Living in Los Angeles makes one blasé about things that would work others into a tizzy. Especially in the area where this author calls home. We live in the San Fernando Valley — more specifically, Sherman Oaks/Studio City, a place that was built and designed for those who work in “the industry.” Mack Sennett built the Studio City sound stages that are still used by CBS television on a 200-acre plot of land, and from the world-famous Mulholland drive down the hill into the valley, too many celebrities call these two towns home. We think nothing of seeing Mr. T grocery shopping at Ralphs, or Jay Leno stopped by the side of the road with his head under the hood of one of his unique automobiles. No one acknowledges when a McLaren, Bugatti, or other exotic car drives by. Getting the attention of the locals is darn near impossible. But we managed to do it, not with a Lamborghini or Ferrari, but with the Bentley Flying Spur V8.
In this area, the mark that you’ve got “the” vehicle is all about parking pecking order. Dining at a local Studio City trendy restaurant, we knew the Bentley was the winner when we came back to the valet, and it was the only car still parked in front instead of being relegated to a back lot somewhere out of sight.
And why shouldn’t it be front and center? After all, that’s one of the perks of owning a Bentley. It has the looks, the performance, and the panache that belong to someone who has worked hard in life in order to enjoy the finer things. And finer thing is the only way to describe this Flying Spur. From the exterior to the interior to the engine to the ride, Bentley is all about providing a level of luxury and elegance that only can be matched by a Rolls-Royce. The biggest difference between these two luxury sedans that is Bentley understands how performance should play as big a part as ride comfort. Rolls’ racing history is just that. Bentley’s has never stopped.
During our time with the Flying Spur, we proved the performance factor by participating in an exotic car run from LA to Santa Barbara that included three McLaren’s, almost a dozen Ferraris, a few Lambos, and even a Porsche Carrera GT. Admittedly, we thought there would be more variety than top exotic sports cars, but we took our valiant sedan and stayed with the pack, even over the most challenging back roads. (Officers, please note: we stayed at a sedate speed. No one in the group of 20 vehicles wanted to miss out on Sunday brunch by spending the day in the pokey.)
While the rest of the driving group was surprised by how the Bentley stayed with them, we were not. Bentley’s racing heritage is equal to or better than that of any of those exotics, and the Flying Spur demonstrated the lessons learned by providing amazing gobs of power when we touched the throttle, and kept its composure through every bend in the road. While we fully expected some body roll from this two-and-a-half-ton sedan, none materialized. And the transmission shifts were imperceptible. Plus, the huge, sticky Pirelli P-Zero 275/35ZR21 gave us an advantage, as well as the all-wheel-drive setup that helped keep the tires planted.
All this prowess is because Bentley engineers understand what money can buy. In this case, around $210,000 bought a smooth 4.0-liter (apologies to Bentley for spelling liter with an er instead of an re) twin-turbocharged V8 that produces 500 horsepower and 487 lb-ft of torque, matched to a ZF eight-speed transmission. (The engine, which was engineered by Audi, is also used with modifications in other Audi vehicles.) Bentley claims a zero-to-sixty speed of 4.9 seconds, and although we didn’t clock it, seat of the pants agrees. As with nature, however, every reaction has an equal and opposite reaction, meaning that as the speed increases quickly, fuel economy decreases rapidly. The 14 city/24 highway fuel-economy numbers played out correctly. We acknowledge that the Flying Spur isn’t going to win any fuel mileage contests, and that it has to pay a gas-guzzler tax to the EPA, but it’s still not the least fuel-efficient vehicle on the road. That honor goes to the Bugatti Veyron, with a combined 10 mpg. That makes this Bentley look downright conservative. If you want to waste more fuel (and enjoy some extra power at the same time), opt for the Bentley Flying Spur in its original W-12-cylinder configuration. That bumps the power to 616 and drops the fuel economy to 12/20 city/highway.
Speaking of being conservative, the Bentley does an admirable job of looking like a law-abiding citizen, but anyone can see the not-so-subtle hints of bad boy here and there trying to escape. The Bentley front end sports a mesh grille, HID headlamps, LED accent lights, and the Bentley emblem. The red color in the wings signifies it’s the V8 model. The Flying Spur also features well-defined front and rear shoulders that add presence to both the trunklid and hood (or bonnet, for those who insist on the proper British designation). It’s an attractive package that screams expensive but without saying a peep. The biggest giveaway to the don’t-underestimate-me image are the massive, bright-red brake calipers that do a lousy job hiding behind those 21-inch rims.
Inside, the Bentley is everything one imagines a car that costs the same price as most homes would be, with the finest leather, impeccable stitching and attention to detail, and touches of upper crust that you won’t find anywhere else. For example, the knobs feature a knurled diamond-cut pattern that delivers excellent feel and accuracy, or the stitched Bentley logo in the seat headrests, and even the traditional organ pump open/close pulls for the air vents. Burled walnut trim, comfortable, supportive front seats, and a decent-size screen for navigation and information add to the lovely environment. This also may be the first vehicle ever where people will fight over who gets to sit in the back. The seats recline, and the rear screen located in the rear of the center console pops out so those passengers can be in control as they are transported in style.
While we think the interior is absolutely first class, there are a few items that had us scratching our heads. First, the standard paddle shifters were made from plastic, and not titanium as found in just about every other vehicle that offers them. And the sunroof was almost too hot to touch — including the shade cover — even with minimal sunshine. We’re assuming that the sunroof isn’t tinted, which would add a layer of coolness. While this may not sound like a big problem, if you’re taller, that heat transfers to your head. In the summer, it’s not going to be pleasant. Our last bugaboo is the in-vehicle connectivity. This isn’t so much a fault of Bentley as it is its parent company Volkswagen. As fast at technology is moving, auto manufacturers need to keep up or risk losing sales, even over small details like the phone connection. We’ve griped about VWs only offering a two-generations-old 30-pin connector tethered inside the glovebox, and that’s what we found in the Bentley. It’s time to switch to at least one USB port. And the nav system can be a lot faster and more precise. Maybe the next step will be CarPlay, which would be a much-welcomed addition.
Other than those tiny, easily fixable items, this Bentley is close to perfection. There are so many reasons to appreciate the Flying Spur. Perhaps it’s the fact that it takes 130 hours to build one. Or that it undergoes a 500-point inspection process before sign off, or it takes the workers in the wood shop four years to master 17 processes used to create perfect trim pieces. Or it might just be the racing heritage of the Bentley brothers. In a city where no one blinks when the unexpected passes by, the Bentley turns heads. And there’s nothing blasé about that.
Photography © Team Killeen 2015.