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We drive Bentley's R2.7m sedan

2005-07-08 08:52

This car could be yours for R2.7m!

John Oxley

A few short kilometres with what is undoubtably the finest four-door saloon I have ever driven, in a collection that includes several Rolls-Royces and Bentleys, plus many Mercedes, Lexus and BMW models.

Less than an hour in a fabulous road machine.

The Bentley Continental Flying Spur. Superb luxury in a package that is remarkable "affordable" in a world where more and more are able to pay the cost of a small apartment to drive the finest wheels around.

The Flying Spur is new to South Africa, at a price tag of around R2 750 000, depending on specification.

Less pricey than the over-ostentatious Maybach or the cartoon-like Rolls-Royce Phantom, but more than twice the price of the top Mercedes-Benz S-Class or BMW 7 Series models.

Twice as good?

Is the Bentley twice as good? I think so, and here's why.

The Flying Spur was developed alongside the fantastic Bentley Continental GT, the fastest four-seater car around, and also one of the most beautiful.

One was not developed from the other, although the GT was revealed first - they were designed in tandem, by the same team, from drawings by the same designer, Dirk van Braeckel.

But where the GT is a slippery-shaped fastback two-door coupe, with only average rear seat space and access limited by its configuration, the Flying Spur is a full four-door.

Yet its shape is no less slippery than that of the GT - in fact, its extra 300 mm of wheelbase makes it even better, with a coefficient of drag of only 0.31.

And it has space to stretch your legs, front and rear, the ability to get superbly comfortable thanks to individual seats in the back (optional) that electrically slide forward and at the same time change the backrest angle.

Plus a huge boot that takes as much luggage as even the dressiest wives can manage.

Driver's car

Yet for all that it?s still a driver?s car, with a compact 6-litre W12 engine that has twin turbo-chargers to lift peak power to a massive 411 kW at 6 100 r/min, while still retaining Bentley?s legendary torque - in this case 650 Nm developed at a ridiculously low 1 600 r/min.

It gives the car, says Bentley, a top speed of 312 km/h, a 0 - 100 km/h time of 5.2 seconds, and a 0-160 km/h time of just 11.3 seconds.

I didn't get close to full chat, but I managed to hit the speed at which most German luxury cars are electronically limited - 250 km/h - in a very short burst that left me breathless and my passengers (yes, we were four-up at the time) astounded at the car's ability to execute rocket-like acceleration then just as quickly return to normal speeds, thanks to the biggest brakes fitted to any standard production car.

Translated, to quickly and safely overtake in even short distances.

And all this in an atmosphere of unhurried opulence, quiet confidence, with little noise of any kind to indicate the car?s tremendous power and potential.


And no wild and violent gearchanges as you push your foot hard to the floor or quickly flick the steering wheel paddles to select a lower gear from the six-speed auto 'box.

Not a twitch, not a shimmy - just a rising engine note way up there in front as the hundreds of horses under the long and streamlined bonnet rise to meet your demands.

The Bentley Continental Flying Spur was revealed by Pearl Automotive, SA's importers, in a novel way.

Current Bentley customers, potential customers, and a handful of selected motoring journalists, were treated to dinner and a show at Cape Town's Mount Nelson Hotel at which a modern-day Wolff Barnato - the man who put Bentley back on its feet and started the legendary 'Bentley Boys' racing team back in the '20s, and portrayed admirably by actor Mark Richardson, outlined the marque's history.

Then a challenge was thrown down - match the famous race when Wolff took on the French Blue Train and beat it in his Bentley.

Blue Train

But this time South Africa's Blue Train, and the Bentley Continental Flying Spur.

The journalists and customers would drive the car on various legs, then continue on to Pretoria before returning home.

As it happened I never got to board the Blue Train - I had to fly on to France, from where I'm writing to you now before going off to preview a totally different sort of car.

Instead I was able to share the first leg with Rapport colleague Egmont Sippel.

As I've said, it was enjoyable, and gave a glimpse of the Flying Spur's on-road potential.

At the end of our trip, while waiting for the train to catch up, Egmont and I sat in the back of the car.

And we almost dozed in the car's luxurious seats as we admired its interior trimmed with unblemished leather (more than 11 hides were used), its carefully matched pristine real wood veneers, its milled aluminium switchgear, and lots and lots of room.

Plus all the bells and whistles you would expect at the stellar level of this one.

To mis-quote Cecil John Rhodes, "so much car, so little time"!

Interior key features:

  • Five-seat configuration as standard with full-width rear seat.
  • Optional four-seater configuration with two individual rear seats and centre console with stowage, rear climate control functions and seat switches.
  • Innovative multi-function storage area in centre console of four-seater model, containing unique removable designer ashtray.
  • 16-way electrically adjustable front seats incorporating climate control, three-position memory (seats, steering column, exterior mirrors) and electric lumbar control with massage facility.
  • Rear outer seat positions on five-seat model incorporate climate control, heating and electro-mechanical lumbar adjustment.
  • Rear centre armrest with lockable ski hatch.
  • Multi-zone electronic climate control system.
  • Satellite navigation system with route guidance
  • Optional television tuner
  • Premium 12-channel audio system
  • Climate control operation
  • Computerised suspension control operation (damper and ride height settings).
  • 6-CD auto changer in glove compartment.
  • Nokia ?docking station? system for in-car phone.
  • Bluetooth hands-free privacy handset in centre arm rest as a no-cost option.
  • Keyless entry and keyless ignition system.
  • Console-mounted starter button.
  • Electronic park brake with move-off assist.
  • Column-mounted gearshift paddles.
  • Stainless steel-faced foot pedals and driver?s foot rest.
  • Optional glass electric tilt-slide sunroof.
  • Comprehensive anti-theft and immobiliser systems.

    Exterior key features

  • Twin bi-Xenon headlamps with integrated washer jets.
  • Unique LED bulb-less lamps at rear.
  • Rear spoiler styled into bootlid operates in conjunction with underbody diffuser to provide enhanced high-speed stability, contributing to a low drag coefficient of 0.31Cd.
  • 19-inch multi-spoke single piece sports alloy wheels as standard. (19 and 20-inch split-rim sports alloy wheels available as an option.)
  • Traditional Bentley twin oval stainless steel exhaust finishers.
  • Choice of 16 exterior paint colours.
  • Full infra-red laminated glazing to all windows.
  • Rain-sensing windscreen wiper system.
  • Power-latching on all doors.

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