Try and forget the word ‘Continental’ when you’re thinking about Bentley’s latest super-luxury saloon. Yes, its predecessor may have been called the Continental Flying Spur, and this new car uses the same platform as the new Continental GT coupé. But Bentley has dropped the C-word because it wants you to know this is no longer merely a stretched version of its sporty two-door.
There are a number of visual cues that point to this departure of the Flying Spur from the Continental brand. The headlights are still two pairs of circular, LED-encrusted intricacy, but this time the outer lamps are larger than the inner ones, for a look that’s more stately than sporty. The lower front air dam is a wide, continuous mesh of chrome bisected by a chrome band, and the grille appears to be more upright.
The roof flows more elegantly into the rear than the previous Spur, accentuated by a blockier, more regal-looking rump and thick, pronounced haunches. In fact, that simple but sinuous shoulder line is one of the car’s most attractive styling features. Continued..
Where it is still certainly worthy of being called ‘Continental’ is under the hood. There is currently only one powerplant for this car, and that is the full-fat 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12, wound up to a faintly ridiculous 616bhp and 81.6kgm of torque – in a luxury saloon! Bentley says that’s enough to yank nearly 2.5 tonnes of luxury to 100kph in just 4.6 seconds, and though we didn’t get a chance to run it against our testing gear, we doubt that’s far off the mark. This is no doubt helped by AWD and ZF’s fantastic eight-speed automatic. Feeling it take off the way it does for the first time can catch you off guard. It’s actually easier with the gearlever in Sport, because the response to throttle inputs here is more immediate. In normal Drive mode, it eases off the line gently, but then the torque suddenly comes in strong and that takes a little getting used to. From then on, it’s a seemingly unending surge to the redline. At 5.3m long and 1.9m wide, this is no lithe GT car – it’s an out and out limousine. But it must be said that it steers in a very composed and predictable manner for something its size; something it likely owes to its ‘Continental’ roots.
But of course, what matters most in a car like this is how well you’re pampered in the cabin. All four individual heated, cooled, reclining, massaging seats are superbly plush – wrapped in finely stitched leather with a pillow-soft top layer of cushioning. However, it must be mentioned, they are lacking slightly in thigh support. The cabin is a feast of leather, wood and metal, with fantastic details like push-pull metal switches for the air-con vents and the knurled metal on the gearlever, but this makes the few lower-quality bits stand out like sore thumbs. Things like the steering buttons, front touchscreen, and especially the suspension and seat heating buttons on the centre console, look like quick grabs from the VW parts bin. Continued..
The Flying Spur’s air suspension has a ‘raise’ mode to tackle the really nasty speed breakers – almost compulsory on a car with a three-metre wheelbase. The car effortlessly steamrolls just about any size of bump, with only sharp edges making their presence felt; although this is more a result of the massive 275/35 ZR21 tyres. Even in the stiffest of four suspension settings, it doesn’t feel at all uncomfortable. It’s also a very refined cabin (the W12 is barely audible till about 4,000rpm), but here too the tyres play spoilsport, and you can hear them slapping against every expansion joint once you pick up speed. On the whole, ride and refinement are far ahead of any of the ‘conventional’ luxury saloons, but still fall a shade shy of the Rolls-Royce Ghost.
Before you start specifying this Bentley to your taste, you’ll have to set aside the starting price of Rs 3.1 crore (thank revised import taxes for that). However, the upcoming S-class promises to do a lot more than the Bentley for around half the price, and is packed with much more tech. Objectively, it doesn’t quite add up, but if you’re among those who have the means and for whom the class and exclusivity of the Flying B is paramount, it’s worth signing that cheque.