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Bentley Continental 2009 review

EXPERT RATING
7

Is it the Bentley Flying Spur Speed's performance one should be most impressed by — or should that honour go to the stereo.

Tough question.

Here we have a $400,000 luxury tank with the soul of a sports car. The 6-litre 12-cylinder powerplant's 449kW and 750Nm across a delightfully wide delivery band from 1750-5750rpm will launch its 2.5-tonnes in a Porsche-like 4.8 seconds.

That's impressive.

It also handles direction changes with the poise of a ballet dancer and has the balance of a high-wire artist. Very impressive indeed.

It would seem only fitting, then, that such a car should have a sound system capable of inspiring its own degree of awe. It does.

The system from iconic — if little known outside the audiophile world — British company Naim is optional at $15,000. A mere snip in a $400,000 car.

The tech stats are impressive, if a little pointless unless you live and breathe audio equipment — and in that case you probably know it all anyway — but suffice to say the 1100 Watt amplifier is the most powerful available in any production car.

What does that mean to anyone sitting in the cabin? It means it is a really good idea not to wind the volume to the max. It absolutely could be harmful to your health.

The 15-speakers hidden tastefully around the cabin — Naim's research and development boffins spent 18 months adapting their high-end sound systems to Bentley's rather plush interiors — will deliver bone-shaking doof-doof if that is what you really want or the most exquisite concert hall sound imaginable.

It may be possible, if you listen carefully, that you hear the second violinist snap a horse-hair on his bow. It's that good.

Step outside the car, close the doors and such is the quality of the Flying Spur Speed and its five-layer sound-insulating glass that — at best — you will hear a muted hint of what is happening inside. And therein probably lies the answer to the original question.

Each of the component parts of the Bentley are of themselves impressive. Overall, they are more so.

However, there is a new element to Bentley as a company.

Historically there has been the distinct impression that you either loved the cars as they were or you went somewhere else. The marque was exclusive enough that if you weren't happy then that was your problem.

In a changing world that is no longer the case. Owners are to be listened to and their concerns acted on ... and that is the genesis of the 2009 Flying Spur Speed.

"There was some early criticism of the similarities between the first Continental Flying Spur and the Speed," Australia and New Zealand Bentley boss Ed Strieberg said last year when introducing the 2009 model.

"Some people saw it as two trim levels of essentially the same car."

The answer was to allow the Speed its own character, highlighting, rather than hiding, its sporting elitism.

The changes to the 2009 model are not huge, rather a soft makeover highlighted by a larger and more upright grille, that five-ply sound-deadening glass, some extra choices in paint and trim, and electric adjustment for the rear seats.

Inside there are the same acres of quality leather, sheets of hand-worked fine-wood trims and the most beautifully knurled metal knobs and gearstick.

Understated but undeniably plush, even if some of the dash instrumentation and lesser switches hint at the marque's VW owners. The Bentley cabin remains a place of peace and grace.

Driving

Dynamically the Flying Spur is something of a magic act. There is no getting away from the fact this is a big car. At nearly 5.3m it dwarfs most family transport, yet from behind the wheel it disguises its bulk almost magically.

The steering is light and with enough `sneeze factor’ not to be nervous despite the sheer mass of the car. For all that refinement it is sharp and gives an unexpected level of feedback from the massive 275/35 tyres.

Getting the car going is the thumping W12 engine, sourced from VW head office, but tuned and refined to suit the Speed's newly-freed sporty character. Yet, if it is an achievement to have the Flying Spur get up and go as it does then stopping it is an even greater one.

The brakes are simply stunning. The 405mm (front) and 335mm rear discs pull the Bentley down from serious speeds in exceptional fashion. For a mere $30,440 you can add a larger set of carbon-ceramic plates — but that would be showy overkill.

And that, most definitely, is not a Bentley trait.

Pricing Guides

$138,545
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$107,800
Highest Price
$169,290

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GTC 6.0L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $136,950 – 157,410 2009 Bentley Continental 2009 GTC Pricing and Specs
GT 6.0L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $110,660 – 127,160 2009 Bentley Continental 2009 GT Pricing and Specs
GT Speed 6.0L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $134,750 – 154,880 2009 Bentley Continental 2009 GT Speed Pricing and Specs
Flying Spur 6.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $107,800 – 123,970 2009 Bentley Continental 2009 Flying Spur Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7