If it feels as if Bentley has delivered a barrage of new Continental models lately, it's because it has. After the second-generation Continental GT debuted late in 2011, Bentley followed up with a new GTC convertible, a pair of V-8-powered models, several high-performance Speed variants, and even a race-prepped coupe built to GT3 class rules.
But wait; there's more. Despite rolling out updated Continental GT and GTC models, Bentley hasn't done much to significantly overhaul its four-door Continental. That's about to change, as the new Continental Flying Spur shown here makes its public debut next month at the Geneva Motor Show.
By the numbers, the new Continental Flying Spur isn't any longer, lower, or wider than the previous model, but careful work by Bentley's design team produced a car that certainly looks like it is all three. Thanks to a few unique touches, the car is more imposing and formal than other Continental models. The roofline is lower and flatter than before, while the front fenders -- which boast larger jewellike headlamps - are a bit more squared off. The Flying Spur's grille is taller and more upright than other Continentals, and its lower air intake is highlighted by a chrome accent that spans the entire width of the car.
Since its launch in 2006, the Continental Flying Spur has worn a crisp character line just below its beltline. That line can still be found on the new car, but it no longer cascades down into the fenders between the bumper and wheel well. Instead, it now originates from a front fender vent and ends at the rear door handle. Look closely, and you'll see each fender vent - a design cue unique to the Flying Spur - also boasts a chromed accent that mirrors the brand's winged B logo.
The cinched-down roofline smoothly flows into a decklid that still stands above the rear fenders but is longer and lower and flows smoothly into the rear fascia. Rectangular taillamp housings are now wider than they are tall and taper with the rear fenders toward the decklid. A chrome accent runs along the upper edge of a chiseled rear bumper, and dual oval-shaped exhaust tips pop from the rear diffuser.
Those openings give a hint at what engine lurks beneath the Flying Spur's aluminum hood. Unlike its GT and GTC siblings, which offer a V-8 option, the four-door Continental is only available with the familiar twin-turbocharged, 6.0-liter W-12. With a few small tweaks - namely in the engine management system - that engine now cranks out a wild 616 hp at 6000 rpm along with 590 lb-ft of torque from 2000 rpm.
According to Bentley, those power figures make the 2014 Flying Spur the most potent Bentley sedan in history. If nothing else, it trumps the previous Flying Spur (552 hp/479 lb-ft) and Flying Spur Speed (600 hp/ 553 lb-ft) and is actually on par with the present Continental GT Speed's output.
As is the case in other Continental models, the W-12 is bolted to an eight-speed automatic sourced from ZF and paired with an all-wheel-drive system. In normal use, the driveline sends 60 percent of the W12's grunt to the rear wheels, but should push come to wheelspin, 65 percent can be sent to the front axle. Launch the car properly, and you'll rush past 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, blitz past 100 mph in 9.5 seconds, and bump against a top speed of 200 mph. While we're crunching numbers, let's talk fuel economy: 12/20 mpg (city/highway) on the EPA's test cycle is certainly thirsty, but it is a 13-percent improvement over last year's Flying Spur.
Mechanical revisions aren't limited to the Flying Spur's driveline. The curb weight has been shaved by 110 pounds, in part because of aluminum fenders and a composite decklid. Reinforcements were applied to the Flying Spur's B-pillars, sills, and front crossmembers; as a result, torsional rigidity increased by four percent. Although the body-in-white is stiffer, the suspension isn't -- to help provide a cloud-like ride quality, the air suspension springs are now 10-13 percent softer, anti-rollbars are 13-15 percent softer, and suspension bushings are 25 percent squishier than in the prior Flying Spur.
In typical Bentley fashion, passengers are also coddled in an immaculately trimmed cabin. It may not look like it, but, according to Bentley, this interior boasts 600 new parts and shares only several minor elements (i.e. sun visors, grab handles, armrests, etc.) with the previous design. The dual-cockpit dashboard design remains intact, but wood veneer trim now appears to seamlessly wrap from dash to door panel.
Flying Spurs are available in either four- or five-passenger configurations; opt for the former and a rear center console - which is also veneer-trimmed - flows into the front console. 14-way power seats are standard, and every passenger is treated to both heated and cooled seating surfaces. Seats are predictably trimmed in rich leather hides but so, too, are the headliner and pillars. Depending on how much you're willing to spend, Bentley offers a seemingly never-ending array of leather hues and wood trims. Opt for the Driving Specification package, for instance, and you'll have access to another five hides and veneers unavailable on "lesser" Flying Spurs.
Rear-seat passengers perhaps have the best seats in the car. Power privacy screens are standard, as is a new touch-screen remote that controls various climate and infotainment systems. Tick the right option boxes, and Flying Spurs can also be fitted with a rear-seat entertainment system with a built-in 64-GB hard drive and dual 10-inch screens, plus a built-in refrigerator for the obligatory bottle of bubbly. An eight-speaker audio system is standard equipment, but Bentley's signature 1100-watt Naim system is optional.
Bentley won't discuss pricing until after the car is revealed in Geneva, but officials tell us it will position the new Flying Spur higher than the prior model. 2012 Flying Spurs presently start at $184,200, while Flying Spur Speed models run $209,600. We wouldn't be surprised if the new car's price is close to that of the previous Flying Spur Speed, but we'll find out for sure in a few short weeks. Expect the first 2014 Flying Spur models to arrive stateside in the second quarter of 2013.