Bentley Continental Flying Spur: Not-so-hot Spur

It may have a Bentley badge and masses of power, but Michael Booth reckons the Flying Spur isn't much more than a VW with pretensions

Price on the road £115,000
Maximum speed 200mph with a following wind (0-60mph in 4.9 seconds)
Combined fuel consumption 16mpg
For more information 01270 535 032

This is the new "budget" four-door Bentley, the Flying Spur. I say "budget" because the old, pre-Volkswagen Arnage (the one that looks like a stretched London taxi) still soldiers on, finding a small but dedicated market among arms dealers, Russian mafia and Leicestershire clothing retailers with a list price of £160,000, while the Flying Spur sells for just £115,000. I'm already planning what to do with my £45,000.

In bald performance terms, the Flying Spur looks even more of a bargain. This is the world's fastest four-door saloon. According to Bentley's boss, Dr Ulrich Eichhorn, it will carry four passengers at speeds of up to 200mph. It takes just a fifth of a second longer to reach 60mph than the two-door Continental GT and will stop just as quickly, thanks to the largest brakes currently fitted to a production car. All this is possible because, amazingly, the four door is just 90kg heavier than its two-door sibling, thanks to ingenious and costly weight-saving solutions including aluminium subframes and, er, helium-filled chairs or something. If you would like a disturbing visual mnemonic to remember this amazing fact for the pub later, it means that a Continental GT carrying, say, Jade Goody, the fat singer from Pop Idol and Ann Widdecombe would weigh about the same as the Flying Spur being driven by a Teletubby with Simon Le Bon in the passenger seat.

It comes with a six-speed auto box, but if you are prone to sprouting little horns from your forehead, you can beef up the suspension by selecting Sport mode and change gears yourself with some beautifully weighted paddles behind the steering wheel. There is simply a colossal amount of power on tap in this car, great continent-gulping, scenery-squashing wheelbarrows of thrust, thanks to a 6-litre, twin-turbo W12 cylinder engine. First seen on the VW Phaeton, this remarkable engine is far better suited to this kind of corpulent luxury limo than the pseudo-sportster Continental GT, which can lumber when it thinks you're not looking. Before you can say "portered apartment in Kensington" you're hurtling along at speeds that could easily result in you hanging upside down in a prison cell with Alistair Darling bearing down on your privates with battery jump leads, were you to be caught.

Meanwhile, your rear passengers can stretch out in the business-class amounts of legroom, electrically recline the kitten-soft leather seats, watch a DVD and snooze. Or, more probably, hold on for dear life - it rolls a fair bit round corners, does the Flying Spur.

Bentley's German masters have gone to great lengths to make this feel like a "proper" Bentley, with classic organ-stop air-vent controls, rich walnut panelling and heavy carpeting. It even displays traces of scuttle shake - deliberately engineered to put one in mind of the original 1957 Flying Spur perhaps? It wouldn't surprise me, so determined do they seem to inject the essence of Bentleyness into what is, essentially, a tarted-up Phaeton. It reminded me of Robert Shaw's character in From Russia With Love. He's an assassin who pretends to be an English gent, you'll recall, but is rumbled by Bond when he commits some dreadful faux pas like ordering red wine with fish. I could imagine the Flying Spur doing just that, but I could forgive it anything if only it didn't look like a very big, very expensive Volkswagen.

It's a Classic: Bentley Mulsanne

Articles about buying a Bentley for the price of a Mondeo are a much-loved stand-by of motoring editors everywhere and it's true, you can find Bentley Mulsannes (1980-1992) or Eights (1984-1992) for well under £10,000 in any edition of Exchange & Mart. But what will you get for your money? Well, unlike the new Flying Spur, Mulsannes really were hand built, so every body panel will be different, making them torture to repair or replace (something you will almost certainly need to do on a car at this price - at a cost of, roughly, a new incubator for a children's ward). People who buy cheap Bentleys tend not to have the money to maintain them properly; corners are cut, and the next buyer will invariably pick up the bill. Meanwhile, the leather interior will probably be rotten (replacement cost: the price of a lightly used Ford Ka), the engine will be knackered (bang goes the kitchen extension), and even when you get it running the fuel costs will be equivalent to late-stage crack addiction. And despite what many car journos seem to think, a used Bentley is about as cool as a colostomy bag.