bottom line
  • Powerful engine, smooth transmission
  • Standard all-wheel drive
  • Controlled, calm ride
  • An ultimate highway cruiser
  • heavy, heavy vehicle
  • Cockpit can be confusing

If it's exclusivity you crave, and budget's no worry, you could hold off for the 2011 Bentley Mulsanne. It replaces the Arnage, and the automaker promises it will have no real rivals.
Editors at have driven the Bentley Continental Flying Spur and have compared the luxury sedan to other vehicles to bring you this road test of its styling, performance, comfort, safety, and features. Editors also researched reviews from other respected auto Web sites and have compiled the best into a companion full review, to show you how different sources report on the Flying Spur-and to help you decide which advice to take when shopping for a new car.

The Bentley Continental two-doors and the four-door Flying Spur sedan were catalysts: They completely reinvented the fusty Bentley brand and brought a whole new crew of rap moguls, reality stars, and pro athletes to the fold, for better or worse. For 2010, the Flying Spur carries on with the same styling it's worn since early in the decade, albeit in a couple of new colors. Prices begin at just less than $200,000, and the primary competition for those dollars are machines like the Maserati Quattroporte, the Audi S8, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and the Porsche Panamera.

It's been on the market since 2006, and the 2010 Bentley Continental Flying Spur's formal roofline is looking a little less compelling with the years. The Flying Spur is long, low, and wide, but not terribly rakish as four-door sedans like the 2010 Jaguar XJ can be. There's no mistaking its streamlined Bentley grille, and the chromed mesh grilles and air intakes between the quad-oval headlights, which still look contemporary, but the more upright pillars and glass areas don't make the same visual impact. The Flying Spur's deep character line running from front wheel wells to the taillights has been upstaged at home in Britain by that new Jaguar, even at home in Crewe by the 2011 Bentley Mulsanne. It's low-key and not flamboyant, even on close inspection-the opposite of the two-door Bentley Continental GT. Inside, the Flying Spur's cabin is a twin to the two-door's dash, with a dual-binnacle theme dressed in walnut or chestnut veneers, all precisely hand-cut and matched to create a mirror-image grain symmetry. Front and center on the dash is a Breitling timepiece, flanked by a steering wheel in hand-stitched leather, stainless-steel pedals and footrest, and real chrome pulls for the air vents.

The 2010 Bentley Continental Flying Spur goes rogue under the hood, where it features a twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter W-12 engine that produces 552 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. The unusual engine layout offsets pairs of piston cylinders in a way that generates very well-balanced engine motions and prodigious power, and it's more compact than a traditional V-12. The massive horsepower and torque are distributed to an all-wheel-drive system through a six-speed automatic that's up to the chore of pushing around the 5,400-pound Spur. Bentley claims a 0-60 mph time of less than five seconds and a top speed of 194 mph for the standard Spur; a Flying Spur Speed introduced last year hits 600 hp and 554 lb-ft of torque, which cuts acceleration times to 60 mph to 4.5 seconds and lifts top speed to 200 mph.

Though it's capable of super speeds, the 2010 Bentley Continental Flying Spur is focused on a refined, sophisticated driving experience. It's strong, silent, and fast, as it should be. Cruising at 100 mph is effortless, and the Spur quietly glides over road imperfections to convince you it's actually going much slower. The engine emits a low, distant rumble and pairs it with a slight turbo whoosh, though it's all muted properly, and thanks to a complex computer-controlled suspension, the Spur feels tremendously stable even when the road coarsens. The steering's without much sensation, but it's precise and fast for such a large car, and it gives the Spur a maneuverable feel, though it's well over 17 feet long. The sport of driving is very subtly enjoyed from behind the big leather-wrapped wheel-smoky burnouts are entirely possible, but restraint, please-especially with the Speed edition and its lowered suspension, 20-inch wheels, and available carbon-ceramic brakes. The Spur's incredible heft and power require great stopping, and Bentley claims the Spur's huge discs are the most powerful on the road today.

The five-seat Flying Spur has a plush, well-crafted cabin, but it's better to ride in front. Those front seats are supportive yet soft, and can be adjusted perfectly to suit most drivers. The controls are somewhat elusive at first glance, but grow easier to use over time-even if critics point out that some are related to those in the former Volkswagen Phaeton sedan. In back, the Spur is a little tighter than some other limousine-class cars, and it doesn't offer the same smoking-room sensations of the larger, more sensational Bentley Arnage. There's no drinks cabinet-this is the driver's Bentley-but backseat passengers can access the Spur's entertainment system. The justification for the Flying Spur's incredible price is in craftsmanship; it's hand-fitted with leather, wood, and chrome details that make "cheaper" cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class seem pedestrian. Bentley's Crewe workshops do all the interior trimming by hand-and materials are carefully selected and finished, such as the unbleached, unstained veneer used on the Spur's dash and doors.

The 2010 Bentley Continental Flying Spur is exceptionally rare and expensive, and as such, it hasn't been crash-tested by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) or the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). A full roster of airbags and safety features-including side and side-curtain airbags and electronic stability control-is included.

A dizzying set of standard equipment can be topped with extravagant options. The 2010 Flying Spur comes with automatic four-zone climate control; power closing for the doors; multi-adjustable power seats with a massaging function; and a navigation and audio system that have unfortunately complex secondary controls driven through an LCD screen. Bentley offers adaptive cruise control as an option, along with a Naim 1,000-watt audio system that hasn't impressed editors as much as its price tag shocks them. Personalization is the key to making the Spur distinctive-and terribly expensive, too.

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