Bentley is reviving a classic name from its past for a car it is billing as the fastest four-door it has ever built.
The Bentley Continental Flying Spur goes on sale in Europe later this year, and will be imported to New Zealand.
It's based on the striking, near-320km/h Continental GT two-door coupe Bentley unveiled two years ago and began selling 12 months ago.
The new Continental Flying Spur combines traditional Bentley luxury and craftsmanship with the dynamics and power of the Continental GT.
The new car revives the name and essence of the late-1950s Flying Spur, a four-door sedan derived from the 1952 R-Type Continental.
The 1957 Continental Flying Spur was praised as one of the most elegant and powerful saloons created to that time.
The new Flying Spur continues the Bentley bloodline of sporting Grand Tourers.
It has been designed to deliver breathtaking performance combined with extraordinary comfort and elegance, and finely-honed, surefooted handling.
Bentley says Flying Spur pricing is yet to be finalised, but will be similar to that of the Continental GT coupe.
Bentley says surveys of prospective customers showed they wanted cars that delivered "performance and luxury, style and practicality, inspiration and solidity, excitement and safety." The Continental Flying Spur has been developed to deliver on those requirements.
Its cabin mixes leather and wood veneers in traditional British luxury car fashion.
The rear cabin has spacious legroom, and can be optioned for two or three seats at the time of purchase.
Delivering supercar performance
Bentley says the Flying Spur will deliver supercar performance - a top speed higher than 305km/h and a 0-100km/h acceleration time of around five seconds.
It shares its 6.0-litre, twin-turbocharged, 12-cylinder engine with the Continental GT.
The V12 delivers 552bhp, and massive torque. Peak torque comes on stream from 1600rpm and continues unabated throughout the powerband.
The gearbox is a smooth-shifting, six-speed ZF with Tiptronic manual shift capability.
Manual shifts are made using either the gearlever or paddles mounted behind the steering wheel.
For the four-door sedan, the gearbox has been extensively recalibrated to provide almost imperceptible shifts when being used in more relaxed, fully-automatic fashion.
The Flying Spur chassis features a high-tech, all-wheel drive system that ensures the power and torque remain accessible to the driver without the constant intervention of the traction control system, even in poor weather and road conditions.
The Flying Spur will be a driver's car first and foremost, says engineer Dr Ulrich Eichhorn.
"Over the course of its development the car was subjected to a rigorous drive programme that saw it complete nearly a million miles on proving grounds, test tracks and roads across the world."
Making a sporting statement
Bentley's design chief, Dirk van Braeckel, says the company was "very conscious that the Continental Flying Spur had to make a sporting statement when people first saw it.
"That's actually more challenging with a four-door than a coupe, which will always look 'fast', so we spent a long time working on an appearance of potency while still retaining the presence and stature that customers expect from our cars."
The car also needed to reflect Bentley's evolving modern image, retaining the understated but bold feel that its design team believes epitomises the marque.
"From the very beginning, Bentleys have been quite reserved (in) design," says van Braeckel. "It has always been recognised that Bentleys are much less ostentatious than rival cars of a similar price.
"The new Continental Flying Spur embodies that Bentley ethos of understated elegance."
Where the Spur fits
Bentley designed the Continental Flying Spur to appeal to customers seeking a sumptuous four-door Grand Tourer that shares the coupe's high-performance.
Bentley chairman Dr Franz-Josef Paefgen says the distinction between the Flying Spur and the Arnage range is simple.
The Arnage will retain its position as an exclusive limousine.
"If you work in a major capital city you might see a Continental Flying Spur a few times a month, but you will only come across an Arnage a few times a year. The Arnage will continue to be a bespoke car with real exclusivity.
"With the Continental Flying Spur we are opening our doors to new customers who value that unique combination of luxury, style, excitement and practicality."
Strong NZ sales expected
Local Bentley agent European Motor Distributors believes it will be able to sell all the Flying Spurs it can get.
The first Flying Spur is expected here before the end of the year.
Local pricing is yet to be set, but is expected to be in the same range as the Continental GT coupe which currently retails for $354,000.
The indication is that the Flying Spur is not intended to be any dearer than that.
A European Motors spokesman says that if the Continental GT is an indicator, the Flying Spur should do "extremely well" in New Zealand.
NZ buyers have bought more than 30 Continental GTs.
"I anticipate we will be able to sell all the Flying Spurs we can get."