The smell of the soft leather, the solid and cold feel of the metallic switchgear, the soothing and warm elegance of the wood veneers: everything in the 2014 Bentley Flying Spur whispers no-compromise richness.
Yet Bentleys are not just about lavishly-finished interiors. They transpire power, speed, finesse and distinctiveness. At the Flying Spur's Montreal unveiling back in June, Bentley Motors President and COO Christophe Georges stated that their new sedan was "the ultimate performance luxury sedan." Yes, it can be compared favourably to high-priced cars that cater to the back-seat occupants as well as those sitting up front.
The 2014 Bentley Flying Spur – which is no longer called a Continental, by the way – gets its motivation from a 6.0L W12 engine. If you're wondering what the 'W' configuration means, think of it as two V6 engines side by side; it sounds odd, but the basic architecture has been around for a while in Bentley and Audi products.
Here, the W12 produces 616 hp and a massive 590 lb-ft of torque that peaks as early as 1,700 rpm. No crazy wheelspin antics here, as the eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drivetrain take care of cleverly putting all that power to the pavement.
Bentley's claim of a 4.6-second time to reach 100 km/h seems credible, as the Flying Spur lunges forward as you mash the throttle, following a split-second delay while you wait for the two turbochargers to spool up and blast you through the atmosphere. And if you think the car is slow on paper, because a 520-hp 2013 Audi S8 is slightly quicker, know that you can shamelessly flaunt the car's top speed rating of 322 km/h. Not bad for a 5,500-lb lounge on wheels.
So, the new Flying Spur is more powerful than last year's Speed model. You can also use the wheel-mounted paddle shifters to row through the gears yourself, but frankly, I don't know which Bentley owner would use them on a regular basis. In addition, those metal paddles are bulky and my hand rubbed on the left one every time I used the turn signal stalk, which itself is located too low on the steering column.
On the other hand, you do get an adjustable suspension with four settings that range from Comfort to Sport. On Montreal's badly maintained streets, the softest setting was much appreciated.
Whether you're driving or being driven, the 2014 Bentley Flying Spur accommodates its occupants in only the finest cowhides, lustrous wood trim and thick carpeting. The Mulliner edition adds diamond-quilted seat patterns and drilled alloy pedals.
Your senses overload as you sit behind the wheel for the first time. Everything needs to be touched, every switch needs to be pushed or twisted, every surface needs to be stroked.
In back, outboard passengers get fold-down picnic tables that incorporate pop-up vanity mirrors, and also get a large flatscreen with their own entertainment system that reads DVDs, a USB key, an SD card or any device that plugs in through an HDMI port. Admittedly, the middle occupant won't be as comfortable as the rest due to the transmission tunnel and a shorter cushion.
Rear-seat passengers can also play with a detachable touchscreen remote that houses a bunch of features for adjusting the seats, the climate control, the aforementioned entertainment systems, the power rear window sunshade and even the front-seat controls if you're a raging micromanager. I'm not too sure about this idea, however; do we really need another handheld device to keep us occupied? The new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class simply offers an iPhone app to perform the same back-seat fiddling.
All this opulence and power obviously come at a price. The 2014 Bentley Flying Spur starts at $246,540, while the Mulliner edition costs several grand more. It makes the Audi A8 W12 look like a bargain, but we should view the Bentley from a different perspective: it's more exclusive, it feels richer, and it boasts a completely different style. Simply put, the car is gorgeous from all angles, especially with the stunning 21-inch, two-piece alloys.
So, is it really the ultimate performance luxury sedan? Well, it all depends on what your perception of true luxury and true performance is. You don't get loud and racy engine sounds, and it's not the quickest four-door prestige car on the market. However, if your five senses get stimulated by the Flying Spur, then Bentley might have nailed it.