Bentley + Beijing: China’s New Flying Spur

By Michael Lockhart

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Bentley + Beijing: China’s New Flying Spur:

{“pbembedwidget”:“gallery”,“id”:“14040”,“size”:“small”,“alignment”:“left”} Flying to China to test drive a car is a first for us, but when Bentley calls, it’s wise to answer. We’re here for the launch of Bentley’s new Flying Spur, a four-door limousine born from the legendary Continental line which was first unveiled in Geneva earlier this year.

Arriving at our hotel opposite the Bird’s Nest Stadium from the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, we finally get our first glimpse of one of the new beasts, which just happens to be the no-options-spared Mulliner trim at a cool $211,430 USD (base price of the Flying Spur: $200,500). Bentley has proclaimed it to be the best luxury sedan in the world, and they’ve established a pretty good case for it.

Jumping behind the wheel of our dark metallic blue Flying Spur the following morning feels almost as if we’ve just walked into Harrods or Fortnum & Mason: British luxury at its finest, not a single detail left unrefined.

Powering up a 12-cylinder in “W” configuration, it’s quite hard not to feel the excitement purring from the freshly primed engine. On par with its two-seater Continental GT sibling, the Flying Spur contains the same 616 brute horses of power at a maximum 6,000 rpm with a total of 590 pound-feet of torque spread 40:60 front-rear across the all-wheel drive system.

Getting out of the city, the Flying Spur effortlessly glides over the hills, taking corners with a nudge of a finger, shifting through its eight-speed ZF transmission paddle shifters with ease, grace and most definitely power. The delivery across the board is unlike most vehicles on the road today, barring a closely knit group of competitors: four-door sport coupes, premium sedans and a certain other 12-cylinder luxury sedan manufacturer who also happens to be British. This puts the Flying Spur in direct competition with the likes of the Jaguar XJ, Ferrari FF and the Aston Martin Rapide.

As we progress further into the mountains, the luxury of responsive speed quickly becomes the least of our concerns. Well, that is, apart from our wariness of testing out the Flying Spur’s top speed of 200 mph on China’s back roads. (If you do approach that speed, however, the vehicle’s air suspension will actually lower the car to reduce drag and decrease CO2 emissions.) Much like the suicidal goats from last month’s Jaguar F-Type launch in Spain, remote Chinese villages in the highlands north of Beijing are not at all accustomed to luxury vehicles practicing their zero to 60 time of 4.3 seconds in their modest—and narrow—streets.

Breaking free, we begin to ascend into the higher mountains and race alongside the Great Wall as it circled the peaks overhead. At our lunch stop (on top of the wall, no less) we pull into the lot and retire to the backseat; seeing as an executive would probably be sitting back here on a day-to-day basis, it’s only appropriate to take in the view from the back. Facing one of the two 10” screens mounted behind each seat, we pop the new touchscreen remote, one of the coolest toys that comes with the Flying Spur, out of its holder. This remote can control the multimedia screens, heating and ventilation and access front-driving controls. No, the car’s remote doesn’t go as far as to drive the car Bond-style, but one can always hope for an upgrade.

Screens and remotes aside, it’s important to note that as it’s a Bentley there are always a few more surprises hidden around in the backseat. With the two champagne bottle cooler and a customizable four or five-seat layout, one could hypothetically call for a Playboy party to go using the built-in wireless Internet connection.

The exterior vision for the vehicle is classy, refined but almost understated, drawing attention from those who recognize quality but not enough to be considered flashy. This is extremely prominent in the head and taillights, with the former moving its larger lights to the outside of its fascia to distinguish it from the GT. The taillights, however, are one of the areas of the vehicle that we weren’t that impressed with. Although the gemlike horizontal ovals were very clean in the back, it seemed like a missed opportunity to liven up a rather tame rear profile. Compared to the bold, stunning face of the Flyer Spur, the back trunk and rear features seem slightly outdated. Then again, it speaks to a demographic who will certainly appreciate the understated nature of the design.

All in all, the New Flying Spur is a pretty well equipped package and is surprisingly decent on the gas for a W12 at 15 mpg combined, an impressive feat with a 13.5 percent reduction in fuel and 12 percent increase in power over the last generation. The body itself is a solid departure while staying true to its heritage, with a sleek silhouette and an athletic presence that easily stands apart from its class.

As the lights of the cosmopolis begin to flicker on, the bright, cracking paint of the ancient temples lining the boulevards fades into the shadows, replaced by the glow of neon lights. This is a city on edge, one clasping the last millennium while embracing the future in all its glory. Much like the Flying Spur, a vehicle that is conscious of its past but has at its core the innovative luxury of tomorrow. This is precisely why this vehicle is destined to succeed: the perfect confluence of technology, luxury, class and performance. Well done, Bentley; this is how you build a vehicle.

The new Flying Spur retails for $200,500, ordering now for August delivery. For more information visit bentleymotors.com


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