The Good Superb comfort with loads of power
The Bad The $165K sticker price
The Bottom Line Dream car for a road trip
If you're going to hell, go in style. I took a test spin of Bentley Motors' 2006 Continental Flying Spur in southeast Michigan, where there is indeed a town named Hell. Trouble is, in a car this impressive, any road is far too short. When it came time to hand back the keys -- auto executives can be so possessive of a $165,000 car -- I was already plotting a longer trip.
The Bentley exudes luxury: It's capacious enough to lose a few small children in the sumptuous leather rear seat; the cavernous trunk can easily hold a month's worth of luggage; and the continuous adjustable air suspension can smooth even the bumpy ride to Hell. Tootling through stop-and-go traffic, you sense that the Spur's twin turbo 12-cylinder engine is just spoiling to unleash its 552 horses. Of course, those chargers cost plenty to feed. Just filling the 24-gallon tank of this 13-mpg guzzler can quickly bring you back to reality. One consolation: The Spur is a bargain compared with the $330,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom or Mercedes' (DCX) Maybach.
But, oh, those amenities. Bentley says it takes the hides of 11 cows to swathe the Spur's interior -- Northern European bovines, mind you, because they get fewer insect bites to mar the buttery leather. I was afraid to ask how many trees died to provide the car's half-acre of walnut.
The name of the car, which goes on sale in September, harks back to Bentley's 1957 Continental Flying Spur. Its engineering hails from the Continental GT coupe introduced last year; Bentley stretched GT's length by 20 inches and its wheelbase by a foot.
The Spur's five-second 0-to-60 sprint is modest, as supercars go. But its 5,456 pounds can accelerate, flying from 50 mph to 70 in 2.6 seconds -- handy for passing. All that power is mated with a slick six-speed automatic transmission -- and really big brakes (the largest front disks in a production car). Electronic stability control and all-wheel drive help keep the Bentley glued to the road.
Hell turned out to be just a sleepy crossroads with an ice-cream parlor, Post Office, and country store. But while the destination didn't live up to its reputation, the latest addition to the Bentley stable certainly did.
By Kathleen Kerwin