2014 Rolls-Royce Ghost vs. 2014 Bentley Flying Spur Comparison
Class Warfare: Two Well-Heeled Brits Throw Down The Gauntlet
At the intersection of Moore Lane and Victory Road in Derby, England, sprawls the brick-walled engineering headquarters of the Rolls-Royce jet engine operation. Standing before it is a dapper country gentleman who never moves. And hasn't since 1921. The famous bronze statue of Sir Frederick Henry Royce seems to have caught the great man at a pause during a casual walk. His hands are tucked in his long coat pockets; his head -- thin hair and neatly trimmed beard -- tilted down and canted to the left. His intense eyes are trained in the far distance as if musing about something.
Sir Henry has had much to contemplate over the decades. During the Battle of Britain, he probably smiled at his own clairvoyance in commencing the development of the Merlin V-12 aircraft engine when he did (in the early 1930s, and for which he's celebrated in a stained-glass window in Westminster Abbey). I suspect he was equally apoplectic when the car company portion of his R-R enterprise was plucked from the jaws of oblivion in 1998 by, of all entities, BMW, which had supplied a radial aircraft engine to the Supermarine Spitfire's arch foe, the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter.
But what's probably on his mind these days is the new Bentley Flying Spur. How in the heavens is a Bentley challenging his namesake company's Ghost? Hadn't he properly corked that problem in a bottle back in 1931? That's the trouble with being a statue. You don't get to read many newspapers.
In 1930, Bentley -- famous for Le Mans racers and fast, playboy-toy touring cars -- unexpectedly debuted what it called the "8-liter." It was refined, smooth, and…er, rather Rolls-Royce-ian. Some thought it even eclipsed Royce's Phantom II. Derby felt a genuine threat, and swiftly dealt with it by plucking (via questionable means) a bankrupt Bentley from under the nose of an incredulous Napier, and from that point on, Rolls and Bentley would never compete again.
What does all this have to do with the 2014 Bentley Flying Spur? "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme," quipped Mark Twain, and, in 1998, the whole 1931 episode was virtually replayed -- sort of, in reverse. After 67 years, Rolls and Bentley were redivided, correcting that ancient Rolls-Napier ugliness, with R-R going to BMW, Bentley to Volkswagen.
And so now we have a lower and wider Flying Spur. A silkier Flying Spur. (Bentley boasts of its softer springs, anti-roll bars, and bushings.) A more Rolls-Royce-ian Flying Spur. Although it's probably as much a calculated move to attract cash-flush Chinese who love this sort of thing, the point is, here and now, the paths of Rolls-Royce and Bentley have re-intersected.
One of the great traditions in Rolls-Royce and Bentley reviewing is to examine, with wide eyes, the cars' window stickers. Ghost? Base price, $267,300 (gasp). Bentley? $200,500 (nervous giggle), plus another $48,740 in options, including $13,985 for questionable-riding 21-inch wheels and tires. Amazingly, the Rolls trumps this, slathering the Ghost in $114,520 of options (catch me, I'm fainting) including its limited-edition, $41,500 Alpine Rally package. This, a peculiar combination of blue paint, black grille slats, black wheels, and various interior flourishes that celebrate a similarly painted Rolls that won something called the Alpine Rally a century ago. Without a $41,500 option, I suspect.
Of course, the Bentley and Rolls are beautifully made. Relevant anecdotes: It takes two weeks to paint the Ghost; there's a fridge in the back of the Bentley; and the Rolls' wool carpeting is so plush you hear "baaa" if you firmly press your feet down. Let's mercifully ascribe it to eccentricity, but both cars also employ plastic bits that would embarrass a Toyota, and the Bentley's incomprehensible handheld rear entertainment controller and creaky, old-generation Volkswagen navigation menus are unforgivable.
After being checked for stray Grey Poupon jars that might have lodged under the brake pedal, the two cars wound up just about a dead heat down the dragstrip. The Spur galloped to 60 mph a tenth of a second quicker; the Ghost materialized at the quarter mile a tenth sooner (the Flying Lady statuette possibly flapping her little wings for some extra push). Call it a wash. But in the real world, where the hoi polloi drive every day to their little jobs, the Rolls has a wonderful surge when you press your loafer into it. It's as if a strong wind has suddenly swelled your spinnaker, straining the winches. (Why am I suddenly talking like Commodore Vanderbilt? Sorry, lost myself for a minute there.) The Bentley's even more substantial power, though, is frequently misplaced during its indecisive journey through the gears -- sometimes the car initially just luffs along. You find yourself shouting at Accords and Maximas swamping you at green lights: "Hey, wait, this really is a fast car -- look at my notes here, it does 0-60 in 4.3 seconds!" No good. They're gone.
Read the 2014 Bentley Flying Spur First Test HERE.
Read the 2014 Bentley Flying Spur First Test HERE.
Both cars are motivated by gigantically powerful, twin-turbocharged 12-cylinder engines, yet they're quite different. The Rolls' 563 hp pours from a V-12 block sourced from the BMW 760Li; the Spur's 616 hp arises from a coarser-feeling W-12 configuration that's cropped up elsewhere in the Volkswagen portfolio.
But the critical ten/tenths difference between these cars is handling. Goose the Rolls' big 12, and the stern sweeps right around as rubber is liberally lathed off its rear tires. You smile. Repeat that in the Bentley, and its AWD system really brutalizes the fronts. You frown. Why destroying rear tires feels right and wrecking front ones feels wrong is one of the deeper mysteries of the universe.
Enough about cornering attitudes, though. You might as well gauge Lord March's Goodwood house (neighbor of the R-R factory) by its attic space and flooring thickness. It misses the point. If you ever have a chance to visit the house during the Revival or Festival of Speed, you'll stand agog before magnificent Gainsboroughs and Joshua Reynolds hanging on its walls. That inspired an idea we dubbed "Performance Art."
Read the 2014 Rolls-Royce Ghost First Test HERE.
Read the 2014 Rolls-Royce Ghost First Test HERE.
In Jackson Pollock fashion, we secured a plastic container in the back seat of both cars, horizontally fastened bare canvases inside, dribbled on some paint, and headed off for a few laps of the figure-eight course. Many tire squeals, lurid rolling, and much rubber smoke later, they'd become paint smears shaped entirely by the signature of the cars' g's themselves. What do we make of these road test Rorschach tests? Our art analysis department continues to study them.
However, at 65 mph on our ride quality and interior noise test road, the appropriately named Ghost was dramatically quieter: 21.6 sones (63.8 for you old-fashioned dBA lovers) compared with the Spur's 23.9 sones (66.1 dBA). And not only were the Ghost's low-frequency noise levels lower, its average of vertical g's at the driver's seat were a whopping 35 percent less, too. Hushness and cushiness garlands to the Goodwood team.
But enough with subtleties. Let's get gauche: Which car is the bigger eye-magnet? If you're paying a quarter-mil base price, let's face it, you want people to know. So we headed for the ritzy Santa Monica coast.
With a trio of video cameras peering out of the forward, side, and rear windows, we cruised around the Third Street Promenade and recorded how people reacted to both cars. Sure, a Ford Fusion painted like this Ghost would get stares. After reviewing the frame-by-frame footage, nine people glanced at the Bentley versus 18 at the Rolls. And after passing by, two turned around for another glance at the Spur compared with 11 for the Ghost. Two even took pictures of the Rolls.
Imagine. A quarter-million-dollar Flying Spur ignored as cameras are raised for a passing Ghost. In far-away Derby, at the intersection of Moore Lane and Victory Road, a bronze statue of an older gentleman with his hands in his pockets is trying his best to crack a smile.
|2014 Bentley Flying Spur||2014 Rolls-Royce Ghost|
|POWERTRAIN AND CHASSIS|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front engine, AWD||Front engine, RWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||Twin-turbo W-12, aluminum block/heads||Twin-turbo 60-deg V-12, aluminum block/heads|
|VALVETRAIN||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||366.0 cu in/5998 cc||399.0 cu in/6540 cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||616 hp @ 6000 rpm||563 hp @ 5250 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||590 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm||575 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm|
|REDLINE||6250 rpm||Not indicated|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||9.2 lb/hp||9.8 lb/hp|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed automatic||8-speed automatic|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Control arms, air springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, air springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar||Control arms, air springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, air springs, anti-roll bar|
|STEERING RATIO||13.2:1 (est)||19.9:1|
|BRAKES, F;R||15.9-in vented disc; 13.2-in vented disc, ABS||16.1-in vented disc; 15.8-in vented disc, ABS|
|WHEELS, F;R||9.5 x 21-in, cast aluminum||8.5 x 20-in, cast aluminum; 9.5 x 20-in, cast aluminum|
|TIRES, F;R|| 275/35R21 103Y |
Pirelli P Zero
| 255/45R20 101Y; 285/40R20 104Y|
Goodyear Efficient Grip
|WHEELBASE||120.7 in||129.7 in|
|TRACK, F/R||64.7/64.6 in||63.9/65.4 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||208.5 x 77.8 x 58.6 in||212.6 x 76.7 x 61.0 in|
|TURNING CIRCLE||38.4 ft||44.0 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||5644 lb||5500 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST, F/R||55/45%||50/50%|
|HEADROOM||38.1/38.0 in||40.6/39.0 in|
|LEGROOM||41.6/42.2 in||41.7/42.3 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM||61.6/60.4 in||59.4/55.8 in|
|CARGO VOLUME||15.6 cu ft||17.3 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|0-30||1.7 sec||1.9 sec|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||2.1||2.1|
|QUARTER MILE||12.9 sec @ 107.0 mph||12.8 sec @ 113.1 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||106 ft||112 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.86 g (avg)||0.82 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.2 sec @ 0.71 g (avg)||27.1 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||1400 rpm||1600 rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$249,240||$381,820|
|AIRBAGS||Front, f/r side, f/r curtain, driver knee||Front, front side, f/r curtain, front knee|
|BASIC WARRANTY||3 yrs/unlimited||4 yrs/unlimited|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||3 yrs/unlimited||4 yrs/unlimited|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||3 yrs/unlimited||4 yrs/unlimited|
|FUEL CAPACITY||23.8 gal||21.8 gal|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||12/20/15 mpg||13/21/15 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||281/169 kW-hrs/100 mi||259/160 kW-hrs/100 mi|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMBINED||1.33 lb/mi||1.24 lb/mi|
|MT FUEL ECONOMY||15.6 mpg||16.6 mpg|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded premium||Unleaded premium|