9/1/2005 | 2 MINUTE READ

Cowboy in name only

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Located just above the automotive troposphere but below the stratosphere, the $164,990 Bentley Continental Flying Spur appeals to buyers looking for a sporting—yet reserved—luxury vehicle.

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Located just above the automotive troposphere but below the stratosphere, the $164,990 Bentley Continental Flying Spur appeals to buyers looking for a sporting—yet reserved—luxury vehicle. Mercedes and BMW are too common for this buyer, while vehicles like the Maybach and Rolls Royce Phantom are too pretentious. For them, the reserved—yet—"affordable" Continental Flying Spur is "just right."

Like the Continental GT from which it is derived, the Flying Spur shares its basics—but only 25% of it parts—with VW's Phaeton sedan. The powertrain builds from a VW base, its W12 delivering power through a ZF automatic gearbox to all four wheels. However, the Flying Spur adds twin turbochargers to produce 552 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque (versus 420 hp and 406 lb-ft for the Phaeton), and its gearbox has six gears instead of five. This is enough to move the 5,456-lb Bentley from 0-60 mph in a supercar-like 4.9 seconds, aided in no small part by a torque curve that reaches its peak at 1,600 rpm and stays flat to the engine redline.

The suspension is the same air-suspended design found on the Phaeton, but with some distinct differences aside from tuning. Aluminum lower uprights are added to the four-link front set-up, while the trapezoidal multi-link rear gets an aluminum rear subframe. The four-wheel ventilated disc brakes are huge—15.9-in. diameter in front and 13.2-in. diameter in the rear—and are said to be the largest offered on any production passenger car. Cast aluminum calipers are used at all four corners. Because the brakes may be hot after hard driving, the electronic parking brake reapplies itself after one and five minutes to compensate for the contraction of the discs as the brakes cool. Bosch supplies the ABS, electronic brake force distribution and brake assist.

Design of the four-door was concurrent with that of the GT coupe, and overseen by Bentley Design director Dirk van Braeckel. Raul Pires, head of Exterior Design at Bentley, penned the sedan, which boasts a Cd of 0.31, slightly lower than the GT's 0.32 Cd. Despite a top speed of 195 mph, there are no spoilers or add-ons to keep the Flying Spur from flying. A small trunk lid lip spoiler works in tandem with a diffuser that moves underbody air through tuned vanes in the lower rear bumper panel. Despite a 12-in. longer wheelbase and an overall length 20-in. greater than the GT, the Flying Spur not only has an exemplary 46-Hz body resonance frequency, it is instantly recognizable as the GT's bigger brother.

The wood veneers used in the interior are laser-cut, applied to an aluminum substrate, hand-lacquered, machined and polished before installation. Eleven hides are used in the interior, and each piece is cut from a digital pattern to reduce waste. The steering wheel is double-stitched by hand using two needles simultaneously, and takes five hours to complete.

The Flying Spur will be built alongside the GT at Bentley's Crewe, England, facility, though some production could be shifted to VW's Phaeton factory in Dresden, Germany, to meet expected demand. And what is the demand for a $165,000 car? 2,000 advanced orders are chasing a production run of 1,800 Flying Spurs each year.—CAS 

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