September 19, 2006

You are no doubt looking at the accompanying images and thinking “what a beautiful car!” Let me stop you right there. The Bentley Continental Flying Spur (heretofore CFS) is not a car. It just isn’t. Sure it has four wheels, rather large ones at that, and engine, it’s rather large too, five seats, four doors, windows that go up and down. It can get you from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’ and that type of thing but it’s still not a car. At the very least the CFS is an automobile but I prefer to think of it as a work of art.

You can’t sit in the opulent leather, wood and metal interior, waft down the highway at two or three times our national speed limit and tell us this is ‘just’ a car. A Corolla is a car, a G35 is a car, even an S-Class is just a car compared to the CFS. Cars are appliances and the CFS is not an appliance and, thus, it ain’t a car.

What elevates the CFS above other machines is the care and style of its execution. Hand-polished woods started life as seeds, grew great and strong and were felled to create something equally impressive. That ‘wood’ in your Lexus might actually be plastic and the aluminum most certainly is. In the CFS if something looks like wood it’s wood, if it looks like metal it’s metal and if it looks like leather then some cow (13 in fact) gave up its life. The reason this matters is that the CFS is like Plato’s highest form. Other cars are lesser imitations of its design, materials and craftsmanship.

Most cars are also a compromise of some sort. Don’t hold it against them. Whether you are talking about a $13,000 Toyota or a $130,000 Mercedes they are still built to a price and, as a result, you just can’t have everything. At $225,000 on the other hand for the CFS, Bentley has the dollar room to give you pretty much everything you could want. You want space? Four seven-footers will find more than enough room in the CFS and you could throw a few more NBA draft hopefuls in the trunk as well.

Those front and rear seats warrant a bit more copy than the average seat. The seats are electrically adjustable both front and rear but their comfort is rooted in their scale. Whereas most car seats are 7/10ths renderings of what a seat should be, the CFS’ seats are like thrones or your favourite club chair. I’m a pretty big guy (6’5” and 300 lbs) and I’ve never been so comfortable in a sedan. I can wear a suit or a jacket and it doesn’t get crushed thanks to being able to sit upright and thanks to the ample hip and shoulder room. The back seat is no different although the seats have fewer adjustments.

Want some power to go with your space? No problem. How does a 553-hp twelve-cylinder engine sound? It sounds pretty damn good to tell you the truth and it also crushes the 0-100 run in under four seconds. Let that soak in for a moment. A three-ton luxury car, with four seven-foot tall NBA players and two more in the trunk going 0-100 km/h as fast as a Porsche 911 or a Corvette. Not impressed? Well consider the fact that the CFS is also the world’s faster four-door. With enough road, enough courage and enough points left on your license you could hit 320 km/h. Still not impressed? In gear acceleration is devastating, the sound is intoxicating, the engine’s smoothness cosseting and the car’s cornering grip is gut-wrenching.

Part of the credit for the CFS’ cornering prowess lies with the permanent AWD system that has its work cut out for it as it lays out 480 lb.-ft. of torque at only 1600 rpm. You can also credit the truly massive 275/40R19-inch tires at each corner. At one point some guy in a hopped-up Mustang thought he’d show us a thing or two as we ran up a ramp. Well as the Stang slewed side-to-side screeching, bobbing and smoking I thought I’d take the time to get a particularly stubborn bit or grime out from under my index finger nail. Then I passed him and I’d have to say he looked pissed. The CFS isn’t a sport sedan by any means but its performance potential eclipse just about every other four-door on the road.

I don’t expect most Bentley owners will engage in such antics but you can bet they will use the W12’s power to blow off more than a few annoying motorists. The CFS’ strongest suite, however, has to be its ability to reach seemingly endless highway miles without strain to the driver. The CFS rides more softly than the Continental GT but it has the same laminated side glass for eerily quiet high-speed cruising. So adept is the CFS at ripping along at two-bucks-and-change you can start to get annoyed with other drivers only to find their already going 140 or 150. Really, for $225K+ you should be able to have your own lane.

If you are going to push the speed a bit then you will be happy to learn that at each corner the CFS has a pizza pan for a brake disk and the braking is as devastating as the acceleration. There’s also stability control to keep things in check and should you pass the point or no return, enough airbags to turn the interior into a passable impersonation of a Twinkie.

Chances are you are wondering when I’m going to mention that the CFS is built around the same core component set as the now defunct Volkswagen Phaeton – its even built in the same factory in Dresden, Germany. Having driven both cars extensively we feel confident in saying that regardless of their lineage they are very different machines. The Bentley is simply a cut above Volkswagen’s best. Heck, it’s a cut above everyone’s best.

Specifications:

2006 Bentley Continental Flying Spur

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