- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2005

There are times when the passion of one’s spirit should be rewarded. You’ve worked hard to get where you are in life, and you’ve been thinking about attaining the toys that go along with true wealth.

I’m not talking Mercedes-Benz, Lexus or BMW here — let’s move aspirations up to the proverbial “next level.” After experiencing the 2006 Bentley Continental Flying Spur, it’s a marked step up in the ultraluxury car segment in terms of refinement, performance and status.

You may remember Bentley as the forgotten stepchild of then-ruler of the British motorcar roost, Rolls-Royce. Well, times have changed. Bentley and Rolls-Royce have new owners (Volkswagen and BMW respectively), and Bentley has leapfrogged Rolls-Royce as the preferred chariot of the well-heeled.

Now the Flying Spur at $164,990 is Bentley’s “entry-level” sedan, considering other offerings from the company can draw $250,000 or more from your wallet. But there is nothing entry level about the luxury and sheer power you’ll find in the Continental Flying Spur.

The Continental Flying Spur was created to provide two more doors to those who love the hot-selling Continental GT Coupe, but who desire more rear passenger room and easier ingress and egress from the rear seat.

Front-end styling is similar to the GT, highlighted by four round headlights surrounding a stylish wire mesh grille. The “Flying B” ornament lies down on the “bonnet,” to better reduce wind resistance in this car capable of a top speed of 195 mph. Wide ducts under the front bumper force-feed air to the twin turbochargers that give the Continental Flying Spur its world-class speed. At the rear, the deck is highlighted by large LED taillamps, and 19-inch wheels shod with huge tires give the look that this Bentley is all about handling its business.

To assess the Flying Spur’s power, lift the hood and wipe the drool off your chin. The bottom end of this beautiful 6.0-liter monster is the W12 block from parent company Volkswagen. The heads and intake systems were designed by Bentley and the result is an engine that produces 552 horsepower.

The drill when driving is simple: You rule the road — and you rule it with class. Should a “mere mortal” sedan fail to understand that your Flying Spur sets a new standard for performance in the elite car class, follow these simple directions:

1. Adjust your hands on the leather-wrapped steering wheel so that the F1-style paddle shifters are at your fingertips.

2. Turn the CD megawatt audio system down so the music of the Washington Symphony Orchestra doesn’t interfere with the sound of impending twin-turbo fury.

3. Look at the poor soul in the “mere mortal” sedan so that you can remember his or her face, as it will be the last time you see it.

4. Light up the throttle, tap your way through the gears, and prepare for your own version of the space shuttle launch, complete with debris that will surely be kicked up by massive 19-inch rubber, connected to the Spur’s traction-laden all-wheel-drive system.

The interior is super luxurious and can handle the big guys. I stand 6 feet, 9 inches and weigh 260 pounds, yet I never felt cramped or tired while driving the Flying Spur. There’s even plenty of head and legroom in the rear seat.

Up front, you’ll be treated to fine burr walnut veneers that take three weeks to fashion; hand-stitched leather on the steering wheel, seats and dash from 11 matching hides; traditional chrome-plated pulls on the dash to control airflow, and a Breitling timepiece in the center of the dashboard to keep a time record of the joy you’ll most certainly have driving this coach-built automobile.

Not happy with the standard accoutrements? Then have your Flying Spur’s interior upgraded with Bentley’s Mulliner option customization program. Mul-liner can provide leather and wood upgrades of your choice, DVD screens, matching luggage, rear picnic tables — pretty much anything you desire in an automobile.

Four-place seating with a rear custom console is another option, replacing the standard five-seat configuration.

The price of exclusivity is steep, but if you are of the means, then the 2006 Bentley Continental Flying Spur is the answer. It truly can be called a bargain in the elite car class.

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