Thursday, February 1, 2007

Some cars are produced and exist simply for the purpose of transportation.

Some cars are made with the intent to signify social status. Some cars are manufactured with performance as their primary focus, and still others are designed to envelop their occupants in sumptuous surroundings. Only a few vehicles combine all of the above elements or benefits — and they fall into a limited class often referred to as “supercars.”

These vehicles are indeed worthy of such a designation, if for no other reason than the sum required to purchase them.

Superluxury or superperformance vehicles fall into a financial range from $350,000 to $1.3 million. Some come with two doors, while others provide four openings for ingress and egress. Some seat but two, with others offering accommodations for four or more. The configurations range from roadster to sedan with coupes positioned in between.

Some supercars take on an aura of simple and sometimes understated elegance with others presenting themselves in a stunning, breathtaking and emotionally stirring form of exotica.

Rolls-Royce and Maybach sedans fall categorically, without question, into the superluxury venue generally in the $350,000 range. Mercedes-Benz offers vehicles appropriately filling virtually all elemental categories and body styles, with the SLR McLaren claiming the top price plateau at roughly $450,000.

The Porsche Carrera GT is an absolutely gorgeous, high-speed, high-performance roadster with a suggested retail price in the neighborhood of $440,000.

The Enzo Ferrari fetched $650,000 at a minimum, and the Bugatti Veyron commands $1.3 million.

The Bentley Continental GT Coupe, with a few significant options, rang up at the showroom register for a mere $161,586.20 including the “gas guzzler” tax and destination charge — the base price set at $149,990.

Enter the Bentley Continental Flying Spur — essentially an extended, four-door-sedan version of the GT Coupe, and sporting the same basic mechanicals and architecture.

The Flying Spur is Bentley’s fastest four-door sedan ever produced, and it is ranked as the fastest such vehicle in the world.

The Bentley Continental Flying Spur features a short front overhang with a dominant, lengthy bonnet, stretching from the front axle line to the “A” pillar. The cabin is both sleek and sumptuous, blending with the rest of the car’s curvaceous and sinewy form and taut rear haunches.

The chrome mesh grille is flanked by a headlamp design that reflects Bentley’s heritage. A rear spoiler is integrated skillfully and unobtrusively into the trailing edge of the trunk lid, providing additional downforce.

The Continental Flying Spur is both fast and smooth, with power coming from an impressive 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged 12-cylinder engine in a “W” configuration, a la Volkswagen. The W-12 staggers each bank’s cylinders, effectively creating two extraordinarily narrow-angle V-6 engines, as opposed to the two traditional, log six-cylinder banks found in conventional V-12 engines.

The engine generates 552 horsepower and 479 foot-pounds of torque, and mates to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability via fixed, column-mounted paddle shifters (much better than the wheel-mounted types).

The car is continuous all-wheel-drive with a Torsen center differential, and rides on air suspension with driver adjustment for ride height and damper settings. Rolling stock consists of 20-inch seven-spoke, chromed alloy wheels, shod with Yokohama high-performance tires.

Inside, the Continental Flying Spur sedan is an exercise in stylish luxury, elegantly blending both form and function. The expanses of fine quality hide, highly polished burled wood trim and satin-finish aluminum accents are complemented by classically designed and executed chrome-bezeled gauges and dials, including a Breitling chronograph.

Pedals are stainless-steel surfaced, along with the driver’s footrest.

Old World craftsmanship and modern, state-of-the-art technology combine to deliver new levels of convenience with familiar comfort elements. The steering wheel, seats and mirrors are all heated (seats up front are cooled as well, with a massage feature), and the car is fitted with a premium 12-speaker audio and a satellite navigation system.

A unique console extends from the instrument panel to the rear bulkhead, affording rear passengers the same ambience as front-seat occupants, with plenty of leg room.

The test vehicle was finished outside in Midnight Emerald metallic (appearing to be black at a distance) with a complementing soft two-tone ochre and chocolate hide interior accented with dark burled trim panels. The car is a scintillating visual treat from every angle. It is a head-turner and traffic-stopper when parked or moving, eliciting favorable comments from those who behold it.

It is definitely one of the most beautiful automobiles produced today, and is truly worthy of its heritage and tradition, and in my opinion, well worth its price of $181,885 — the base price before optional features and equipment were added was set at $164,990.

The Bentley Continental Flying Spur is a performer as well — it moves from a standstill to 60 mph in a scant 4.9 seconds — not bad for a vehicle that is just shy of 3 tons (just 544 pounds shy to be exact), which is more than many SUVs. Capable of speeds up to 195 mph, it is equally smooth and rock solid.

It is definitely a car that delivers both style and substance in one fine package. Yes, it is possible to pay more for another supercar, but why would you want to, when the Continental Flying Spur elegantly blends a lovely appearance with lively and spirited performance capability?

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