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Bentley Continental 2008 Review

The Continental Flying Spur continues the Bentley bloodline of sporting Grand Tourers.

You may know that the basis of this desirable and ostensibly English grand tourer is that of Volkswagen's Phaeton, that the engine is a development of that found in an Audi A8.

You know that if you could raise the readies to get into a Bentley Continental Flying Spur, you wouldn't care the price of a cuppa Earl Grey and a crumpet about that other stuff.

Before the acquisition of Jaguar by the Indian company Tata, any self-respecting English marque had to be owned by the Germans. That held true from the humblest Mini (essentially a front-wheel-drive BMW) to the grandest Roll-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe (the key working bits are Deutsch-sourced).

If die-hards have a problem with that (“Crumbs, Algy, the bally Boche have taken Bentley!”) the VW group's ownership of the feted British marque was not only about the sole guarantee of its continued viability.

Embracing the European Union is one thing, retaining your essence and identity is another. While Rolls succeeds beautifully in that respect, Bentley is clearly a child of its adoptive parents.

The car with the English moniker is 1000 times more desirable. No one bought the Phaeton while the Audi, for all its undoubted technical excellence, is afflicted by anonymity.

Breezing into the boardroom to announce the Bentley purchase is going to go over a good deal bigger than “Check out my A8,” which sounds like a battery and looks like a big electric shaver.

Compared with the Continental coupe, the Flying Spur is discreet. An extra 50cm allows for two more doors, B-pillars and a real boot; it provides luxury accommodation for four adults.

For 100kg more, the Spur saves $25K while maintaining parity in performance and efficiency.

You couldn't want for a more welcome departure from the austere executive car class. The walnut accents, silver knobs and smoky leather are truly a mark of this marque.

The way the 6.0-litre twin turbo W12 transforms the Bentley from a genteel grand tourer to a sort of volcanic eruption with all-wheel-drive has to be felt to be appreciated. Nudging the accelerator in traffic feels like taunting an active volcano to have a go.

While the Spur's ability to fly is wasted in Australia, on back roads its potency is hinted at where you least expect such a heavy car to shine.

The twin turbo version of the enormously potent W12 makes for one of the world's fastest sedans. Driven through excellent three mode ZF six-speed automatic transmission the Spur's reservoir of torque is there for the tapping.

Using the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifter is all but redundant — though flipping the left one into too low a gear is worth it simply for the ferocious roar it prompts. While the use of weight-saving aluminium keeps the A8 to a trim two tonnes, even the Flying Spur's 2475kg don't inhibit the almost startlingly sharp manner in which it sweeps through testy bends.

The Bentley's road manners are sometimes not so sweetly reminiscent of the cousin Audi — the ride can be terse at times and even torque- sensing all-wheel-drive won't entirely counter the predictable nose heavy understeer when pushing into the tightest bends.

On the whole, it excels itself even in these unlikely surrounds, its reserves of grip and poise seemingly endless. If its speed through the corners wouldn't trouble a 5 Series, the Spur has no right to get through them so smartly.

Steering is up to the task; light, communicative and evenly weighted although prone to abruptly registering surface irregularities.

Set to sport the adaptive air suspension comes into its own through here, lowering the Spur's stance and containing body roll.

In it's purpose-designed grand touring deployment, the Bentley simply eats the kilometres, washing them down with a thirst for premium unleaded that's so prodigious you'll be glad of the 80 litre tank. Progress feels almost effortless and quicker than it really is.

In terms of road and wind noise it's louder than it ought to be. Add some rattling and humming over coarser stuff and you'll realise the Spur does not offer the last word in refinement.

But the statement it does make is enough to drown out dissenting voices.

Tally ho!

 

The bottom line

Maybe in the next life.

 


Snapshot

Bentley Continental

Price: $353,000 (Flying Spur)

Engine: 6L/W12 twin turbo; 411kW/650Nm

Economy: 17.7L/100km

Performance: 0-100km/h: 5.2 secs (claimed)

 

Rivals

BMW 760Li

Price: $346,000

Engine: 6L/V12; 327kW/600Nm

Economy: 13.6L/100km

Performance: 0-100km/h: 5.6 secs (claimed)

 

Mercedes-Benz S600L

Price: $367,000

Engine: 5.5L/V12 twin turbo; 380kW/830Nm

Economy: 14.3/100km

Performance: 0-100km/h: 4.6 secs (claimed)

 

Pricing Guides

$125,015
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$93,390
Highest Price
$156,640

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GTC 6.0L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $125,510 – 144,320 2008 Bentley Continental 2008 GTC Pricing and Specs
GT 6.0L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $100,210 – 115,170 2008 Bentley Continental 2008 GT Pricing and Specs
GT Speed 6.0L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $123,530 – 142,010 2008 Bentley Continental 2008 GT Speed Pricing and Specs
Flying Spur 6.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $93,390 – 107,360 2008 Bentley Continental 2008 Flying Spur Pricing and Specs