Life has been one continuous champagne toast since Volkswagen took over the Bentley brand and P. Diddy featured one of these British/German bolides in a rap video. Busta Rhymes bought in. Paris Hilton and Mike Tyson have both come and gone from the owner roster. Jay Leno has a fine vintage specimen in his collection. The swarm of flying B badges around Hollywood is getting thicker than a pack of plastic surgeons.
In this day of foreclosure and four-dollar regular fuel, the good news is that there's a ballsier Bentley to tempt the wealthy. The 2009 Speed edition of the Continental Flying Spur may look like a recycled Volkswagen Phaeton, but all of this supersedan's dynamic character traits take after the Lamborghini side of the family.
To make a 2.7-ton object accelerate with Chevy Corvette vigor and trump a Porsche 911 Turbo's terminal velocity, ample power is required. The aptly named Speed is blessed with 600 horses, 48 more than the ordinary Flying Spur. Most of the added impetus came from reducing the pumping losses inside the densely packed W-12's crankcase.
Leg the throttle, and the force of 6.0 liters boosted by twin turbos feels like a bump-drafting avalanche. Each click of the upshift paddle summons another surge of energy. Long after lesser machines have tapped out, the Speed's determination holds steady. Abruptly lifting off the gas cues a charming exhaust-burble riff.
Bolting the front subframe rigidly to the body structure is not how you impress owners expecting their $200,000-plus Bentley to ride like whipped cream over sponge cake, but it is an excellent way to tighten up the road dialogue. The Speed's steering feel and responsiveness rival that of any Porsche or BMW. The price for keeping the driver so well informed is an occasional bump and grind disturbance over tattered pavement.