Test Drive: 2014 Bentley Flying Spur

The 2014 Bentley Flying Spur is many things.

It’s luxurious, of course. Virtually every inch of its interior is draped in fine leathers, exotic woods or carpet with a pile so deep you may lose a shoe in it. If plastic is the future, this car’s style is firmly rooted in the past.

It’s also powerful, with a 616 hp 12-cylinder engine that makes it the most potent Bentley sedan ever built.

That’s in terms of horsepower. Its big sister, the 505 hp Bentley Mulsanne, trumps it on torque, with something like a jazillion pound-feet compared to the Flying Spur’s healthy 590 lb-ft, but we’re not talking tow trucks here, and horsepower equals speed.

On that front, the Flying Spur lives up to its name, sprinting from 0 to 100 mph in 9.5 seconds on its way to an unrestricted maximum velocity of 200 mph, fastest of any sedan in the world today.

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    Or snowmobile. Its all-wheel-drive system and adjustable air-suspension make it one of the most capable cold weather cars, and likely the classiest way to take five people on a quick run up the Dalton Highway.

    No, that’s not the primary reason customers will spend $205,825 to buy one, but it’s nice to know you can check out the oil investments firsthand when necessary. I managed to get a taste of what that might be like, courtesy of one of the polar vortices Canada keeps sending us this year.

    After gliding over the potholed streets of Manhattan as if they were billiard tables, I pointed the Flying Spur’s chromed mesh grille toward the mountains for a quick freeway run to a curvy gravel road I usually head to when I have a Subaru to check out.

    On the way I treated myself to a nice back massage, courtesy of the 14-way adjustable diamond-quilt upholstered seat that you get as part of the optional $12,485 Mulliner package, and let the near absolute silence of the cabin seep in.

    How silent? Bentley says 40 percent more than last year’s model, thanks in part to new acoustic panels and glass, freer-flowing exhaust pipes and an 8-speed transmission that keeps the engine under 1,500 rpm at 65 mph. To make it any quieter, they’d have to suck out all the air and provide oxygen masks.

    It’s cushier, too, with softer springs widening the character gap from the more tightly wound Bentley Continental coupe that the Flying Spur shares more than a few parts with. That’s not to say it’s a boulevardier; it keeps its 5,451 pounds nicely in check at all times, but even fitted with 21-inch wheels wrapped in winter rubber, you always feel like you’re being transported atop a plate of foie gras.

    This is a true full-size car with room for six-footers all around. The folks in the rear even get reclining seats that can be heated and cooled simultaneously, like the ones up front, because sometimes you just can’t decide, and for what you paid you shouldn’t have to.

    They’re also provided with a detachable Touch Screen Remote that's about the size of a double-thick iPhone and can display the car’s speed, adjust the audio and climate control systems, and endows them with the ability to engage a “chauffeur mode” that makes sure their section of the car gets temperature priority over the driver when it’s heating up or cooling down. The Jeeveses and dads of the world will not be pleased.

    It’s entertaining, more so than the infotainment system. There’s navigation and satellite radio, but the tech is decidedly last gen, or perhaps quaintly retro, and doesn’t offer the type of cloud-connected app library available in bargain basement cars these days. This might speak more to the Flying Spur’s audience and its inherent appeal than any failings on Bentley’s behalf. The Breitling analog clock above it is lovely, however.

    As is the throttle pedal, a drilled alloy affair that brings on a rush of speed that’s mind-bending, given how large the Flying Spur is. Imagine a Clydesdale that runs like Seabiscuit, and you start to get the idea. The small, thin-rimmed steering wheel and its hydraulic assist deliver some fine old-school feel through the helm, and when you pull the knurled shifter into sport, everyone loosens his tie and gets down to business.

    On the street, the Flying Spur’s abilities are no surprise, but where it really impresses is when you pull off the blacktop on to a snow-covered dirt road in freezing temperatures and don’t drive immediately into a tree.

    The Flying Spur is so sure-footed in these conditions that you’d think it had a plow attached to the front of it and was wearing a set of tracks. And that’s not just on the straights. Turn off the traction control and you can toss it into a 90-degree left like the Impreza that inevitably happened by and thought it could get away from me, the driver clearly dumbfounded by the amount of glitz filling up his rearview mirror.

    Again, not the sort of thing the Flying Spur was really made for, but Bentley did once send one of its cars to an ice sheet in Finland for a then-world-record speed run of 205 mph, and that was a convertible. So, this one was asking for it. And I’d gladly do it again, as long as you promise not to use that chauffeur mode.

    I prefer chills up my spine, thank you.


    2014 Bentley Flying Spur

    Base Price: $205,825

    As Tested: $230,665

    Type: 4-door, 5-passenger sedan

    Engine: 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W12

    Power: 616 hp, 590 lb-ft torque

    Transmission: 8-speed automatic

    MPG: 12 city/20 hwy