The folks at Bentley are smart.
On the week when Cadillac and Lincoln introduced their new, top-of-the-marque full-size luxury sedans, I was handed the keys to a Flying Spur and told to enjoy it for four days.
Why was that smart?
Because the driving the Flying Spur reminds me of the heights Cadillac and Lincoln need to achieve before they can be considered among the very best luxury sedans.
The Bentley Flying Spur is everything a high performance luxury sedan should be.
It is big; more than 17 feet long and over seven feet wide.
It is comfortable. The Flying Spur is both roomier and quieter than your average New York City hotel room and the amenities are even better. The leather that covers nearly every surface is nicer than you’ll find in any lounge. And you have to spend a pile of cash at the spa on guy named Sven to get a massage that’s more therapeutic than those delivered by each of its four seats.
In addition, this is a car that’s as satisfying for the driver as it is for the passenger.
The 4.0 Liter Twin Turbo V8 makes 500 horsepower which can take you from 0-60 in a pulse-quickening 4.9 seconds and can achieve a top speed of nearly 185 miles per hour. More importantly with its 8-speed transmission, it can run all day at a remarkable pace without so much as breathing hard while delivering a very respectable 20-plus miles per gallon.
The adjustable air suspension allows you to go from comfort to sport mode with the touch of a button so whether you’re cruising down a city street or slicing up a winding country road, you can take comfort in knowing you can confidently do both. In addition, the Bentley’s all-wheel-drive system means you can do it in any weather.
I was lucky enough to take delivery of my elegant Granite Flying Spur on a beautiful spring morning and on my first walk around the car was reminded of what I like so much about Bentley design. The lines are smooth, classic and athletic, creating a silhouette that hints at the car’s legendary performance. The Xenon headlamps surrounded by jewel-like LEDs and mesh grille are distinctive but not overly ostentatious. If a $254,000 car can be understated, this one is.
My first drive in the Flying Spur was a quick jaunt to the local market in Wilton, Connecticut where I found the car to be incredibly manageable. A question I get asked a lot when driving cars of this ilk is, “Aren’t you worried about driving something that’s so expensive?” To which I generally reply, it’s still a car, with four wheels, brakes, an accelerator and a steering wheel. It doesn’t take any special skills to drive this car. And it’s not so big that it feels unwieldy. In fact, the Flying Spur’s speed sensitive steering makes it as easy to wheel around a grocery store parking lot as it is to drive on the interstate.
I drive a lot of luxury cars from a lot of different manufacturers and it’s easy to get jaded or become complacent about what makes them special. They all have hand-sewn leather. They all have fine woods. They all have powerful motors. They all have premium sound systems. So it’s not the individual features that distinguish one luxury brand from another, but how the brands execute those features that make them unique.
Bentley knows how to execute in a way that’s pure Bentley. From the gleaming etched silver ring atop the shift lever to the throaty growl of the V8 engine, there’s a balance of luxury and performance that’s unmistakable. From the chrome-rimmed analog gauges on the instrument panel to the multi-function media center, there’s a perfect marriage of classic style and contemporary technology.
On day two, we loaded the Flying Spur up with four people and headed to a party in the country. The 50 mile drive took us over both the beautiful sweeping high speed curves and smooth asphalt of the Merritt Parkway and back roads that had been scarred with potholes thanks to the long, snowy winter that had just ended. The Bentley handled both with aplomb, never setting a foot wrong regardless of the quality of pavement under our 21-inch wheels. The big powerful brakes slowed us confidently which was especially useful when an inattentive driver in a slow moving Prius pulled out in front of us.
With everyone comfortably ensconced in their quilted leather seats, we dialed in some classic rock on the Naim for Bentley Audio system and began exploring all the amenities. It didn’t take long for everyone to power up the heated seats and turn on the massage function, thus reducing our conversation to nothing more than oohs and aahs for a good 15 minutes.
The handy refrigerated cooler kept a couple of bottles of wine nicely chilled over the entire trip and with the suspension set for touring mode, the bubbly was unshaken and able to be uncorked without any drama upon arrival at our host’s farmstead.
And while driving a Bentley has its rewards, arriving in one does as well. That evening we pulled up to a very popular local restaurant with a very full lot. We were told to park the Flying Spur right in front where the it would sit under the watchful eye of the valet until we returned. It never hurts a restaurant’s image to have a brand new Bentley parked out front.
And that in a nutshell is what owning a Bentley is all about. A satisfying driving experience, incredible comfort, and enough presence to attract the admiring eye of those in the know. It’s a special blend that few cars have and one that both Cadillac and Lincoln can only hope to achieve when they launch the their new sedans in the coming months.