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Bentley Flying Spur 2014 Review

You could easily ignore the latest update to Bentley's slick four-door saloon as just a mid-life update. Behind the Flying Spur's polishing exercise, however, is a deeper and more pressing issue.

While Bentley's affluent clients can weather the financial effects of rising fuel price rises and increasingly strict emissions legislation, the company may have difficulty with the third; the economic slowdown of major world markets.

To ensure it remains both buoyant and stablein this restless ocean, the very English (though German-owned) marque is targeting new markets such as Russia, China and Korea.

And there are also new rivals on the horizon.

Bentley's project and engineering boss for the Continental range, Paul Jones, says competition, specifically from the upcoming Porsche Panamera, Aston Martin Rapide and the as-yet unnamed mid-size Rolls-Royce, will entice customers. Hence the new Continental Flying Spur mid-life model.

“We have now broadened the car's appeal with two models, the 560 and the Speed, so customers can choose one for luxury and comfort or one with extra performance,” Jones says.

Like its two-door sister, the Continental GT, the made-over Flying Spur gets a high performance option that stretches the six-litre 12-cylinder power to 449kW (600hp as measured elsewhere) from the 560's 412kW.

Torque is more impressive, up to 750Nm at 1750-5750rpm from 650Nm, and is the reason this Speed model can move its fat 2475kg body to 100km/h from rest in a smart 4.8 seconds.

The Flying Spur four-door saloon starts its global sales roll-out this month and arrives in Australia in November, priced from about $370,500 including the 33 per cent luxury car tax. The Speed is likely to cost $400,200.

Outwardly the saloon is much like the previous model that went on sale in 2005.

There are changes such as a bigger and more upright grille, wider choices in paint and upholstery, expanded features including individual electric adjustment for the rear seats and improvements to noise dampening, including innovative five-ply window glass.

The suspension has been retuned, wheels are standard 19-inch with 20-inch optional on the 560 and standard on the Speed, and the Speed gets significant engine mods for greater durability.

Bentley isn't expecting the new Flying Spur to increase the carmaker's sales.

It predicts 2008 will see a similar number, about 10,000 units, of Bentleys as in 2007 which reflects the damage of the silent financial downturn in world economic markets.

It expects to sell about 3500 Flying Spur saloons globally in a 12-month period.

For Australia, Bentley regional manager Ed Striebig is expecting about 130 Bentley sales in 2008, of which about 45 will be Flying Spurs.

On the road it is obvious this is a big car. Pictures are deceptive, showing something akin to a Commodore, because stylists have used delicate curves and tapers to mask its near-5.3m length. You become aware that it can dwarf other traffic (even on the US highways where this test took place) but the more miles spent behind the wheel, the less daunting the task.

Though the traffic can be suffocating, the cabin is so well insulated, the windows appear as television screens.

Bentley made a big noise about reducing all the noise of the outside world, saying its five-layer acoustic glass cuts external sound by 60per cent in traffic and 40 per cent at high speed. That's in comparison to the current Flying Spur.

That augurs well for the occupants but the driver can feel quite alienated from the real world of motoring.

Thankfully there's a W12 engine, two banksof Volkswagen's narrow-block V6s set in tandem, and a rapid-shift Tiptronic six-speeder to liven things up.

The saloon is bulky being 2750kg dry plus two occupants and a full 90-litre belly of premium to make 3.1 tonnes. It still, however, blasts off from the traffic lights with consummate ease.

The 560 is a quick machine and so you'd expect a whole lot more from the Speed. But it was difficult to pick the performance difference, such is the ability of the Flying Spur to separate the cabin from the outside. But there's no doubt the Speed is a more aggressive ride, showing its presence at only one manoeuvre; back off the accelerator after a fang and the exhaust rumbles.

Granted, this deep bass growl is cleverly muted. But it's there and Bentley lets you hear it.

While the acceleration is commendable, even better is its mid-range, where overtaking is startlingly brisk. The brakes are simply stunning. Bentley claim these 405mm discs as the biggest on a production car and on the Speed, they're even bigger at 420mm at the front for the optional carbon discs.

The ride comfort is as expected and the controls are simple to operate and pretty to behold. The organ-stop ventilation controls are stunning in their efficiency and ease of use.

 

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
V8 4.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO No recent listings 2014 Bentley Flying Spur 2014 V8 Pricing and Specs
W12 6.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO No recent listings 2014 Bentley Flying Spur 2014 W12 Pricing and Specs
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist

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