever for the four-door sedan. The specification was first introduced on the Continental GT coupé back in 2004 and has been a popular option for customers who prefer their Bentley with a more overtly sporting, contemporary character. Designed by Bentley's coachbuilding division, the Mulliner Driving Specification now becomes available on the Flying Spur (see Specifications). This year, several key areas of the Continental Flying Spur were also enhanced. The standard-fit satellite navigation system is now DVD-based and features post code-entry programming. The car also features wireless telecommunications with an integrated Bluetooth remote SIM access profile (rSAP) telephone system as standard. A rear-seat telephone is now available as an optional feature. A new 19-inch, five-spoke alloy wheel design becomes standard fitment on Continental Flying Spur.

In keeping with Bentley tradition, the Continental Flying Spur customer will now be able to paint-match the exterior, allowing for a truly unique colour palette. The Continental Flying Spur may also be specified in any hue from the current Arnage range of paint colors, bringing it into line with the Continental GT coupé. Veneered picnic tables are introduced as an extra cost option to the rear of both front seats and are available in the full range of veneers, including a newly introduced Chestnut. This takes the number of available veneers on Continental Flying Spur to seven. Customers may also now specify optional contrast stitching to the leather hides and choose to match the boot carpet to the cabin interior carpets.

TEN YEARS AFTER Ten years after Bentley began its transformation, the mark is at the height of its reputation. Bentley followed up the Flying Spur with the convertible version of the GT, the Continental GTC, and the brand continues to bring renewed life to its Arnage-based car - the convertible Azure and most recently, the Brooklands coupe. The Flying B logo enjoys such a high reputation that almost anything Bentley wants to produce will probably be successful. Thankfully, its current line of vehicles all deserve the logo. There is much speculation about what Bentley has up its sleeves for the future. An SUV has been rumored, and a four-door version of the GT would be great. In the meantime, for the Continental-based line of Bentleys, if you want four doors, you'll have to settle for the world's fastest - the appropriately named Flying Spur.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT Performance is back in full swing in the ultra luxury class. For more information about Bentley products, go to www.bentleymotors.com.

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: Bentley Continental Flying Spur Price: $169,990 MSRP (base) $195,335 (as tested, with Mulliner Driving Specification) Engine type: Twin turbo 6-liter W12, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder Horsepower: 552 hp @ 6,100 rpm Torque: 479 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 11/18 Drive configuration: All-wheel drive Transmission type: ZF 6-speed automatic with Tiptronic facilities and paddle shifters Steering: Speed sensitive power-assisted rack and pinion Suspension: Progressive air springs; Continuous damping control, four settings, adjustable Wheels and tires: Wheels size: Standard 9J x 19 Tires: 275/40 R 19 Pirelli or Michelin Brakes: Front: 15.9" vented discs Rear: 13.2" vented discs Overall length: 208.94" Overall width: 83.39" Overall height: 58.23" Curb weight (lbs.): 5,456 lbs. 0-60 mph: 4.9 seconds 0-100 mph: 11.3 seconds Top Speed: 195 mph Mulliner Driving Specification: - 20-inch 2-piece, 7-spoke alloy sports wheels with 275/35 R20 sport tyres - Drilled alloy sports foot pedals and footrest - Sporting gear lever finished in knurled chrome and hide - Diamond quilted and indented hide to seat facings, front and rear doors. - Embroidered 'Bentley' marque emblem to head rests - Indented hide headlining - Dark-stained Burr Walnut or Piano Black veneer available at no extra cost. Available: · Mulliner alloy fuel filler cap · Exterior paint match service to customer specification · Exterior paint colour from Arnage range · Contrast stitching to seats and door panels · Aluminium fascia panels (compatible only with Dark Stained Burr Walnut veneer or Piano Black veneer and single tone interior colour scheme) · Drilled alloy sport foot-pedals · Sporting gear lever finished in knurled chrome and hide · four-spoke wood and hide steering wheel · Lambswool rugs (matched to carpets) · Deep-pile carpet mats with hide trimming (matched to carpet) · Olive Ash premium veneer · Rear veneer picnic tables · Rear vanity mirrors to picnic tables* · Refrigerated bottle cooler in lieu of rear ski hatch* · Rear entertainment package incorporating two LCD screens to headrests and DVD multichanger* · Boot carpet to match interior carpet

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