CREWE, England -- To understand the difference between the Bentley Continental Flying Spur and the Volkswagen Phaeton, all you have to do is accelerate to 155 mph - fast enough to get you thrown in jail in most countries.
The Continental Flying Spur and Phaeton are siblings in the VW Group and share many of the same components, including the same 12-cylinder engine, called the W-12 because of the cylinder configuration.
But when you've reached 155 mph with the 420-hp, W-12 Phaeton, a speed limiter kicks in, making further acceleration impossible. But 155 mph is where the 560-hp, twin-turbocharged W-12 Bentley just begins to show its stuff. At about 155 hp, the nose of the big Bentley automatically lowers 0.39 inches while the tail drops 0.98 inches.
The descents funnel more air into a vented diffuser under the car, creating a force similar to what you feel when you stick your hand out the window of a fast-moving car and point it slightly downward. The force keeps the big Bentley stable and hugging the road as the speed increases, all the way to the listed top speed of 195 mph.
"Where others are holding back, we're trying to go faster," says Ulrich Eichhorn, Bentley engineering chief.
Eichhorn acknowledges that most Bentley owners will never drive this fast. But he likens the Bentley's capabilities to those of an SUV. Most owners never take SUVs off-road, but they like to know their vehicles are capable of going there, just as most Bentley owners won't take their cars to the top speed, he says.
Adrian Hallmark, Bentley marketing chief, argues that customers get the benefit even if they never experience the maximum performance. He says: "The car feels more substantial and works better in every sense." c
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