Driving a Bentley really is a mind-bendingly surreal experience. It's a case of miraculous engineering trumping the actual laws of physics. Don't forget, these things weigh over two and a half tons, yet they can quite easily get you from 0-60 faster than Captain Kirk delivers an Amazon Prime parcel - on a penis-shaped spaceship.

Of course, the old Crewe-built Turbo-R’s, Eights, Mulsanne S and Brooklands models have long since been consigned to the dustbin of automotive history. Back in the day, Crewe only produced a relatively small number of these cars per annum. Those choice examples tended to be ordered by Lords, Ladies and a lot of salt-of-the-earth Northern businessmen who, by sheer numbers, kept the whole shebang viable for parent company Vickers.


These days, especially since the Continental GT hit the scene in 2003, the illustrious Bentley marque has moved over to practically mass producing their cars. Whilst Bentleys are hardly ubiquitous, they certainly seem to turn up at increasingly unlikely places these days. Today, Bentley is a marque that’s as much about rappers as it is about Royalty. It's as much about bling as it is about ‘breeding’.

It’s been a while since I've driven a Continental. However, I consider myself very fortunate to have recently had the opportunity to drive its magnificent four-door sibling, the new Flying Spur. Even though the Spur is the ‘baby’ Bentley, it still weighs close to that almost mandatory Bentley two and a half ton mark.

The latest iteration has been relieved of the old, somewhat clumsy, four-wheel-drive gubbins to now boast a more intelligent 4x4 system. So it's Flying by name and flying by nature. Plant your foot down into the unfathomable depths of those plush carpets, peep into the rear-view mirror and you’ll behold acres of beautifully quilted leather as well as a whole parlour-full of sublimely crafted luxury fittings. Your brain will beg to ask the question; how on earth can such a turn of speed even be possible in such an environment? But believe me, it is!

Gone too are the vague gearboxes of old. The latest Spur really is a crisp, sharp, intuitive and brilliant motor car. A true driver’s Bentley has emerged. It really will become the most swift and most luxurious means of transporting footballers and their smelly sports kits from leafy Wilmslow to the hallowed training grounds at Old Trafford.

Ride quality

There are other improvements too. The ride quality is miles better. Yes, Bentley has actually improved a facet that was already pretty well sorted. Even your Starbucks fetish will now be adequately catered for because suddenly Bentley has added something as “common” as cupholders to their deluxe mix.

The latest incarnation of the Spur is a properly magnificent car both inside and out. In these days of glowing Wolseleyesque automotive logos, the famous ‘flying-B’ can be specified as a light-up crystal creation that will gradually arise from the great car’s lustrous prow. In for a penny, in for a pound guys; this illuminated flying-B has to be an absolute must-have? It's clearly a drab old povo-spec in its absence. And, who on earth wants a povo-spec Bentley?

Now, let's assume that all the dreaming is done and dusted and it's now time to go ahead and spec-up our brand new Bentley. So, the light-up flying-B is a given, right? Colour? Hmm? For me, dark metallic green with matching green carpets, magnolia leather with dark green piping. Easy, so far?

Now it's time to choose the wood. Once upon a time, this used to be quite an easy affair. It was a case of burr walnut, straight grain walnut or bird’s eye maple. Nowadays, however, there are goodness knows how many wood veneers on the options list. It's actually quite mind-bending. I bet if you asked nicely and perhaps flashed your burgeoning wallet you could even have a bit of Alentejano Eucalyptus Trunk, Sesmarias Almond, Portimão Olive Root or some good old sun-charred Monchique Pine veneers added to the list. Perhaps even a spot of Alportel Cork Oak for good measure? I think I might be an old bore and stick to a nice bit of good old fashioned burr walnut. Tradition, and all that.

Oily bits

I don't suppose we can really avoid the oily bits when it comes to speccing up any car, let alone a gigawatt sports saloon like a Bentley. So, let's see what's what, shall we?

Here goes. There are three engines to choose from. Top of the tree, but only for a little while longer, is the 6.0-litre W12. This is the lump that’s powered the majority of modern Bentleys since the original Continental GT saw the light of those winding Cheshire lanes back in 2003. Sadly, the W12’s planet crushing credentials now means that the old barnstormer is not much longer for this world. I rather suspect that the last-orders bell has finally tolled on this wonderfully smooth 629bhp power plant. Sad times indeed.

Lower down the pecking order lies a relatively thriftier, but altogether sportier V8. A 4.0-litre twin-turbo unit to be precise. It's hardly bijou in stature or performance, boasting an altogether hefty 542bhp. Overall ability comes from agility, because compared with the mighty W12, there’s substantially less weight to hulk about. With far less by way of tonnage up front, the V8 delivers much sharper responses; a facet that better plays into that ‘driver’s Bentley’ narrative. Whilst the Flying Spur is large and imposing enough to warrant a bit of chauffeur-driven decadence, there’s much more fun to be had at the helm.

If you're reading this whilst chomping away on your crispy salada mista and cous-cous, you might be getting a touch of indigestion as you contemplate the wicked notion of any car being kitted out with a V8 let alone a W12! Greta Thunberg has just put on that trademark grimace that curdles milk from the Baltics to the Balearics. But, there’s a third option!

Option three comes by virtue of a plug-in hybrid. Here, we have a 3.0-litre V6 that's married up to a 134bhp electric motor. It's a bit of a “cream cake” Bentley in that it's naughty but nice. It even (allegedly) manages up to 30 miles of electric-only motoring but that does mean having to plug it in for a tedious two-hour charging cycle. In a Bentley, really? No wonder it comes with cup holders.

Insane power

Bentleys have always meant astonishing smoothness coupled with insane levels of power. They really have always been the great automotive leviathans of the road. These cars can cruise in sublime comfort and do so at mind-boggling speeds. Yet, the occupants are always enveloped in a cocoon of pure serenity and unparalleled luxury.

But most of all, a Bentley brings a sense of ultimate satisfaction. Yes, they can be a bit on the chintzy side, but who else makes car interiors like they do in Crewe? No one gives you switchgear that's so heavy that they’d crack your big toe if you happened to drop one on it. No one else would willingly craft a dashboard made from our ancestors’s skeletons with “Nós ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos” inscribed in pure gold leaf across those perfectly glossed veneers.

Now, that's special!


Douglas Hughes is a UK-based writer producing general interest articles ranging from travel pieces to classic motoring. 

Douglas Hughes