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Cooley On Cars
2014 Bentley Flying Spur: One big car, one big engineBentley has graced its big four-door with more horsepower, more torque, and more gears -- all in fewer seconds to 60.
Bentleys exist in a different world than the one you and I live in. A world where people buy $50,000 watches that don't tell time, as well as a $200 iPhone, and where a townhouse on wheels like this can be called a sports sedan with a straight face. But if you want to arrive more refreshed than when you started your drive, there are about two or three cars in the world to consider. And this is one of them. Let's drive the 2014 Bentley Flying Spur, and check the tech. Now, the 2014 Flying Spur is this big curvy bastard that has got mostly an aluminum body shell, which helps keep its sportliness manageable. Beyond that, spot one by its very different new tail lights. Also, a different mast front and rear, compared to the Mulsanne we drove recently. It's got a much more reduced schnoz and a flatter cutoff romp. Now, inside the Bentley, it's nicer than your house. That's kind of the idea. Genuine materials everywhere, leather and real wood, of course. Real metal in places. I've shown you these before. These are what they call their organ-stop vent knobs. And in fact, all they are is electric switches, but they are dampened to feel like mechanical plungers, if I recall correctly. In the center of those gauges, you've got a fairly familiar Audi-esque sort of a helper screen in there. And of course, over here is the main head unit, which I appreciate because it has nice, big touch zones. In other words, the buttons. Not a fiddly little detailed thing. That's a nuance lost on many auto makers. Now, down here in the drive control center, we basically are faced with our shifter, and some suspension settings. There is not a whole lot of other drive mode controls, even though this car has a massive high-tech power plant. In terms of our shifter, it's a one choice-only gearbox on this guy, an 8 speed automatic with your drive position, sport position, and traditional gate to the side. Nothing unusual there. Look at these chunky shifters up here on these paddles on the steering column. My gripe about those is they don't extend down, only up. So, you gotta get your hands up here to get to the shifters. It's interesting how cars that cost a ton of money tend to insult you the most. For example, on this Bentley, as far as I understand it, that rear camera is optional. You're kidding, right? And over here, on the headlight control, I don't see an automatic setting. That apparently is optional too, or not available? I don't believe that. Once you do pony up for that rear camera, you do have a ton of settings on it, though. From angle of view, to color and contrast-- you don't see that very often. And of course, your Sonar can be in or out. The map quality is good, it's not cutting edge. They're not doing anything here I've not ever seen before. You notice, though, it's got good response. I'm dragging around the map in this case, for example. And it's really responsive. So, there's some good processing or optimization in here. Now, in terms of the output, we have the basic sound system here-- probably one of the best you ever heard. It does sound really good to my ears. There is an optional Naim audio, N-A-I-M, that is over the top. Using 1,100 watts through 13 digital channels into what are called balanced mode radiators. They're round, flat panel speakers that have much better imaging because they don't aim treble frequencies like a rifle shot. They disperse them more broadly. So goes the science. One other thing, I find this beautiful sunglass holder quite a work of art in engineering. It's really quite nice. I'd have liked to have seen this much time spent on some kind of new universal smartphone holder. Instead, you just throw it in the console up here like you do on many [unk]. Even on our low-option Flying Spur, the rear compartment is just a beautiful space to spend time. Down here, this fixed or detachable touch screen remote is impressive. You can run the front head unit from it, or [unk] the speedometer or other driver readouts, and have all sorts of fun with climate, seat comfort, and the rear power sun shade. You can also equip the boudoir back here with the usual Dolby DVD entertainment system, or a sort of inexplicable 64-gigabyte in car storage drive for who-knows-what good purpose. Do you see what's happening there in the video being shot right now? That's the view find you're looking at right now, of our main camera. See how it's doing this stuff? I've never seen that happen before in the eight years we've been shooting these videos. There is something radiating out of this car, I think. I'm getting out. Now, up here underneath the prowl, we have an engine more akin to locomotive technology than automotive. This is a 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12. It nests cylinders, so that you can have 12 of them in a much smaller longitudinal distance. It's kinda like nesting 2 V6s, though that's not exactly right. The bottom line here is remarkable performance for a big boy. This is a fat man who can dance-- 0-60 in 4.3 seconds. That's almost 5,500 pounds of car before you even get in it. And the mpg is sorta kinda not bad-- 13 city, 28 highway, 19 average. But you do get hit with a $3,000 gas-guzzler tax. Now, driving this big boy, you're not sure if you should be wearing black tie, a chauffer's cap, or train conductor's overalls. I mean, it's extremely formal environment in here. At the same time, you feel like you're really wasting that back seat if no one is sitting in it. And at the same time, you're also dealing with Prodigits power. So, it's an interesting mix of experiences. Now, the first thing that bothers me about this car, and again, it's preproduction-- they may iron this out-- is the throttle response is really annoying. Initial tip-in is basically numb, then you get a ton of power. It's very tedious to drive this car in everyday traffic. Get into sport mode or manually shift it, and you really get some amazingly nice, effortless power as you might expect. Now, about the suspension modes, I'm in, let's see, full comfort right now. It's very comfortable in terms of the actual vehicle body dynamics. But underneath that, I'm getting a harsh undertone of a lot of road chatter. I don't find it as luxurious as it should be. Again, that may be tuned up by the time this car is in full production trim. I suspect it will. Otherwise, I think I'd get a better ride out of a garden variety Lexus LS, to be honest. Okay. Let's price our 2014 Flying Spur. Just for sport. Starts off at $206 or so because the base car has a $2,800 delivery charge. And as I mentioned, a $3,000 gas-guzzler tax. Then, you begin to add some packages and some options to get it CNET-style. Here's what I would do. Rear camera, an insulting 1,200 bucks. Wired phone handsets-- I love that idea-- $1,000. Rear multimedia system, I'd pass all day long, but it's $7,300 if you happen to have kids. A panoramic glass roof with a solar passive cooling technology. That's a grand, I would do that all day long. 7,500 bucks for the Naim audio system? Nah. This one sounds pretty good just like it is. So, all in, you're easily into the $220s and you can go to a quarter million without really breathing hard. Bottom line, it buys you a four-door sedan Bentley that's got more the DNA of the hotter Continental GT models. More horsepower, more torque, more gears, more wheels driven, fewer seconds to 60.