FOR more than 100 years the name Bentley has been synonymous with luxury and motoring excellence.
But it's not until you enter the world of Bentley by getting behind the wheel of one of the company's latest creations that you discover just why they are regarded by many as the crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me of the automotive world and are able to command such premium prices.
After sampling one of the new Flying Spur models I'm still trying to absorb just how much it's possible to build into a car.
But to call the Flying Spur a car is almost a misnomer. That's like calling a diamond a stone.
This four-door Grand Tourer is a creation lovingly crafted by hand at the company's Crewe factory for people who appreciate top end luxury performance cars and are prepared to pay for them.
In the case of the Flying Spur a car which is capable of well over 200 miles per hour thanks to a twin turbocharged, 626bhp, 6.0-litre W12 engine which at normal road speeds is barely audible.
A car which, on the model I drove, was so distinctly different from the norm that it had a dashboard and centre console in stone veneer, matrix headlights which looked as if they had jewels set within the glass and three dimensional leather door panels - not to mention a 19-speaker Naim audio system.
And for the first time on a Bentley the marque's retractable Flying B symbol with illuminated wings rises dramatically from the front of the bonnet as you unlock the car.
At 17ft 3ins long this third generation Flying Spur is no shrinking violet, but it has all the kit on board to ensure it remains a true driver's car with features like four-wheel-drive, four-wheel-steer and even night vision to ensure safety at speed after dark.
Some dramatically sharp features on the all aluminium exterior panelling means the car oozes panache while the Blackline specification of the model driven here - replacing exterior chrome work with a black finish - adds a touch of sporting drama.
Take the driver's seat - which automatically moves back to allow easy entry - and the cockpit seems to wrap itself around you with everything falling easily to hand.
The centre of the dashboard revolves to reveal a 12.3-inch touch screen for onboard features and satellite navigation and revolves a second time at the touch of a button like something out of a James Bond film to reveal a bank of three analogue dials.
The driving position is particularly low and sporting and your arm rests comfortably on the high centre console so your hand naturally sits on the eight-speed automatic gear shift.
The heated and cooled front seats are electronically adjustable, have memory settings and a multi-programme massage system for long journeys.
My car had a four rather than five seat configuration giving rear seat passengers the luxury of two individually sculptured "armchairs", again multi adjustable.
And a nice touch are the supersoft feather filled rear seat headrests, ideal for a nap on the way home when those in the back can also ask for the rear and side blinds to be closed along with those on the sun roof as they go incognito.
Despite being a real heavyweight in every sense - it weighs in at 2.5 tonnes - the Flying Spur is surprisingly light and nimble to handle thanks in part to the rear-wheel steer.
That same feature also helps - in combination with a rear view camera which gives both a view of what's behind the car as well as a bird's eye view - when it comes to parking. In fact I saw a couple of people in Ford Focuses both having more problems slotting into a supermarket parking space than I did.
But it's out on the open road that this car truly comes into its own.
Put you right foot down hard on the accelerator and it's like lighting the blue touch paper.
After a split second's hesitation the Flying Spur almost literally takes off and heads for the horizon at warp speed. This is very definitely not a car for the faint hearted.
The head-up display, however, means you can keep a wary watch on your speed without taking your eyes off the road while ensuring there‘s no blue light is in the rear view mirror.
There's a choice of driving modes to select from although I found it best to leave the car in Bentley mode which constantly adjusts the air suspension to give you a nice balance of performance and comfort.
Despite its weight and engine size the Flying Spur is pretty good on fuel consumption thanks in part to cylinder deactivation - which cuts out six of the 12 cylinders when you're on a light throttle - and intelligent coasting which effectively is like knocking the car into neutral when you come off the accelerator.
And cleverly the eight speed gearbox talks to the satellite navigation system so it's always in the right gear for the road ahead.