My kids love Kinder eggs, which are chocolate with small toys hidden in the middle. Ferrero, an Italian confectionary, has sold more than 30 billion since 1974, none of them (officially) in the U.S. The land of the free and home of the brave finds candy eggs more dangerous than an AK-47.
The regulation worthy of the foreign-truck-restrictive Chicken Tax goes back to the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The act bans “the sale of any candy that has embedded in it a toy or trinket.”
Many of the toys concealed inside the Kinder Surprise shell of chocolaty goodness are ingeniously designed and good fun for kids — and parents — to assemble. How to indulge my kids with this wonderfully unpretentious treat without springing for flights across the pond? Canada allows Kinder Surprise egg imports, it’s just two hours from my house, and I had a 2015 Bentley Flying Spur press car in the driveway. What’s a more perfect way to test all the functions and features of a big British motorcar than a journey over the border for an otherwise unobtainable treat?
The little ones didn’t have much to complain about in back of the 2015 Bentley Flying Spur. “Are we there yet?” questions were rare. The all-wheel-drive Bentley sedan came equipped with the $3,995 four-seat configuration, along with the pricey $7,445 multimedia specification with two rear 10-inch LCD screens and a pair of wireless headsets, for DVD, USB, or HDMI. The heat and massage feature fitted to both the front and the back seats enhances the luxurious, cossetting experience. A slick touchscreen interface controls the rear-seat functions, while a Bentley app connects an Android or Apple device via Bluetooth to manage the same features. Chilled drinks for back-seat passengers were only an arm’s reach away, thanks to the $2,180 refrigerated bottle cooler. The over-the-top $7,630 1,100-watt Naim audio system handled the music needs during the rare times the kids weren’t buried in cinematic pleasures. My wife and kids are spoiled for future press cars.
Up front, I absorbed the big Bentley driving experience. The $18,270 Mulliner specification includes lovely 21-inch wheels — two sizes up from the standard setup. The large silver wheels — thankfully not common chrome — look fantastic, but they really hurt the ride quality. I’m surprised how many shakes, shudders, and thumps made their way both aurally into leather-lined cabin, and through steering column feedback. Crumbling Michigan roads betray the age of the Flying Spur’s architecture and the large wheels. The D1 platform traces its routes back to the Volkswagen Phaeton launched in 2002. The Bentley is more impressive on smooth surfaces. My only other complaint with the chassis involves the adjustable dampers. They have four settings, none of which are quite right. The middle two positions were best, but I had to juggle to the softer of the two at low speeds and then toggle to the slightly firmer setting at higher speeds to button down the body control. The Flying Spur’s standard air suspension needs a properly tuned auto mode.
We averaged an indicated 23 mpg (just 1 mpg below the EPA highway rating) with the cruise control set at 80 mph and 21 mpg overall, giving us good range before refueling the 23.8-gallon tank. Our 2015 Bentley Flying Spur had the entry-level (yes, I said it) 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V-8 engine with cylinder deactivation, a powerplant it shares with Audi, but with some unique parts and bespoke tuning. Quite simply, there’s no need for the twin-turbo W-12 Flying Spur; it’s only for buyers who automatically check all the boxes on the option sheet. Sure, the W-12’s 616 hp outpowers the V-8 by 116 horses, but the W-12 is also 110 pounds heavier, costs $20,000 more, and loses 4 mpg on the EPA’s highway cycle, for a rating of 20 mpg.
Even if poor efficiency doesn’t matter to Flying Spur owners, the twin-turbo V-8 encompasses Bentley’s latest technology, while the W-12 is a bit of a dinosaur. Like the chassis, the W-12 traces back to the VW Phaeton. In the Flying Spur, the newer V-8 makes tons of torque and speed and sounds great. It also carries less weight over the front axle, which makes for better handling.
Bentley smartly fitted the big wheels with Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D tires, an essential addition for Michigan and Canadian winters. The cold-weather rubber was especially welcomed during some adolescent drifting around a snow-covered parking lot, where the Bentley dances like a rally car. I enjoyed massive slides and Scandinavian steering flicks without fear of embedding the big, expensive sedan into a snow bank.
But this trip wasn’t just about dad acting like a child on slippery pavement; it was about finding Kinder eggs for the kids. We bought four in Windsor, Ontario, and finished them before crossing back into the States. The toys kept the kids busy for the return trip to Western Michigan.
As for the Bentley, I’m split. The Flying Spur’s gorgeous, leather-clad interior and refreshingly simple and traditional cabin layout are satisfying. So is the impressive V-8. The exterior design is equally lovely and far more cohesive compared with the first-generation Continental Flying Spur. I just can’t get over the combination of the dated chassis feel and the antiquated, VW-based front touchscreen infotainment system. But if you’ve got $253,865 to spend (as-tested; base price is $198,825) on the legendary badge, statement-making road presence and old-world interior, you’ll love living with the Flying Spur. Be sure to spec the smaller, 19-inch wheels. I can’t help but feel, though, that the impressive Mercedes S550 4Matic is a better all-around car for half the money. There’s also the sportier S63 AMG or the new $190,275 Mercedes-Maybach S600 for Bentley shoppers to consider. As proved by shelling out a few Canadian loonies for Kinder Surprises, spending more money doesn’t always mean more satisfaction.