ON THE ROAD
CLEARLY, this is a seriously big car. Pictures are deceptive because stylists have used delicate curves and tapers to mask its near-5.3m length.
On the road you are aware that it can dwarf other traffic, even in the US where this test took place, but the more miles spent behind the wheel makes the task less daunting.
Bentley made a big noise about reducing all the noise of the outside world, explaining its five-layer acoustic glass as cutting external sound 60 per cent in traffic and 40 per cent at high speed. That’s in comparison with the current Flying Spur.
That augurs well for the occupants, but the driver can feel quite alienated from the real world of motoring.
Thankfully, there’s a W12 engine — two banks of Volkswagen’s narrow-block V6s set in tandem — and a rapid- shift tiptronic sixspeeder to liven things up.
The bulky saloon — 2750kg dry plus two occupants and a full 90-litre belly of fuel to make 3.1 tonnes — hides its fat well, blasting off from the lights with ease.
The 560 is quick, and so you’d expect a whole lot more from the Speed.
In fact it was difficult to pick the performance difference, such is the ability of the Flying Spur to separate the cabin from the outside.
But there’s no doubt the Speed is a more aggressive ride, showing its presence at only one manoeuvre — back off the accelerator after a fang and the exhaust rumbles. Granted, this deep bass growl is cleverly muted. But it’s there and Bentley lets you hear it.
Though acceleration is commendable, even better is its mid-range, where overtaking is startlingly brisk.
All the time there is a sense that the engine is barely working. But things are working because the first corner shows up its weight.
The occupants can’t feel anything untoward, but the driver senses the shift in mass and the compensating work of the suspension’s computer that drives the air dampers.
But it’s only a sense because cornering is smooth, flat and controlled. The steer- ing wheel feels isolated from the front wheels though midcorner jabs show there is sufficient contact for the mechanism to be responsive to the driver’s whims.
The brakes are simply stunning. Bentley claims these 405mm discs as the biggest on a production car and on the Speed, they’re even bigger at 420mm at the front for the optional carbon discs.
Fuel consumption? Bentley claims an average of 16.6 litres/100km, and from downtown Boston to upstate Massachusetts the 560 returned 16.8 litres/100km and the Speed 18.2 litres/100km.
Owners may not be too concerned, even with Boston’s ‘‘horrific’’ $1.20 a litre premium petrol prices.