2006 Bentley Continental Flying Spur Review

2006 Bentley Continental Flying Spur - Newest Bentley can fly.


The 195-mph Bentley Continental Flying Spur is the world's fastest sedan, as it should be with a twin-turbocharged 552-horsepower 12-cylinder engine and a price of $164,990.

The Flying Spur does 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds and hits 100 mph in 11.3 seconds -- astounding for a massive car that's nearly 17.5 feet long and weighs almost 5,500 pounds. Moreover, the Bentley has handling and brakes to match its sizzling performance, while acting like a limousine during normal driving.

The Flying Spur is the 21st century version of the 1952-55 Bentley R-type Continental, which was the world's fastest four-seater now valued at $180,000-$300,000. The 2006 Flying Spur also follows the tradition -- and takes the name -- of the also costly 1957-59 Bentley S Flying Spur sedan.

The reason the 2006 Flying Spur doesn't cost lots more is because it shares its engine design, all-wheel-drive system and basic suspension architecture with the $66,950-$96,100 Volkswagen Phaeton -- which is being pulled from the U.S. because few here will spend that much for a Volkswagen-nameplate car.

The sedan's cost is also held down by sharing components with the Bentley Continental GT coupe. The Flying Spur is essentially a stretched, well-proportioned four-door version of the GT. It has a 12.6-inch longer wheelbase (distance between axles) and an overall length stretched by nearly 20 inches. Bentley designed and developed the sedan and coupe at the same time at Bentley's modern facilities in Crewe, England, to ensure "a consistency of image.''

Bentley was a top road race auto before Rolls-Royce bought it in 1931 and turned it into basically just a Rolls with a different grille by the 1960s. People who didn't want to show off with a Rolls bought a Bentley.

Volkswagen bought Bentley and BMW got the Rolls-Royce emblem in a confusing 1998 deal that saved both financially troubled British nameplates from disappearing. Bentley became victorious on the track again, winning the Le Mans race in France in 2003.

Estimated Flying Spur fuel economy is only 11 mpg in the city and 18 on the highway. The low mpg prompts a $3,700 gas guzzler tax, but it's doubtful most who can afford this land yacht care. Still, the low fuel economy might discourage some Flying Spur owners from taking an extra trip to the 7-Eleven.

The Bentley GT coupe, which costs the same as the Flying Spur sedan, has gorgeous styling, but the highly aerodynamic sedan's understated styling led few to glance twice at my test, dark-color Flying Spur. It cut a fine figure, but most could have mistaken it for, say, a big, somber Cadillac or Lincoln.

Look closer, though, and you'll note such features as the classic Bentley wire mesh grille, four powerful bi-xenon headlights and a generally muscular look concluded with two pronounced polished metal tailpipes.

The exquisite shows that highly skilled hand labor went into it. There's extensive use of sumptuous leather upholstery and burr walnut trim, which is "book- and mirror-matched'' to create perfect symmetry, with one side exactly reflecting the other.

There's unique chrome-knurled switchgear, and even the retro-style mushroom-shaped pull knobs for the dashboard air vents close with a nicely damped thud. Such attention to detail just isn't found in lesser luxury cars.

The heating system comes on fast and strong in cold weather and seats are air-cooled and heated. The rear compartment has its own ventilation controls and can be had with two individual rear seats with a console between them or a bench seat. In either case, there's limousine-style room back there. However, the Flying Spur encourages one to get behind the wheel for driving fun -- not slump lazily in the rear.

It has precise steering, extraordinary handling and strong brakes (largest on any production car) with good pedal feel. The responsive six-speed automatic transmission has an easily used manual-shift feature, controlled by steering column paddles.

Computer-controlled air springs can be adjusted for comfort or sporty driving, although the car handled fine during spirited driving in comfort mode. There's close to ideal weight distribution, and the all-wheel-drive system makes this an all-weather car for snow-belt areas. Traction control and anti-skid systems enhance stability, and the body lowers for better stability above 155 mph.

The Flying Spur is one of those rare big cars that drives so well that it seems to shrink around a driver, leaving him feeling as if he's piloting a smaller, responsive car away from congested traffic.

The rumbling turbocharged and intercooled, dual-overhead-camshaft, 48-valve engine has so much power and torque that it feels as if you're at the controls of a jet plane and everyone else is flying propeller-driven aircraft.

I once was tailgated in the Flying Spur on an expressway, so I floored the throttle and within seconds the presumably astonished tailgater was left far behind. After that, he deliberately kept a long distance from the Bentley. I was surprised he didn't come closer to see what kind of rocket ship it was.

No car is perfect -- the Flying Spur's engine temperature and fuel gauges are small, as are outside mirrors, and the navigation system isn't one of the best. One must insert the ignition key to the left of the steering wheel, and a button then is used to start (and stop) the engine. The big high-speed tires are a bit noisy, and plastic cupholders that jut out from the rear armrest look and feel marginal -- in contrast to the nicely designed front cupholders. Rear windows lower all the way.

The roomy trunk has plenty of luggage space for a Chicago-to-Las Vegas dash. In fact, the Continental Flying Spur seems perfect for a swift Chicago-to-anywhere run.

Just make sure you have your gasoline credit card. 



Blindingly fast. Sharp handling. Posh. Roomy. All-wheel drive.

Huge. Very understated styling. Low fuel economy. Small outside mirrors.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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