Combine the traditional muscle of a 12-cylinder engine with the stately comportment and interior artisanship synonymous with one of the most storied sedan nameplates in history, and you have a car with singular gravitas; you have the Bentley Flying Spur Speed. The British marque has received Robb Report’s Car of the Year honor in both 2022 and ’23, earned with different versions of its Continental. Ultimately finishing third in our 2024 contest, the Flying Spur Speed was included not based on any new innovation or substantial change to Bentley’s approach, but rather for the milestone it represents.
The 105-year-old automaker has announced that it will abandon production of its W-12 engine in April, leaving this four-door as one of the last to carry the mill that was a driving force behind Bentley’s return to prominence. The latest iteration of its 6.0-liter twin-turbo W-12—debuted in 2002—develops 626 hp and 664 ft lbs of torque when tuned for the Flying Spur Speed. That “Speed” moniker harkens back to such motorsport icons as the 1928 Bentley Speed Six, which won at Le Mans the following year. Now the name is reserved for the most performance-focused versions of each model in Bentley’s lineup.
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In this case, the designation represents the car’s ability to hit 60 mph from zero in 3.7 seconds and reach 207 mph. As a testament to the power train, which includes an eight-speed ZF dual-clutch transmission, those figures for the 5,373-pound (curb weight) sedan could be considered in the supercar category. In fact, the Flying Spur Speed is only .7 seconds off the McLaren Artura’s same acceleration metric, but has a top speed that’s 5 mph faster than the 3,303-pound (curb weight) hybrid coupe.
The unexpectedly nimble character of this Flying Spur is owed to the winning trifecta of active all-wheel drive—automatically varying output delivery front and back—as well as all-wheel steering and the Bentley Dynamic Ride system. The latter relies on a 48-volt setup that adjusts stiffness to better balance the car at speed in the turns. Adding to the vehicle’s grace under pressure are what Bentley touts as “the largest iron brakes in the world;” stoppers that bite down on 22-inch wheels.
Not surprisingly, Car of the Year judge Johnie Weems commented that “driving this sedan is like driving a true sports car,” while Kirk Meighan opined that the vehicle’s “handling and acceleration defy logic.” And Jonathan Weizman summed up the experience incredulously with, “Wow! It’s the Continental with a bigger back seat.”
This Speed variant is identifiable before you even get behind the wheel. Visual cues are found in the generous use of carbon fiber for components such as the front-bumper splitter and side skirts, along with the rear diffusor and spoiler. In similar fashion as Rolls-Royce’s Black Badge trim package, Bentley’s Blackline treatment darkens the “Flying B” hood ornament, the grille, and an array of accents; in this case to foreshadow the brute strength waiting to be unleashed.
Yet the aesthetic inside is anything but intimidating, presenting instead a cabin purposed to swaddle occupants in a combination of bygone-era craftwork and modern amenities, from the 3-D diamond-quilted leather to the knurled switchgear to the rotating dashboard display. The attention to detail moved evaluator Morgan Saliny to suggest that the interior “rivals the Palace of Versailles,” a sentiment that even the Bentley team would admit is stretching it. Although it’s hard to argue with Jon Robinson comparing it to a “finely crafted piece of luxury jewelry.”
The majority of Robb Report’s 123 judges were taken by the car’s two disparate personalities enough to rank it second only to the Aston Martin DB12 in the competition. “It redefines the concept of the family car,” said Jacob Januszewski, who added that it was “a master of versatility, adept at transitioning from the school run with the kids in the morning to scorching hot laps on the track in the afternoon with unparalleled ease.”
While Robb Report’s editorial team agreed that the Speed was worthy of recognition, their second-place vote went to the Rolls-Royce Spectre, based on the impressive execution of Goodwood’s first all-electric production car and its overall importance. The editors also varied from the general consensus by choosing Aston Martin’s DB12 for third and the McLaren Artura number one. But their voice was not enough to sway the final outcome altogether, and Bentley claimed a spot on our podium for the third year in a row.
Click here for more photos of the Bentley Flying Spur Speed.
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