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Driver’s Seat or Rear — It’s All Good in the Bentley Flying Spur

Refinement leads to illustrious musings in one of the finest four-seaters on earth.

Grazing, pecking, and rooting is $218 per guest at Blue Hill at Stone Barns (excluding beverage, tax and gratuity). And, they note, “The length of the menu makes it difficult for young children to enjoy the dining experience. The restaurant does not offer a children’s menu.” This is Pocantico Hills, Westchester County, an hour north of New York City. There’s only the prix fixe menu. The rules go on: “Blue Hill at Stone Barns is an elegant restaurant. Jackets and ties are preferred for gentlemen.” And, “For the comfort of all our guests, flash and professional photography are not permitted in the dining room.”

You don’t go to Blue Hill at Stone Barns unless you understand why you are going to Blue Hill at Stone Barns. And you’re only going to dine there if you are into the nuances of what will be served at your table — the perfection of a pork chop from a freshly slaughtered pig; the crispness of a cucumber harvested hours before, the tactile sensory immersion of Dan Barber (head chef) putting plated leaves on your table and asking you to forage for nuts.

Bentley Flying Spur W12 Specs


Engine: 6.0-liter W12
Transmission: eight-speed automatic; permanent all-wheel-drive
Horsepower: 616 bhp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 590 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm
0-60 mph: 4.3 seconds
Top Speed: 199 mph
MPG: 12/20, City/Highway
MSRP: $263,675 (as tested)

Driving the Flying Spur is the rolling-rubber equivalent to dining at Blue Hill. The Flying Spur, Bentley’s four-seater, stretched-out Continental, is rich with nuance and subtlety. The hand-upholstered leather seats are individually sewn. The wood veneers take five coats of varnish. Those organ-stop air vents are a tactile calling to forage for your own air control. And, when the drive needs a splash of excitement — the dining equivalent of a Sequoia Grove Cambium — the W12 engine is there to propel things forward, and fast.

To ride in the Flying Spur is both a driver and passenger affair. At the helm, the 5,456-pound coach feels surprisingly light, and plenty responsive with a 0-60 speed of 4.3 seconds. The 40:60 front-to-rear torque split transfers the 616 brake horsepower properly to the pavement, and, if inclement weather arises, the four-wheel-drive can get this coach out of trouble. As for the ride in the rear, it’s the 1,110-watt Naim audio system (optional, but necessary), the “picnic tables” that drop down from the front seats, the ample leg room and plushness of the seats that conquer the senses.

I’ll stick with classic luxury refined over the decades; I’ll take the butterfly hunt over the buffalo hunt; I’ll take the fresh beet to the porterhouse steak.

And yet, despite the tactile engagement of the driver seat and the immersive royalty of the rear, I did not find myself obsessing over the car itself. Instead it inspired, at least in my time behind the wheel, amplified musings. The classically beautiful interior lofted my thoughts to Nabokov, the greatest of our 20th-century writers and one of our finest aesthetes. In Strong Opinions, the Russian-American muses, “My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music. My pleasures are the most intense known to man: writing and butterfly hunting.” Drabness and pettiness are dull, the things that take work to cultivate in beauty — that is where pleasure is found. If Nabokov had experienced the Crewe-born British coach while traversing America, hunting butterflies and writing his seminal work, Lolita, one can be sure there would’ve been musings on tamo ash veneers and the sound a W12 makes coming from twin oval exhaust tailpipes.

And so my mind wandered while traipsing past a landscape that Rockefeller once established for horse-carriage riding and that has been preserved, nearly unchanged, so many years later. Such pleasant, meandering driving experiences aren’t unfounded in this level of luxury, and they are, in my mind, why one, if he has the means, splurges beyond the Hyundai Genesises, Lincoln Continentals, Mercedes-Benz S-Classes, BMW 7-Series, or any other such coach cars. The refinement, the subtlety, the basic confidence that Bentley delivers is enough. You can take your motion-activated technology, 30-way adjustable seats and puffy rear seat neck pillows — I’ll stick with classic luxury refined over the decades; I’ll take the butterfly hunt over the buffalo hunt; I’ll take the fresh beet to the hamburger.

So did I graze, peck and root at Blue Hill? Of course not — I rumbled past the valet, self-parked, skipped the ornate meal, and headed back out. This appetite for luxury had already been satisfied, not from a series of courses, but from the fulfilling pleasure of a proper drive.

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