2007 Continental GTC New Car Test Drive
The Bentley Continental Flying Spur is a grand car that recalls a heroic age, a throwback to a time when big sedans were more art than science. Yet the Flying Spur also adds performance, technology, and even utility to this formula, and the result is a car that is uniquely practical as well as uniquely beautiful.
Beneath the Flying Spur's dramatic sheetmetal, you'll find the latest developments in automotive technology. A W12 engine incorporates twin turbochargers to produce some 552 horsepower. All-wheel drive delivers excellent traction in all kinds of weather. A sophisticated suspension with air springs and electronically controlled dampers produces extraordinary driving composure.
Moreover, the Flying Spur is a car that's meant to be driven. The driving experience is effortlessly intuitive, the performance is powerful yet controllable, and the interior is useful as well as comfortable. Compared to other prestige cars, the Flying Spur can be used on a daily basis just like a conventional sedan.
The Bentley Continental Flying Spur belongs to a rarified group of automobiles that are signatures of wealth and style. Bentley and Roll-Royce have dominated this market for decades, but now German and Italian manufacturers have joined the game for reasons of both corporate image and national pride. When a British holding company sold off the long-time Bentley/Rolls-Royce concern in 1999 because investment funds for the future weren't available, Volkswagen purchased Bentley while BMW bought Rolls-Royce. This event inspired a re-making of the whole prestige-car marketplace, as Mercedes-Benz invented Maybach, while Fiat decided to join the game with Maserati.
Since its takeover by Volkswagen, Bentley has been conspicuously successful. Much of the reason has been the Continental model, which was greeted with wide acclaim when the two-door GT was introduced in 2003. The four-door Flying Spur enjoyed similar success when it was launched in 2005. Evidence of this success can be found in the U.S. market during 2005, where Bentley sold 2144 Continental GTs and 1217 Flying Spurs during the year. In the same time period, Rolls-Royce sold 382 Phantoms, while Maybach sold just 152 cars.
It should be duly noted that price is a part of the Bentley Contintental's appeal, for while the Flying Spur is twice the price of a Lexus, it is just half the price of a Rolls-Royce.
This Bentley is an example of automotive art, yet it also illustrates the way in which prestige cars are becoming more affordable, practical and useful in response to ever-increasing sophistication from consumer-grade sedans built by Audi, BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz.
The Bentley Continental Flying Spur is a four-door sedan, a companion to Bentley's two-door Continental GT coupe and the forthcoming, two-door Continental GTC convertible. The Flying Spur is available as either a five-passenger model or a four-passenger model. Both are powered by a turbocharged, 6.0-liter W12 engine rated at 552 hp and both feature all-wheel drive.
As you'd expect, the Continental Flying Spur's list of available comfort and convenience items is extensive. Leather upholstery is standard equipment, and the power-adjustable front seats feature settings for both heating and cooling. The four-zone climate control system includes rear-seat controls. There's an AM/FM stereo audio system with a CD player, and it can be tuned through controls integrated into the steering wheel. A connection to Sirius satellite radio is standard, as is a Bluetooth-compatible telephone connection. A satellite navigation system is also standard. There's a power latching system for the trunk and all the doors. Keyless entry is included.
Standard performance features begin with the turbocharged 6.0-liter W-12 engine. It drives through a six-speed automatic transmission that can be controlled through either a conventional lever mounted on the center console or fingertip-actuated paddles that are mounted on the steering wheel. Full-time all-wheel drive with a torque-sensing center differential is standard. The suspension can be electronically tuned for comfort or performance with a knob that is mounted on the dash.
The five-seat model of the Flying Spur has a rear bench seat that accommodates three and includes a pull-down center armrest that reveals lockable pass-through access to the trunk. The limousine-like four-passenger model features two, electronically adjustable, bucket-style seats that are separated by a console. Controls for the climate and audio systems as well as a connection for a rear-seat telephone are located on the console.
Convenience and appearance options are limited only by the imagination of the customer and they include such things as rear-seat picnic tables that drop down from the back of the front seats. Our test car was equipped with more typical optional equipment, including a power sunroof ($990), deep-pile carpet floormats ($490), a gear lever finished in chrome and leather ($590), a steering wheel trimmed in two-tone leather ($490), and a valet parking key ($240). Our test car also carried a set of aluminum alloy wheels finished in chrome ($4240).
Passive safety is provided by dual-stage front air bags, front-seat side-impact airbags designed to provide torso protection, and curtain-type air bags designed to provide head protection for both front- and outboard rear-seat passengers. Seat-belt pre-tensioners and load limiters are standard. There's also a system that monitors the air pressure of the tires.
Active safety measures begin with an electronic stability program (ESP) to help maintain vehicle control during emergency maneuvers. Antilock brakes (ABS) help enhance steering control during emergency stops. To optimize braking and shorten stopping distances, electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) improves stability under braking, while Brake Assist maintains full braking force during a panic stop even if you inadvertently relax pressure on the brake pedal. Meanwhile, all-wheel drive also contributes to all-around driving safety.
For 2007, the premium Mulliner model has been added to the Flying Spur line, an even more luxurious level of trim named for Bentley's long-time supplier of custom coachwork. It's most notable for the use of special diamond-quilted seat leather for the interior and 20-inch wheels with high-performance, 275/35YR-20 Yokohama Advan Sport tires for added driving performance.