To style the new car was one thing and getting it to perform at the highest levels was another says Adil Jal Darukhanawala on a recent drive of the new Continental Flying Spur in Beijing
From the established “old world’ (read that as Europe) to the happening new automotive universe (read that as China) is a journey best exemplified by none other than Bentley (among a few others) daring to having its Mercedes-Benz S-class and Rolls-Royce Ghost challenger put thru its paces by the world automotive media. Brave decision this or not but Adil Jal Darukhanawala suggests it is not just the fastest and most powerful Bentley ever but also to give its rivals a run for substantial money in class.
It was evident from the time we landed in Beijing to see that Bentley now is trying to not just cater to traditional thick-walleted customers but also to what is an emerging new category among global automotive consumers – the “little emperors.” And most of these li’l emperors come from emerging new markets like China, not because of their physical attributes but because they are the ones calling the shots with their cheque books and also getting what they want.
In an economic climate that swings wildly from despair to disaster, having consumers for cars sporting prices with even higher digits than telephone numbers means that Bentley and others in high places would continue to do well provided they offer newer tackle to these little emperors who talk big while also catering to their tastes with bespoke options.
The new Continental Flying Spur to give it its full name is just the third edition in Bentley history and for sure it’s second in the contemporary period. While the first Flying Spur emerged in 1957 more as an ever sportier manifestation of the S1 Continental coupe, the new Flying Spur is a completely all-new automobile from the ground up and not built as an adjunct to the Continental GT.
I say this because its predecessor was actually built in that manner, the Bentley engineers stretching the Continental GT to deliver a four-door, four-person automobile which went on to define a whole new segment and in the process turned out to be the best selling four-door model ever in Bentley history – 22,000 units were gobbled up by emperors, big and small!
The new Flying Spur is anything but one hewn from the same Continental block but it is surely a very polished bit of craftsmanship and it shows quite clearly on first visual contact. The proportions are evident, the car now appearing much wider and sitting lower as well while the roofline is now higher and more sedan-oriented, sorry make that limousine if not to offend the emperor set. The front end with its very prominent upright chrome grille and 3D arrow-shaped bonnet gives the right impetus to the wide stance of the car.
If you look closely up front the combination of large and small headlights with the jewelled LED innards has been reversed from previous Contis – this time round the larger headlight is on the outer edge of the front face giving a further accent to the subtle change of what is now a more settled look hunkered down for even greater aesthetic appeal. And that lower intake is now a full width one to give a larger balance and form to the classic Bentley grille. That it also helps distinguish the Flying Spur from the Continental GT head-on is but incidental!
What I personally liked about the new Flying Spur was the obvious lack of ornamentation and also the means with which the new panels have been sculpted to really fine creases yet with sharper radii highlighting the crispness of line to make that wide expanse of sheet metal standout. The one detail that caught my eye was the main character crease which begins upfront from just above the front wheel and has a nicely recessed undercut just aft of the wheel arch where a stylised ‘B’ resides to indicate the new Flying Spur.
This character crease runs to the rear where the next subtle hint of toned muscle does appear to flow over the rear wheel arch. And to complete the dynamic appeal of this huge hunkered down saloon, the C-pillar now has been stylistically raked to near fastback proportions. That same fastback-stance flows into the rear deck lid to present a much stylised boot, lower and longer than before. The horizontal (as against the vertically stacked units of its predecessor) single ellipse LED tail lamps plus the twin exhaust tail pipes add sporty accents.
One of the key aspects behind the entire exterior and the actual overall structure of the car is that the Bentley engineers might have shaped the car to reduce the heft, both visually and when measured on the scales – the new structure having been pared down by 50 kilos but what is really remarkable is that this hasn’t been at the cost of structural integrity. Using a combination of materials – high tensile steel, aluminium alloy sheeting, high grade polymer composites, the new bodyshell is 4% stiffer than its predecessor, lighter and its sleek shape helps in endowing the 2475kg mammoth major to spring and motor with alacrity.