2014 Bentley Flying Spur first drive review Page 2

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Styling: the Flying Spur cuts loose, a little

Against all this dramatic backdrop, the Flying Spur scores its own celebrity-sized impact. But it's not clear if it comes from the graceful new shape or from the name alone. Beijing clearly knows Bentleys; it's just not as obvious that everyone gawking knows how it's changed so much, especially at the rear.

Brand identity is the single most important touchstone for ultra-luxury brands, so the Flying Spur retains much of the familiar front-end appearance from the Continental GT. It hasn't strayed wildly from the first-generation sedan, either, though the grille's framed in thicker body color, and has a center spline--that, and the larger oval headlamps are now mounted outboard, not inboard as they've been since 2005.

Where the shape has shifted, it's tilted in a sporting direction. Much of the formality of the former Spur's roofline has been softened, especially at the rear pillar, where the side glass lays down more gradually. There's less top hat, and more bowler in the curves. At the shoulder line and below, the Flying Spur's rear end looks to us more crisply formed, with squarer fenders and with a blunter tail that call back to the pre-VW Group Bentleys with a wink and a nod. Drag is down, from 0.33 to 0.29, and distinctiveness is up, especially in the darkest, richest colors.

The shape isn't without a foible or two: the LED ovals inside taillamps don't illuminate the entire shape, and could be more subtly rendered. The same holds true for the LED brake light mounted at the base of the rear glass. Other details are gems, like the Bentley "B" logo cast into the fender vents.

The Flying Spur's cabin remains a gorgeously fitted, finely organized atmosphere that swings wildly from refined to posh, depending on the finishes you select. Some pieces are recognizable from other vehicles--the navigation screen and transmission surround are bits we've seen before--but they're in a discreet harmony with the Bentley bits that embroidered the sticker price of our test car so impressively. Knurled shifter, dark-stained wood, lavishly applied leathers, all of them boost a very efficient twin-binnacle cockpit into the ultra-luxury leagues, without complicating it.

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