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Pros: Increased fuel efficiency, quieter cabin, more rear-seat amenities

Cons: Costs more than a modest apartment

What's New: Exterior styling has been redesigned to stand apart from the lower-priced Continental GT lineup

Before the 2014 Bentley Flying Spur replaced its predecessor, this big, imposing sedan was more of an extension of the 2-door Continental GT lineup -- in fact, it even incorporated Continental into its model name. Changes for 2014 (including removal of the Continental moniker) have helped take the Spur a step away from the GT, aided by styling cues that have trickled down from the $296,000 Mulsanne. The resulting silhouette is more flowing, with nuanced curves and sharper sheet-metal creases.

The new Flying Spur is also a layer cake of luxury on the inside, with the reworked interior offering generous stretches of buttery-soft leather and wood surfaces with mirror-like finishes. Some of the switches and controls are a bit disappointing in their plasticky finish (and familiar, VW-sourced shapes), while the weakest part of the human/machine interface is the navigation system, which feels outdated, even though the "knurled metal" simulated buttons on the touchscreen do add a bit of comedic flavor to the proceedings.

Driving the 2014 Bentley Flying Spur conveys a sense of heft, solidity and startlingly fast acceleration: Drop the hammer with the 8-speed transmission in S mode and this nearly 3-ton behemoth lurches to 60 miles per hour in only 4.3 seconds thanks to its 616-horsepower, 590 lb-ft powerplant. Yet acceleration also feels unexpectedly peaceful due to the eerily silent cabin, which Bentley says is 40 percent quieter than its predecessor. The Flying Spur's air suspension settings have been softened. Along with greater rear-seat amenities, such as a touchscreen-operated remote for air conditioning and various other functions, the new suspension settings make it clear that this 6-figure sedan has shifted its focus toward those being chauffeured in the back seat rather than the guy or gal in the driver's seat. At least Bentley has retained a hydraulic steering setup, which offers relatively communicative handling feedback, despite the low effort required to turn the wheel.

By separating the Flying Spur from the Continental lineup, Bentley has made this long wheelbase sedan feel more expensive and, therefore, more special -- qualities that should help fuel Bentley's recent sales success.

author photo

Basem Wasef is an automotive journalist, author, and photographer with two coffee table books under his belt, and is a regular contributor to Popular Mechanics, Robb Report, and Maxim among others. When Basem isn't traveling the globe testing vehicles, he enjoys calling Los Angeles home.

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