Seven years ago I attended my first international press junkit - to test drive the Bentley Continental Flying Spur, in Venice.
The story line is that you never forget your first and the Bentley Continental Flying Spur certainly has a place in my heart.
China is the chosen destination for the next-gen Flying Spur test drive, reflecting the importance Bentley place on Beijing as one of the largest markets for their luxury sedan, commanding 55% of all Continental Flying Spur sales. Large sedans are huge demand in China where driving is still first generation for many of the population.
In fact the act of driving is considered lower class and the more wealthy you are the more you want to be seen in the rear seat of your car. Almost every car manufacturer offer varieties of their models in an ‘L’ flavour to meet demand.
The Flying Spur is already a large sedan so no ‘L’ needed here. In my opinion, the Flying Spur is a car I would much rather be seen in the back of too. I’ve driven all the Bentley models and their various forms, I’ve even been around the streets of Crewe in my Toad of Toad Hall leather helmet and goggles, therefore, I can confidently say Bentley build driver’s cars. Yes chauffeurs will drive Bentleys but that’s optional and I’d much rather drive my own Continental GT or Mulsanne (which is way bigger) - but the Flying Spur is the car to buy if you are employing a driver.
Don’t get me wrong, it is an incredible car to drive and the chauffeur will love it, but, there is no need to own this Bentley if you want to drive yourself. Why drive such a large car when you can jump behind the wheel of the fabulous Continental GT. If it is the size you’re after then, obviously money is no bother, go for the Mulsanne - a larger car than the Flying Spur and great fun to drive.
Bentley are very keen to point out that the Flying Spur is not just a family version of the Continental GT but a stand alone product. The last generation was a four-door version of the Continental GT, but, for 2013, this car has shed 50-kgs and the Continental part of its name. I’d rather let the chauffeur have fun confirming the performance specs - the 6 litre W12 engine is capable of 616 bhp and produces a maximum torque of 800 Nm.
It can propel the Flying Spur’s speed from 0-60 mph in 4.3 seconds – and on to a top speed of over 300 kph. I’ll happily sit in the back and use the rush hour traffic jams to do some work or on the motorway home the 8-speed transmission can rock me to sleep. The rear of the car is full of gadgets that are put there for a purpose - not just for you to drag along on your daily commute. Rear seats are split into two individuals that can each be fully personalised to fit your preferred position as you would in the front seats. Leg room feels more spacious than an Airbus A380, a pull down shelf can hold your laptop or your lunch and can be designed for an iPad to slip into for BYO music or films. A pop-out touchscreen controller will allow you to control your own sounds through the wonderful (optional) 1100 watt 13:2 Naim for Bentley Premium Audio System delivers incredible sound, wherever you sit in the new Flying Spur.
While the chauffeur wraps up in the chilly front you and your fellow passengers can be in your Vilebrequins with the temperature set to tropical as the rear seats can have there very own climate going on, also controlled with the pop out controller.
Sat Nav and speeds can also be observed while you delve into the rear fridge.
Why would you want to drive anyway if you had the option? Think of how much more relaxed your mood would be if someone else was doing all the stressful driving. Parking? Blah. Drop me off right outside the doors to the office and I’ll call you when I want picking up.
Yes, for me, the Bentley Flying Spur is the perfect limousine. However, lets play a game and pretend I’ve been kind and given my driver the day off. How am I going to feel at the horror of having to drive myself somewhere? Excited is the easy answer, because the new Flying Spur is a great looking car.
The previous generation was considered a large Continental GT because that was what it looked like. 2013’s Flying Spur has it’s own distinguishing look. It’s 2.5-tonnes of commanding size is imposing and muscular and looks very modern.
The best change is in the final third of the exterior where the boot of the car is more sculptured than the model it is replacing. The front view is still Conti GT but that’s more of a Bentley trait than a copy of the GT. Wing vents shaped like a Flying B add youth and fashion to this Flying Spur that was clearly missing is the previous generation.
Driving the car I can instantly feel the softer suspension settings - again to take into account the rear passenger. 616bhp, 6-litre twin-turbo W12 - no ordinary limousine - this is designed to pull away from tricky situations with serious speed, yet without spilling the bubbly in the back. Now that your slumming it and driving yourself you can play with the car’s own settings. The suspension has four modes: comfort through to sport, one end for driving the other for being driven. All-wheel drive with 40:60 front-to-rear torque split guarantees sure-footed performance and is a change from the previous model.
China may be the hotspot for wealth currently but I managed to find roads older than the Great Wall itself. Luckily the soft settings on the Flying Spur kept my fillings firmly in place as I negotiated the miles of potholes. Whether you’re sat in the back or driving, the Flying Spur is kitted out in pure luxury and drives in wonderful splendor.
New age paddle gear shifters are, more often than not, useless. However, the Flying Spur handles brilliantly with them and they are fun to use. The only other manufacturer to get these right is Ferrari.
From a sales point of view the Flying Spur has a bit of competition. Priced at around one million Dirhams with options it is way more expensive than a Mercedes S Class but less expensive than the Rolls Royce Ghost. While the S Class is fantastic there are a lot of them around.
A Bentley is a step up the luxury ladder and those who want to be sat in the back want the exclusive badge that a Bentley provides. For me, if I’m going to be sat in the back of any car the Bentley Flying Spur would be top of my list. Now to afford a driver!
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