Celebrating its 100th anniversary, Bentley creates several new stunners
BLUF (bottom line up front): I love the vehicles that Bentley creates. They have the fit, finish, luxury, style, elegance, performance … I have to stop there since I’ve worn out my welcome at the online Synonyms Are Us website. Seriously, though, they are terrific vehicles, and I’ve enjoyed every one I’ve ever driven, from the sporty GT to the stately but surprisingly quick Flying Spur (I hit over 160 MPH on a track in one) and the practical and elegant Bentayga (most recently, the upcoming hybrid model). It feels a little awkward, fitting three grand vehicles into one article but there’s a certain method to my madness — they all share the same DNA, such that if a person were to be driven in any Bentley, blindfolded, he or she would know immediately which model it was.
Bentley Flying Spur
Let’s start with the Flying Spur, as that was my most recent experience. And here’s the lead: say you had a few days to kill in Monaco (not “kill” in a James Bond sort of way, of course) and you were trying to decide which car would be the perfect vehicle for the experience. I am happy to say that, thanks to Bentley, I had both the few days in Monaco and the newly-designed Flying Spur — and we got along famously.
What better place to site the Bentley Flying Spur launch than Monaco, the principality tucked into a corner adjacent to the southeastern tip of France? Although surrounded on three sides by France (the Mediterranean Sea borders the fourth side) and only one square kilometer in size, there’s a certain cachet to the location, helped no doubt by James Bond’s penchant for gambling in the Casino de Monte-Carlo, not to mention the stunning harbor, the endless sea, and interesting topography. It’s there that we were introduced, the newly redesigned Flying Spur and me.
So, say you fly into Paris, transfer to a flight to Nice, and then meet your Bentley handlers. What would you expect? A short drive in the back seat of a Bentley Flying Spur though the south of France to Monaco where you’re deposited at the storied Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo? If so, your expectations would be met and exceeded, as that’s exactly what transpired.
And where was our arrival welcome reception? It was held in the Princess Grace Suite, her former home-away-from-home at the hotel, the perfect location for a Bentley event. Comprised of two floors covering a total of over 10,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, the suite was the ideal accommodation. Of course, the food and drink were superb and the oceanfront view spectacular. As is typical of Bentley, everything was well thought-out, with Bentley-branded place cards at the table and even a Bentley-branded cookie back in my room for a nighttime snack.
The second day’s activities commenced with breakfast, again on the rooftop deck of the Princess Grace Suite with a briefing before we set out (two journalists in a car) for the day. We were assigned a Flying Spur in a dark Midnight Emerald color with a “dual-tone cabin” of camel and beluga leather with contrast stitching and Grand Black veneer wood on the dash, a beautiful combination. The good looks of the car were further enhanced by the great options: touring specification, mood lighting specification, “Naim for Bentley” sound systems, rear seat entertainment with maps, and the Bentley rotating display which provides a motorized, 3-sided center inlay on the dash which rotates at the touch of a button from gorgeous wood to a clear display screen for various functions to some analogue gauges as beautiful as you would expect. All of these options added just under $34,000 to the Flying Spur’s base price of $214,600. Honestly, I didn’t think that any should have been left off.
The drive from the hotel took us through Monaco which, despite much construction on the roads and surrounding properties, took us mere minutes, through several tunnels and into southern France. We journeyed about 100 miles to the halfway point for lunch at Château Sainte Roseline, a resplendent vineyard/winery in the Les Arcs area of southern France. After a gourmet lunch, we drove the return route of another 100 miles or so through areas replete with vineyards, rolling fields, forests, and bare mountain passes before reaching the final miles winding along the picturesque Mediterranean coast, showing off the Flying Spur’s wonderful road manners. This car can accelerate 0 – 60 in 3.7 seconds (let’s pause to let that incredible accomplishment sink in) and keep on going to a top speed of 207 miles per hour, making it one of the quickest — and certainly the fastest — sedans in the world.
My time with the Flying Spur came to an end, but the memory lives on. Piloting a stately and elegant sedan with such class and charm (and weight) was surprisingly simple, as the suspension, engine, transmission, and brakes all worked so well together that the car was happy to amble along while we enjoyed the sights and then really get up and boogie when asked, carving through tight turns and blasting down the highway when the whim called. The Flying Spur is a true tour de force.
Bentley Continental GT V8 & Bentayga Hybrid
I decided to use “journalist’s license” (I just made that up), to write about the wonderful Bentley experiences out of order — I mean, I had to lead with the Monaco trip, right? A few months before the Monaco sojourn, I had the distinct pleasure of spending a few days in Napa Valley and Silicon Valley for the Global Media Drive of the new Bentley Continental GT V8 (both the coupe and convertible variants) and the Bentayga Hybrid. True to expectations, Bentley chose ideal roads and locations to showcase their then-newest creations.
Napa Valley is well known for its peaceful vineyards, rolling hills, winding country roads, sinuous canyons and passes, and overall bucolic beauty. It’s also known for some luxurious lifestyles, especially with the custom-built wineries and elegant resorts. No doubt, those qualities led Bentley to stage part one of this driving experience at the lovely Las Alcobashotel where our welcome reception included the opportunity to learn about our vehicles and our route for the next two days, stretching out to the coast, down the highway, across the world’s most-famous bridge, through the city, and ending in Silicon Valley.
Day one in Napa had my journalist co-pilot and me traversing wine country, through the hills and working (not really “working”, more like cruising) our way out to the coast, just south of Mendocino and then down gorgeous Highway 1 to Timber Cove for a lunch break. Our Silver Storm Continental GT V8 hardtop, with beautiful Imperial Blue leather interior, flawlessly handled everything that we threw at it: tight twisty turns, long sweepers, verdant plains, and super-scenic coastal roads. With an unladen vehicle weight of about 4,775 pounds, the car felt heavy in a good way, offering up a terrifically smooth ride that’s whisper quiet; but, the V8 was up to the task with the twin-turbo 4-liter V8 pumping out 542 horsepower with 568 pound-feet of torque. What does that all mean? Zero to 60 timed in under four seconds, an unheard of feat for a car of the Bentley’s heft and stature. Yes, you can have it all.
As “mine” was the Centenary Edition, it included a special illuminated door sill treadplate displaying “1919 – 2019,” marking the first 100 years of Bentley’s successful operation, and special Centenary badging on the hood (bonnet), trunk (boot), and center caps on all four wheels. Not to miss a trick, the special welcome lamps which project downward to light up the area approaching the door also displayed the “1919 – 2019” milestone.
Creature comforts? Space does not permit a full listing, but here are a few: heads-up display, night vision, top-view camera, traffic sign recognition, pedestrian warning, ambient mood lighting, sumptuous leather seating with adjustable headrests, cushion length, side bolsters, ventilation and massage functions, pants press … I threw in that last one to see if you still were reading these details.
After our lunch stop, we switched to the GT V8 Convertible. My partner and I had the lucky draw to spend the afternoon piloting a baby blue Jetstream II droptop with an Imperial Blue interior. Gorgeous! With the same performance as the coupe (the soft-top configuration only adds about 330 pounds), we were blessed with a cool, clear, and sunny Bay Area June day. We motored down the coast, with a side trip up to the Battery Spencer Overlook (the amazing promontory location above the Golden Gate Bridge, from which guns have protected the entrance to San Francisco Bay since 1897), across that world-renowned bridge, and proceeded through San Francisco, traversing Golden Gate Park and on to our next night’s stop at Rosewood Sand Hill in Menlo Park. (Bentley really knows how to travel!)
While my time with the superb GTs was coming to an end, the Bentaga Hybrid awaited, giving me just enough time to look back on the day’s adventures. It’s not unusual to spend a day or two with a car and find that some of the day’s travels would have been better suited to a different vehicle, but not so with the Bentley Continentals. Regardless of the road surface (smooth, rutted, pockmarked, or otherwise), the road design (banked corners, reverse camber), and the topography (hills, twisties, long straights, winding mountain passes), I never wished that I could have driven something else during this event. Terrific handling, great power, wonderful comfort, and outstanding luxury: the Continentals deliver it all with ease and grace.
Day three brought us a new ride, the all-new Bentley Bentayga Hybrid. Faithful readers will recall my exuberance for the Bentayga when it arrived in model year 2016. At that time, only the W12 (twelve-cylinder) engine was available, though a V8 arrived in 2018, and then the hybrid commenced sales in 2019. Mating a 3-liter V6 turbocharged gas motor to an electric motor produces a total of 443 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, which is good for 0 – 60 in 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 158 miles per hour. Clearly, this is not your basic hybrid, as it combines well-known Bentley luxury with the green badge of an estimated 50 miles per gallon. Electric-only driving is possible for sixteen miles, but the battery recharges as you’re driving. Of course, it also can be charged by plugging in.
What is it like to drive? Thrilling. (I know, that’s not the adjective most often used for vehicles with five doors and weighing just under 5,800 pounds.) The torque number above is your first clue that grocery shopping will be a fun experience. The Bentayga Hybrid cleverly combines exemplary performance with luxurious and commodious accommodations to make the perfect high-end package.
“Mine” was painted Ice (white) with a Linen interior and a base price of $156,900. A bevy of options added to the fun: the Mulliner Driving Specification (22” five-spoke polished wheels, diamond quilting on the seats, drilled alloy foot pedals, etc.), the City Specification (pedestrian warning, park assist, reverse traffic warning and more), the Sunshine Specification (including electrically-operated blinds for the rear side windows), the Touring Specification (adaptive “tractor-beam” cruise control, automatic braking in emergencies, heads-up display, night vision, etc.), and Front Seat Comfort Specification (ventilated and massaging front seats, plus a few other details). Each Specification had their own pricing, adding about $40,550 to the price. All of them seemed like really good additions to the vehicle.
Day three’s morning drive on a circuitous route from the Rosewood to the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay, a luxury hotel on the rocky coastline due-east of Palo Alto and beautiful outpost set on craggy cliffs. The gourmet luncheon was the perfect finale to a 3-day adventure with three of the top cars available anywhere.
Over a period of seven days (including flights on travel days), I was lucky enough to explore three of the best Bentleys available — the Bentayga Hybrid, the Continental GT (V8 Coupe and V8 Convertible), and the Flying Spur — in the dream surroundings of Napa Valley, Half Moon Bay, Monaco, and Southern France. The cars all performed spectacularly and, despite long drives on some challenging and varying roads, none of the drives was at all tiring. And isn’t that what Bentley does best — allowing for spirited driving or quiet cruising at speeds varying between sedate and rapid, all the while coddled in comfort and luxury, but still experiencing the top of engineering, performance and safety? I think so.