Cars like the 2016 Bentley Flying Spur cannot be judged in any practical way. It's easy to come up with a long list of cars that do more for less money -- a lot less money in some cases -- and when it comes down to it, there is no objective reason to consider buying a car like this. 

But objectivity has no place in this discussion. Instead, you're buying exclusivity, and the ability to customize your Bentley to your heart's (and wallet's) content. If a luxury item is defined as something that's expensive and unnecessary, then the $227,375 Bentley Flying Spur V8 we drove is luxury in its purest form. Just the options on board -- including a $5,600 Moroccan Blue paint job, $7,630 Naim audio system, and $3,800 of white leather on every conceivable surface -- add up to more than $28,500; that sum would buy you a nicely equipped Honda Accord

One of a kind

But there is nothing commoditized about the Flying Spur. Instead, it's the embodiment of the kind of opulence that's required in this class of car. You're surrounded by leather, and the knobs and switches are all metal. The wood on the dash offers a depth and luster you don't see in less expensive cars. Inside it is quiet, but not an isolation chamber, either in noise or ride. You can hear the satisfying roar of the engine, and there's enough coming in from outside to keep you on your toes. The ride is comfortable, but the big 21-inch wheels unexpectedly pound over small bumps even in the suspension's most comfortable setting. 

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The payoff is that this big sedan -- it's more than 17 feet long, 7-feet wide, and weighs as much as a Chevy Tahoe -- hustles in a way you simply don't expect. The 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine sends its 500 horsepower and 487 lb-ft of torque through an 8-speed automatic transmission on its way to a full-time all-wheel drive system. There's a brief moment of hesitation as the engine works to overcome the car's inertia, then it's full steam ahead as the engine roars and the transmission clicks off shifts. Big paddles behind the steering wheel let you do the shifting yourself, but the ZF 8-speed does a good enough job that you'll likely never use them. Dial it back, and the big Bentley is comfortable and effortless to drive. It feels a lot smaller than it is from behind the wheel, a sign of a good driver's car.

Standard safety assists lacking

So it's a little odd that it's so feature-short in the technology department when it comes to standard equipment. Yes, there's the highest-quality leather on everything, and yes, even things like the window switches are made of chromed metal. But blind spot monitoring? Nope. Adaptive cruise? Nuh-uh. Lane keeping assist? Nada. These are features that have percolated down to even the 2016 Honda Civic, yet they're absent here. True, some are available as options, but there's a voice in the back of your head that questions what, exactly, that $227,000 is buying.

Which brings us back to the beginning. Rationality in a features-per-dollar sense has no part in buying a Bentley, or other high-end vehicle. You're buying exclusivity. Sure, a Mercedes-Maybach S600 has more features, more technology, and arguably more luxury, for less money. But that car, as nice as it is, shares its brand with $30,000 front-wheel drive sedans, not to mention commercial vans. There is no $30,000 Bentley out there, and for a select few, knowing they own c car that's unattainable for most is the true definition of luxury. 

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