Sublimotion is a 12-cover restaurant located somewhere in Ibiza’s Hard Rock Hotel. You don’t know where, exactly, because you’re blindfolded on the way in. It’s a set-menu do, which works out around £2,000 per head. That makes Sublimotion the most expensive fixed-dining restaurant in the world. Some people book for that reason alone. And that’s fair enough.
Several years ago the restaurant had a couple of dropouts. My wife and I were on the island for a ‘piece’ I was ‘researching’ that would ‘explore’ how the White Isle was trying to shed its skin as a mass-market madhouse and emerge as an upmarket playground for the super-rich (Ibiza will always be all things to all people, of course). The PR for Sublimotion asked if we’d like to nab the spaces. I’d only packed shorts, but the restaurant didn’t seem to mind. The Hard Rock Hotel isn’t known for its puritanical dress code.
Sublimotion isn’t a restaurant. Just as the Sphere in Las Vegas isn’t a music venue. It’s a theatre production that takes place inside a 360-degree, high-definition digital dome – not unlike a mini-Sphere, come to think of it. Each season, Michelin maestro Paco Roncero, who is often described as ‘the Spanish Heston Blumenthal’, unless you are Spanish, in which case he’s just Paco Roncero, comes up with a 20-course tasting menu that bounces between countries. There are talking placemats, levitating plates, skydives, rollercoaster rides, sharks, mountains, and dishes that float out of the kitchen attached to mini hot-air balloons. Dessert was painted onto our plates. It was a three-and-a-half-hour round trip.
Whenever I mention that I’ve been to Sublimotion, which is as often as I can, everyone has the same question. Is it worth the money? “Yes,” I say. “Because there is nothing else like it.”
Which brings me to the topic at hand: the four-door grand tourer Bentley Flying Spur Mulliner. It is available in three formats: as a V6 plug-in hybrid, with a 4.0-litre V8 engine, or with Bentley-owner Volkswagen’s legendary twin-turbo 6.0-litre W12. Prices for the range-topping W12 model, which I got to drive, start from £251,800. That makes the Flying Spur Mulliner the most expensive production car Bentley has ever made. Barring the Rolls-Royce Ghost, which is a different car altogether, it also makes the Flying Spur Mulliner the world’s most expensive four-door saloon (the Phantom is a limousine, therefore it doesn’t count). So, is it worth the money?
Let’s start with that W12. The engine of choice of aircraft manufacturers in the 1920s and ’30s, only Volkswagen, and mad-as-a-bat Dutch sportscar-maker Spyker, has ever attempted to stick one in a car. The VW Touareg was offered in W12 format, for a time, but that didn’t make much sense. Today, the engine – essentially two V6s sandwiched together – is reserved for Bentley’s Bentayga, Continental GT and the Flying Spur.
In the case of the latter, that means 0 to 60mph in a silly 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 207mph. Faster – I checked – than BMW’s turbocharged 7 Series, any Audi A8, and every Porsche Panamera except for that nutty Turbo S version.
How does the Flying Spur handle? I once drove a Continental GT from Beverly Hills to Malibu. The Flying Spur is 50 centimetres longer and has two extra doors. Yet it is no more sluggish. There is no more understeer. That’s because the Flying Spur is closer to the ground than the supposedly sportier Continental GT and only a few kilograms heavier (weirdly, the Continental GT actually offers more boot space).
You’re working with the same gearbox and the same amount of torque. The big difference is that in the Flying Spur you’ve got all-wheel drive and all-wheel steering – a Bentley first. If the car detects a slip, power is sent from the back to the front. The Flying Spur should handle like a bus. It corners like a Porsche 911. It is ridiculously easy to drive.
The front of the Flying Spur is bug-eyed and blingy and has a grille out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? It is better from the side, from where you can see that the latest model is sleeker, longer and more angled than previous versions. It is both sporty and sumptuous. It has a celebrity-in-the-wild presence. Like seeing Brad Pitt in your local butcher.
Only Rolls-Royce can hold a candle up to Bentley’s interiors. In the Mulliner, which you can customise to look like the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, there are illuminated treadplates, hand-stitched piping, and carpets you want to lie on next to an open fire. Naked. Every decision has been obsessed over. Knobs have kept people awake. Trims have induced cold sweats. Buttons have gotten people out of bed. At no point did anyone shrug their shoulder and say, ‘that’ll do’. They would have been taken out back and shot. In a world where everything is increasingly crap, it’s nice to know that some people still care. Really care.
Other things that exist in a league of their own: Hamilton the musical, Japanese bullet trains, Henry vacuum cleaners. Sublimotion and the Sphere are from the future; the Flying Spur Mulliner is from the past. In fact, the W12 version is soon to be consigned to history. Bentley will stop making the engine after April 2024.
Order one while you can. There is nothing else like it.
The Bentley Flying Spur Mulliner W12: The Numbers
Max Power: 626bhp
Max Torque: 900 nm
Max Speed: 207mph
0-60 mph: 3.7 seconds
Price: from £251,800