By Mike Torpey on 2020-12-05 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Bentley Flying Spur
IT'S an understandable question from the countless admirers of a magnificent vehicle like the Bentley Flying Spur - what makes it cost the best part of Â£221,000?
A difficult one and there are several answers, ranging from limited availability to peerless craftsmanship, extraordinary comfort, quality of the highest order and performance.
That's performance with a capital P because we're talking about a luxury saloon powered by a 6.0-litre W12 twin-turbocharged engine that develops a staggering 626bhp.
Acceleration is 0-60mph in 3.7 seconds, 0-100 in 8.5 seconds and if you consider that the top speed of Lewis Hamilton's Formula 1 car is 220mph, well the Bentley isn't too far off at 207mph.
Sticking with the theme of numbers I've just been driving - or being blown away by - a genuine collectors item in the shape of a Flying Spur First Edition model.
Trotting out lines like how well it rides, what the steering feels like and how it copes with country lanes are pointless with a car like this - it's quite simply a force of nature constructed with the very finest materials mother earth has to offer and put together with meticulous care.
Since the discontinuation of the Mulsanne earlier this year the Flying Spur has taken on the mantle of being Bentley's flagship model.
Now into its third generation the car has become quite a success story for the Crewe-based brand, having been around since 2005 and recently celebrated the 40,000 example being built, or should I say handcrafted.
That's because each of those cars spent more than 100 hours on a dedicated production line where a 250-strong team conscientiously assembled each one by hand.
To give that statistic even greater context, and go towards understanding why Bentley describes the Flying Spur as ‘the best car in the world', here's another intriguing fact.
There are 350 unique leather pieces in the Flying Spur's cabin, attached to 60 bespoke components using almost 1.9 miles of thread and passing through the hands of 141 Bentley staff.
What's more, all this leather comes from north European bulls grazed in a temperate climate and above a certain altitude to minimise blemishes caused by parasites.
And the car's steering wheel features some of the most elaborate hand-stitching and leatherwork in the automotive industry, a cross-stitched wheel involving 16ft of thread being passed through 352 sew holes to achieve 168 cross stitches.
All well and good, but what of that unmatched degree of comfort demanded by Bentley owners - half of which are these days resident in China and the USA, with only 10 per cent in the UK.
As a car equipped both for business and relaxation, many owners will not only enjoy driving the car themselves but also often have a chauffeur at the wheel.
Comfort is supreme wherever you choose to sit, with everything from massaging seats to picnic tables and Champagne bottle coolers, mood lighting throughout and a rotating central display in the dash - which enables switching between technology and classic design - plus touch screen remote control in the rear.
Power from that huge 12-cylinder engine with its eight-speed dual clutch transmission is both smooth and instant, the grip immense and steering perfectly balanced in what could be described as a magic carpet ride on steroids.
Our First Edition model, limited to just 12 months production, underlined its value as a collectors' item when an early example was auctioned for 700,000 euros to raise money for the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
First Edition not only brings unique badging, including a Union Jack with the numeral 1 in the centre and a choice of winged emblems, but also luxury extras that are normally added cost options.
The First Edition specification alone costs Â£37,300 and when you add the likes of Blackline spec at Â£3,550, rear seat entertainment with maps (Â£5,775) and a ‘Naim for Bentley' premium audio system at Â£6,595 the cost goes stratospheric.
People still driving around in cars with a perfectly effective 50 quid CD player in the front may be a bit confused over how a sound set-up could possibly come to £6,595.
Apparently, Queens Award winner Naim has ‘honed a trailblazing Digital Signal Processing (DSP) system' capable of enabling a degree of tuning previously not possible, ensuring optimal sound performance whatever speed or road conditions.
And what started as a 15 speaker - 1,100watt system in 2008, has evolved into a 2,200 watt amplifier feeding 21 speakers.
Bentley Flying Spur First Edition
Mechanical: 626bhp, 5,950cc W12 twin-turbo petrol engine driving four wheels via 8-speed automatic transmission
Max Speed: 207mph
0-62mph: 3.7 seconds
Combined MPG: 21.9
Insurance Group: 50
C02 emissions: 337g/km
Bik rating: 37%
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