$110,000 can buy a nice addition to the house, put a kid through college, or buy a family of four the globe-trotting trip of a lifetime.
Or Bentley fans can use it to upgrade from the merely extravagant Flying Spur ($243,835) to the carpooling-with-royalty Mulsanne ($356,505). In any of these scenarios, it’s money well spent.
The Flying Spur is now in its second generation and comes with either a twin-turbocharged V-8 or a twin-turbocharged W-12. It’s basically a four-door version of the Continental GT coupe that litters valet stations throughout Beverly Hills.
The Flying Spur we tested had the larger W-12. With 6.0-liters of quiet power surging to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission, this sedan needs just 4.3 seconds to go from zero to 60 mph, according to Bentley.
That’s what 616 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque can do for a car that, at 5,450 pounds, rivals the mass of a dump truck. The all-wheel-drive helps keep all that power and weight stuck to the roadway.
The standard air suspension has several stiffness settings, but none of them completely eliminate body roll. There’s only so much one can do to fight the physics of a two-and-a-half-ton car.
Heave the Flying Spur into a curve and the response is deliberate. That’s not a bad thing; just don't let the acceleration time fool you into thinking this is a lithe runabout.
In fact, everything about this car feels deliberate, heavy and purposeful. The doors feel like they were built by Boeing and do a tremendous job of masking any untoward noises. The interior -- a symphony of wood veneers, supple leathers and inch-deep carpeting -- pampers but doesn’t coddle.
The outside of the Flying Spur lacks the same sophistication.
The first generation of this sedan echoed the look of the Continental GT Coupe plus another set of doors. This new model deviates more, which is a shame. The visual gravitas of the current coupe is unmatched by most cars on the road.
The Flying Spur trades that luxurious swagger for a weaker, more tepid design. Its grille is more upright, the four round headlights are all the same size, whereas the outer pair are smaller on the coupe. The rear end is too sedate in comparison with the grace and power of the coupe’s derriere.
The car’s mass certainly gives it presence, but the design doesn’t. Driving the Flying Spur on L.A.’s streets didn’t feel like the occasion you’d expect in a quarter-million-dollar car.
For that, you need the Mulsanne, named after the Mulsanne Straight -- a long stretch of racetrack where cars have been eclipsing 200 mph for decades in the 24 Hours of LeMans endurance race.
This is the Bentley sedan you want waiting when your yacht docks in the harbor. Driving -- even riding in -- this car feels like an event. The $356,505 almost seems reasonable in trade for the impression of nobility this car imparts.
Though it’s been around since 2010, the Mulsanne hasn't lost its swagger. The profile is confident and powerful without being tacky. A long hood with squared-off shoulders is decorated with eager round headlights and an optional chromed mesh grille.
Underneath the hood lurks a 6.75-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 that powers the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The engine makes 505 horsepower and 752 pound-feet of torque. Bentley says this makes a 5.1-second zero to 60 mph run possible, despite the 5,700-pound curb weight.
Despite its prodigious girth and lenth -- it's only a few inches shorter than a Chevy Suburban -- the Mulsanne is surprisingly easy to pilot. The engine handles the car’s weight with ease, and the car corners admirable control. For this, we must thank the optional $15,750 Mulliner package bolted to our tester.
For the price of a nice compact car, this group adds items such as 21-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension and steering system with driver-selectable settings, diamond-quilted leather on the doors and seats, and knurled finishes on various metal knobs and levers around the interior.
The rest of the Mulsanne’s cabin is equally grand and detail-oriented. The wood veneers look three dimensional; the $7,600 Naim audio system would bring a tear to Dudamel’s eye; the front and rear seats recline, heat, cool, and massage, and the ambient lighting is tastefully warm.
No inch of this Bentley neglects its owner.
Buyers are noticing. The automaker, a division of Volkswagen Group, sold just under 3,000 cars in the U.S. last year. That was a 28% gain over 2012, and sales are up an additional 11% through June of this year.
Half of those sales are the two sedans mentioned here, with the other half made up by the numerous versions of the Continental GT coupe and convertible. An SUV is coming, and possibly additional versions of the Flying Spur and Mulsanne.
For now, if you have the extra $110,000 lying around, ignore the home improvements, send the kids to community college and spend the extra money upgrading from the Flying Spur to the Mulsanne.
If you’re going to drive a Bentley, drive a Bentley.