Cruising the Pacific Coast Highway in the Incredible New Bentley Flying Spur
The temperature was a cool 65 degrees and the mist lay curled around the peninsula as we pulled on our driving gloves outside the posh Inn at Spanish Bay on Pebble Beach's legendary 17-mile drive. The soft lambskin olive green gloves, purchased at a century-old leather shop in Florence, just happened to contrast perfectly with the plum Bentley Flying Spur we'd be driving down to Los Angeles. The new 2014 Flying Spur, Bentley's most powerful four-door model ever, managed to turn a lot of well-coiffed heads in Pebble Beach, which is no mean feat; during the annual Concours d'Elegance the roads are filled with more Ferraris and Lamborghinis than you usually see in a lifetime. Bentleys don't scream "look at me," but they still exude a powerful allure, an almost magnetic attraction sparked by the sweeping, supple lines of the super-formed aluminum exterior.
Much more than just a sedan version of the incredible Bentley Continental GT, the Flying Spur is the only car in the world that is as much fun to drive as any luxury sports car, yet encompasses enough limousine class, comfort and amenities to please the most demanding tycoon. The completely hand built interior alone features 10 square meters of sustainably sourced wood and veneers that have been hand-cured for 72 hours, while every seam in the A-Grade leather is individually sewn. The leather comes in 17 colors, and there are over 100 exterior paint colors to choose from. The car can have its very own Wi-Fi hotspot and a remote-controlled touch screen infotainment system, not to mention a 9-litre wine cooler in the rear console. Additionally, its 616 hp 6-litre W12 engine can propel the car from 0-60 mph in 4.3 seconds and reach a top speed of 200 mph. Combined, the Spur's base price of $200,000 and some change seems like a bargain.
You might expect that a car with power like that would be slightly jumpy or at the very least a little noisy. Not in the least. No one does smooth acceleration quite like Bentley and unlike some other super-luxe models, the driver still retains full control of the action via the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. You're not required to use them — set the Spur on full auto and it handles the job admirably — but when you want to have a little more fun a quick flick of the fingers will make you think you're at the wheel of a GT in no time. The cabin is at all times a serene retreat, however in large part because of the specially-designed soundproofing installed in the floor and doors. In the best Bentley tradition you could easily win a road race and chauffeur the Queen of England — a Bentley owner herself — in the space of an afternoon. And Her Majesty would be in absolutely no hurry to return to Buckingham Palace.
In Pebble Beach, our Flying Spur drive was the finishing touch on a perfectly curated weekend designed to showcase Bentley's many talents. Against the backdrop of some of the world's most exclusive automotive events, including the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, we were able to drive the beautiful brand new Continental GT Le Mans Edition and be on hand for the unveiling of Bentley's luxe new line of bespoke leather handbags alongside five-time Le Mans winner Sir Derek Bell at Clint Eastwood's jaw-dropping Tehama Golf Club, a private retreat for the rich and famous. There was also some first-class wining and dining at the Home of Bentley, a luxurious villa-turned-VIP retreat adjacent to the Concours grounds. Much Veuve Clicquot was consumed once the Continental keys had been laid aside for the day and chauffeured Flying Spurs were detailed to deliver us to our destination.
The perks only served to build anticipation for the journey to Los Angeles at the conclusion of the A-list festivities. The legendary Pacific Coast Highway, a section of California's State Route 1, winds along the sea for 123 miles, much of it hugging cliffs considered to be the country's most scenic coastline. From Monterey to Big Sur, past San Simeon and across the famed Bixby Bridge, it's one of the world's greatest scenic drives. To experience it at all is one of life's foremost pleasures, but to do it in a Bentley Flying Spur is a true slice of nirvana and is something well worth striving for. Known for its many hairpin turns, the PCH is also a perfect testing ground for a car with the Spur's capabilities. If Mr. Hearst was still holding court in his castle he would have cast an envious glance as we powered past; then he would have bought the local Bentley dealership.
At a couple of the most scenic spots we pulled over to take in the view, and immediately created a tourist attraction of our own. Road trippers flocked to fawn over the car, which lay quietly purring and ticking, licking its powerful paws if you will in preparation for the next stretch. Taking advantage of the Spur's Wi-Fi, we paused to post some pictures of the scene on Facebook and received the envious comments of our friends and acquaintances. Unwilling to leave the Spur's confines for the relatively bland quarters of a first-class jet cabin we drew the delicious drive out as long as possible and ended up barely making the plane. The smile on the VIP parking lot attendant's face when we finally dropped it off was as wide as the ocean of regret we felt at having to do so. Life isn't fair and the road can be rough, but if you're in a Flying Spur you can rise above it with ease.