Spur of the moment
New Bentley makes a Flying start for new markets, writes NEIL DOWLING in the US
YOU could easily ignore the latest update to Bentley’s slick four-door saloon as a mid-life update. Behind the Flying Spur’s polishing exercise, however, is a deeper and more pressing issue.
Bentley isn’t alone in finding this year trumpets a new world of rolling fuel-price rises and increasingly strict emission legislation.
Though Bentley’s affluent clients can weather the financial effects, they may have difficulty with the third — the economic slowdown of world markets.
To ensure it remains buoyant and stable in this restless ocean, the very English (though German-owned) marque is chasing new markets in Russia, China and Korea.
There are new rivals on the horizon. Bentley’s project and engineering boss for the Continental range, Paul Jones, says competition — specifically the forthcoming Porsche Panamera, Aston Martin Rapide and the as-yet unnamed midsize Rolls-Royce — will entice customers.
‘‘We have now broadened the car’s appeal with two models — the 560 and the Speed — so customers can choose one for luxury and comfort or one with extra performance,’’ Jones says.
Like its two-door sister, the Continental GT, the made-over Flying Spur gets a high-performance option that stretches the 6.0- litre 12-cylinder power to 449kW from the 560’s 412kW.
Torque is more impressive — up to 750Nm at 1750-5750 revs from 650Nm— and the reason this Speed model can move its fat 2475kg body to 100km/h from rest in a smart 4.8 seconds.
Jones expects sales of equal volumes in these models, based on last year’s sales experience with the GT and GT Speed.
The Flying Spur four-door saloon starts its global sales rollout this month and arrives in Australia in November, priced from about $370,500 including the 33 per cent luxury car tax. The Speed is likely to cost $400,200.
Outwardly the saloon is much like the previous model that went on sale in 2005.
There are changes such as a bigger and more upright grille, wider choices in paint and upholstery, expanded features including individual electric adjustment for the rear seats and improvements to noisedampening including innovative five-ply window glass.
The suspension has been retuned, wheels are standard 19-inch, with 20-inch optional on the 560 and standard on the Speed, and the Speed gets significant engine modifications for greater durability.
The Flying Spur — the name comes from the family crest of the then-boss of Bentley coachbuilder Mulliner — has a huge option list that includes 17 interior colours, 16 exterior paints plus any custom colours, leather upholstery with piping, various timbers for the cabin, an assortment of dashboards and countless minor trim details.