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The New Breed of Luxury Cars

Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed

You might be forgiven if you buy the new Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed just for the Naim sound system. The $6,900, 1,100-watt sound system may be the best ever installed in a car, reproducing music with such clarity that it feels like you can step sideways between the notes. All you need to do is figure out which song goes best with a 600-horsepower, 12-cylinder luxury car that tops out at 200 mph and goes from zero to 60 in 4.5 seconds. Don’t pick any slow tunes.

The Flying Spur Speed is the most powerful four-door sedan Bentley has ever made, and the sporty front grille and lower air intakes give the car a muscular appearance (a look reinforced by 20-inch Pirelli multi-spoke performance tires) that many might find surprising in a $198,500 car.

A drive from Boston to York on the Maine coast along a variety of roads showcased the car’s superior handling and passing capability, particularly in the “sport” driving mode, and offered an opportunity to sample some of the car’s more unusual features. Top among these is an optional adaptive cruise-control system that uses radar to maintain a driver-determined distance between you and the car ahead, automatically managing the throttle and brakes to increase or decrease speed as required. It’s all a bit spooky, since all the driver has to do is steer.

Given this car’s quickness, it’s appropriate that it has the largest brakes of any car on the road, and they'll stop you cold at the slightest touch. The brakes take a little getting used to, as do the dashboard controls: The ignition key goes into the left of the steering wheel, but you still need to push the start button on the center console. Mirror controls are also set inconveniently on the passenger side of the center console. And be warned: If you blindly try to lower the window on the driver’s side, you’re just as likely to pop the trunk, since the release button is also located on the door.

Still, the interior is luxuriously appointed and is very roomy, especially in the rear. There’s even a massage option available for the seats. And despite the powerful engine, it’s a very quiet ride, thanks to the special acoustic glazing of the windows. Now if you could only find someone named Jeeves to do the actual driving.

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