More Dash, if You Have Some Cash
TESTED 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed
WHAT IS IT? The fastest all-wheel-drive luxury sedan on the market.
HOW MUCH? $252,615 as tested.
WHAT’S UNDER THE HOOD? 6-liter W-12 with twin turbochargers; 6-speed automatic transmission.
HOW QUICK IS IT? 0 to 60 m.p.h. in 4.5 seconds. Top speed is 200 m.p.h.
THE new Bentley Flying Spur Speed is a Flying Spur that has 600 horsepower instead of 552. Thank you for reading this review.
What, you want to know more? All right. The Speed package commands a $24,400 premium over the woefully cheap Flying Spur, which checks in at $180,395. It includes the aforementioned extra horses, a 15 percent increase in torque (to 553 pound-feet), a dark chrome grille and rifled exhaust tips.
The seats are quilted leather and the 20-inch wheels are shod with special high-performance tires. Passengers will know you sprung for the Speed model because the kick-plates on the door sills read “Speed” in a racy font.
Your friends will also realize you anted up for the Speed the moment you floor the gas pedal and awaken the uprated W-12. There’s something pleasantly surreal about a car so large and luxurious that it has the wherewithal to bump-draft a Porsche 911 Carrera S all the way to 60 m.p.h. and pull ahead en route to its top end of 200 m.p.h.
The midrange passing power is astounding. Surrounded as you are by the softest animal skins and finest woodwork, planting the throttle imbues the sensation that you’re inside a country-club bar that’s been hit by a tornado.
Fuel economy is the same as with the lesser engine — a horrendous E.P.A. combined score of 12 m.p.g., so why not go all the way and get the Speed? If you’re worried about the difference between $180,000 and $200,000, maybe you should consider more modest means of transportation in the first place. Maybe something like a Maserati Quattroporte would better suit your budget.
For 2009, all Flying Spurs become even more posh, with more choices for woodwork, two new leather colors and 16 shades of seat piping. The product literature brags about the dashboard’s “contemporary style marquetry with crossbanding to door waistrails.” I think we can all agree that a fiddleback-inlaid dado would be a nice alternative to crossbanding the door waistrails.
There are two new big-ticket options that apply to both the Speed and the base Flying Spur. The $6,900 Naim for Bentley audio system has 15 speakers including dual subwoofers and is rated at 1,100 watts. The Naim gets bragging rights for the most powerful amplifier in a production car, and 15 speakers is certainly quite a few.
The problem is that the aging Bentley head unit relies on hoary compact-disc media. (There’s an iPod connection in the glove box.) Lavishing all this money on a CD- or iPod-based sound system is like fitting a flawless two-carat diamond to a plastic pinkie ring from a gumball machine.
If you think of a stereo as an information delivery system, the Naim is compromised by the limited amount of information on a compact disc.
Granted, this is a fine two-channel compact disc sound system, but if you’ve just stepped out of a high-resolution DVD-based 5.1 surround-sound system, like those offered by Acura and Cadillac, you’ll be underwhelmed.
Also new are carbon-ceramic brakes ($16,500). These are indisputably impressive, but the chief benefits — lightness and improved fade resistance — are apparent primarily on a racetrack, where Flying Spurs do not usually go.
Since 2005, Bentley has sold 10,901 Flying Spurs. With the arrival of the Speed, all those people have a reason to walk back into the dealership. Let the trade-ins begin. EZRA DYER