- The Washington Times - Friday, August 8, 2008

MkVI, R-Type & T-Type, Continental S1 & S2, Mulsanne, and Arnage. Fine coach-built chariots for those desiring speed, luxury and exclusivity. Since 1919, and through several changes in ownership, Bentley Motors has prevailed.

The latest offerings from the factory on Pyms Lane in Crewe, Rolls-Royces, partly due to joint development of the two marques under different owners, clouding some of the innovation and new technology developed over the years by Bentley engineers.

Then came 2005 and the introduction of the Continental GT. The car was not “traditional” Bentley in many respects, most notably in the price area. The GT was an “entry level” Bentley, coming in at about $160,000, but in terms of status, the GT catapulted Bentley to the top of the luxury car game.

Following the GT was the Flying Spur, essentially a four-door version of the GT. But enthusiasts wanted more, and the Continental GT Speed was born. With a top speed just over 200 mph, this car instantly had supercar credentials.

Well, the folks who wanted performance and four doors also made some noise, and Bentley has responded with the 2009 Continental Flying Spur Speed. And while the new Flying Spur Speed, like other new Bentleys, shares technology and parts from corporate cousin Audi, make no mistake that even with German ownership of Bentley, this is a proper British motorcar in the finest tradition.

And in the Continental Flying Spur Speed, that means yards and yards of extremely supple leather inside, double stitched by hand of course. And the goods don’t stop there, as Burl walnut adorns the fascia, console, and door waistrails. If you don’t like the color choice of 17 standard interior hide colors, or if the pattern in the wood is not to your liking, the good folks at Bentley will be more than happy with you opening your wallet to make your Flying Spur Speed truly bespoke. For example, marquetry wood inlays can be added, as can aluminum inlays should you want a sportier interior. Bentley’s “hands on” customization program is called “Mulliner Driving Specification,” but you should check the extensive list of standard luxury features on this car before you decide to go further.

Some of those interior standards include traditional “Bulls Eye” dash vents, “Organ Stop” push-pull vent controls, memory front seats with heat, Breitling clock, four-zone climate control and more. The “Speed” model ups the ante over the base Flying Spur with unique interior features including sillplates bearing the “Speed” name, diamond quilted seat facings and door panels, Bentley emblem embroidery on the headrests, a special three-spoke multifunction steering wheel, a shift lever finished in knurled chrome and drilled alloy foot pedals.

Road manners in the Flying Spur Speed are equally impressive. The 552-horsepower W12 engine in the base Flying Spur has been massaged to output a whopping 600-horsepower. This car weighs more than 5,400 pounds, yet accelerates like an Italian sports car. In the Flying Spur Speed, you are supremely isolated from the aural assaults you endure in lesser automobiles, yet the right amount of engine noise, when you aggressively accelerate, enters the premium cabin.

Road taming chores are handled by a computer controlled, self-leveling, multi-link air suspension. Pirelli P-Zero Rosso tires link the Flying Spur Speed’s all-wheel drive system to terra firma. Ride quality is excellent. To slow rapid forward progress, gigantic 16.54-inch carbon/silicon carbide cross drilled discs are a must have option. Huge multi-piston calipers clamp these discs that are larger than the wheels on many cars!

It seems that no stone was left unturned in the development of this fine motorcar. Bentley research shows that 95% of people who buy a Flying Spur still own one or more Bentleys. The 2009 Continental Flying Spur Speed will undoubtedly continue to hold the interest of Bentley devotees, as well as “spur” new interest in those who desire an upscale motoring experience.

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