These mighty sedans are not only about rear-seat luxury.
What do you do when you want a posh, high-status sedan that sits right atop the automotive food chain but you also prefer to do the driving yourself? You purchase one of these, the new Bentley Flying Spur Speed or Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge. Both cars are equipped with more powerful versions of their classic engines, that being the 626-horsepower W12 in the newer Bentley and the 591-hp V12 in the Rolls-Royce. They each have sharper suspension tuning and tasteful styling enhancements to reflect their greater focus on performance, but not at the expense of supreme luxury and comfort. Which one is better, though?
Both of these imposing sedans have received darker exterior trim. In the case of the Bentley Flying Spur Speed, it has dark-tinted headlights and taillights and a blacked-out grille. The standard 22-inch wheels can also be finished in options that include a Dark Tint or Gloss Black. Carbon fiber, a material more associated with sports cars, can be applied to the front splitter, side skirts, rear diffuser, and trunk spoiler with the Bentley Styling Specification.
Like the Bentley, the Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge has a majestic presence but isn't beautiful in the way a large Maserati sedan would be. It rides on bespoke 21-inch wheels and, in typical Rolls fashion, the attention to detail is astounding: the barrel of each wheel has 22 layers of carbon fiber set on three axes. These are then folded back on themselves for a total of 44 layers for added strength. The Pantheon Grille has a mirror-black chrome finish, and Rolls says that despite the extensive color palette, most customers have gone for the signature black.
The squared-off Ghost's headlights couldn't be more different from the Flying Spur's rounded clusters. Likewise, the Ghost has squared-off tailpipes on either side, whereas the Flying Spur has sleek oval-shaped pipes. In terms of size, the Ghost is the larger car; it's nine inches longer and 3.5 inches taller, although the Bentley is wider.
In both cases, the sportier touches haven't been overdone in any way. These are sophisticated cars that will look right at home at any of the world's finest country clubs.
Which looks better? Well, that's a tough call; beauty is subjective, after all.
Build quality, craftsmanship, comfort, and customization doesn't get any better than this. At a higher price point, the Phantom may have something to say about that, but seated inside the Flying Spur Speed or Ghost Black Badge, it's hard to imagine that anything could be improved.
The Flying Spur Speed uses Dinamica Pure materials that evoke a sportier atmosphere than the usual leather, and performance graphics adorn the driver information panel. There are also sport pedals, but what remains is the unmistakable sense of luxury. The front seats have 24-way power adjustment, and the rear ones their own 14-way power adjustment. All seats boast heating, ventilation, and massage. While the tech is far superior to Bentleys of old, the interior's warmth and charm are never dominated by the tech. Trim options like Dark Stained Burr Walnut and gorgeous analog gauges make sure of that, and the analog gauges on the rotating dash exude pure class.
Although the Bentley is comfortable at the back and can be optioned with an even more lavish four-seater arrangement with a rear center console, the Ghost's rear seat has the edge in terms of comfort; even entering the Ghost is more of an occasion with those rear coach doors.
As with the Bentley, the Ghost Black Badge has a sportier interior aesthetic thanks to the use of materials like carbon and metallic fibers. Multiple wood layers are topped by a black Bolivar for the uppermost layer. Interior brightwork has been darkened, too, an effect that has been applied to the air vent surrounds. It's the special, if excessive, touches that set the Ghost apart. Nobody needs an illuminated fascia with 90,000 laser-etched dots or the calming shooting star-effect Starlight Headliner, but they're there anyway.
The Ghost has even more rear seating configurations, too, with a lounge seat for three, immersive seating with a fold-down center console, or immersive seating for four with individual rear seats for two and a central cooled chamber with two champagne flutes. Rolls cheekily charges extra for seat ventilation, though.
Overall, these are two majestic interiors, but the Ghost has the edge for ambiance and comfort when fully kitted out - particularly for those who choose to be driven.
These cars both look a bit ridiculous when treated in an unruly fashion, but on those rare occasions when the roads are empty and you want to see what they can do, you'll be pleasantly surprised. The newer Flying Spur Speed's 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 makes 626 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque. With all-wheel drive and an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, it can complete the 0-60 sprint in 3.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 207 mph.
The larger 6.75-liter twin-turbo V12 in the Ghost Black Badge has been tuned to deliver 591 hp but it equals the Speed's 664 lb-ft. With all-wheel drive and a conventional eight-speed automatic, the Ghost has to contend with less power and more weight. Unsurprisingly, it's slower to 60 mph, getting to that mark in 4.5 seconds. The top speed is limited to a much lower 155 mph, too.
For the keen driver, the choice is clear. The Flying Spur has always been a more agile, less isolating car and the Speed underlines these traits with its extra power and more potent acceleration. The dual-clutch transmission adds another level of engagement to proceedings - while the Rolls doesn't even have shift paddles to let you take control. In Bentley's favor further are all-wheel steering and a 48-volt anti-roll system to sharpen up the handling of the behemoth and disguise its weight more acceptably than the Rolls can manage.
Back on the highway, the impossibly quiet Black Badge seeks to isolate occupants from every conceivable surface imperfection. In terms of noise suppression and comfort, it is unrivaled. In the Flying Spur lineup, comfort remains high, but there is a greater sense of the road beneath. However, this comes across as intentional - it feels like Bentley engineered the car this way in an effort to make it more involving. It works; the Flying Speed is as enjoyable to drive as the Ghost is to be driven in, and that's the key in separating these two machines.
Before options, the Bentley Flying Spur Speed will cost $258,700 in the USA. Pinning down an exact price for the Ghost Black Badge is more challenging, but it costs in the region of $375,000. However, many Ghosts are known to be optioned to well over $400,000. It's obvious which car is more attainable, then.
As for which car is better, that depends on what you want. If your goal is to make a statement when you arrive at A-list events and to emerge from the rear seat like royalty, the Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge is the one to go for. It doesn't hurt that it delivers a more engaging driving experience than the standard Ghost when you do actually take it for a spin yourself.
As for the Bentley Flying Spur Speed, it is the clear driver's choice. At around $100,000 less, it is faster, more powerful, and more agile. It can't match the comfort or grandeur of the Rolls, but it gets closer than pretty much any other sedan.
While we still feel that the Ghost range does opulence better than the Flying Spur model line, Bentley has done more justice to its latest sedan in appealing to the driver. It's the car we most want to drive ourselves.