VW's New Take On the Bentley
By Alex Taylor III, FORTUNE senior editor


Price as tested: $179,185

BACK STORY: To the cognoscenti this handsome motorcar is an exercise in trompe l'oeil. Although it bears the name of a historic British marque, it was built by Volkswagen with an engine, suspension, and four-wheel-drive system borrowed from VW's Phaeton sedan. Even the dashboard clock stamped BREITLING is an imposter. Breitling designed the face, but the works are supplied by an anonymous clockmaker.

TEST DRIVE: If you can accept verisimilitude over authenticity, you will have no trouble enjoying the Flying Spur. It occupies a unique niche in the automotive hierarchy--twice the price of a Mercedes S-class or BMW 7-series sedan, but just half as much as a Maybach or Rolls-Royce.

Despite its heft, it is a real driver's car that possesses both speed and agility. The twin-turbocharged, 12-cylinder, 552-horsepower engine slams you back into the leather seats as it makes its way to 60 miles an hour in under five seconds. Bentley claims a top speed of 195 miles per hour, but that mark went untested when I made my run up the Saw Mill Parkway on the way from New York City to the Berkshires.

Just as well, because at that velocity I would hardly be able to enjoy the fine wood veneers and leather surfaces, much less the chrome-ringed dials and organ-stop vent pulls that are so much a part of the Bentley experience. The flying "B" insignia atop the chrome-mesh radiator grille is enough to induce nostalgia for all those other vanished British brands that haven't been revived with the thoughtful care that VW has lavished on Bentley. Top of page