Magazine article The Spectator

Due Discretion

Magazine article The Spectator

Due Discretion

Article excerpt

During the two previous recessions it was not unknown for Rolls-Royce and Bentley owners to replace their cars covertly. Proprietors were reluctant to be seen to trade in their two-year-old Shadows or Turbo Rs for brand new ones while staff were being laid off. They still bought the new models but they specified identical-looking cars and either transferred the number plates or bought personal registrations.

Thus, money changed hands, the economy functioned and staff at Crewe, its suppliers and dealerships were not laid off.

Such discretion is doubtless still available to embarrassed proprietors who survive this shipwreck (there's certainly no shortage of cars) but I can suggest a further element of concealment: the Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed. Of course, it's absurd to talk of concealing a car almost 18 feet long, five high, seven wide and weighing two and a half tonnes, but its lines are understated.

In a supermarket car park -- I tested this -- it attracted attention only from those who notice cars. Most shoppers trudged behind their trolleys without looking. If challenged they might have noticed a big car, some might even have posited a large Audi, a few -- the cognoscenti -- might ironically have suggested a VW Phaeton, but it wouldn't have garnered anything like the stares bestowed on other Bentley models.

Better still, if you already own a Spur and want to upgrade to the new Speed variant without anyone realising you can be pretty sure that the external changes -- a more upright grille and larger front air intake, a new rear bumper, wider rifled tail pipes and 20 inch alloys -- will be unappreciated by all but those who do appreciate such things. (In fact, unlike its little sister, the Continental GT -- many of whose owners change their cars with their socks -- the Spur tends to stick to the hands of its first owners. ) Driving it, however, reveals bigger differences. The first Spur (The Spectator, 21 January 2006) was fast enough to jog along with -- 0-60mph in 4.9 seconds and an official top speed of 195mph which was turned by Autocar into a verified 208mph with four men in and the air-conditioning on. But now this same chain-driven 6 litre W12 engine has been tweaked to 600bhp and 553lb ft of torque, which translates into 60mph in 4.5 seconds and an official top speed of 200mph. Suspension feels firmer -- though it's adjustable -- and the steering turn-in is sharper. …

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