Bentley Flying Spur vs. Mercedes-Benz S600 vs. Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II

Innsbruck, Austria—The Bentley Flying Spur, Mercedes-Benz S600, and Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II are three of the most comfortable cars on Earth. But right now, palms are sweating and tires are squealing. We’re pushing these cars out of their comfort zones to figure out which one most deserves space in a supercar garage. It’s a tough choice not only because these lavishly equipped chariots are so superlative but also because they are so different from one another. Sure, all three have smooth V-12s, and all three command terrifying list prices. But the Flying Spur is a bawdy high-performance sedan with an Old World interior, the S600 is a tech-laden sleeper, and the Ghost is a boisterous status symbol. Still, someone has to decide among these cars, and it might as well be us. So let’s begin this shootout with an early morning blast down the Munich-Salzburg autobahn.
Bentley Flying Spur Vs. Mercedes Benz S600 Vs. Rolls Royce Ghost Series Ll

On this high-speed three-lane highway, the big, blond Benz is the easiest car to drive hard and fast. Wide, well-poised, and always firmly planted, the S-Class feels rock solid even as it rolls over wet grooves, yawning expansion joints, and fast washboard sweepers. It also boasts the latest tech. Whoever is in charge of the ugly two-spoke steering wheel will enjoy a comfortable driver’s seat and will be assisted by adaptive cruise control, automatic lane guidance, night vision, and an adaptive suspension that uses cameras to adjust for the road ahead. Parking is fully automatic if you so desire, navigation is governed by real-time traffic information, surface heating extends to the door panels and the center console, and the all-LED lighting system outshines its rivals. In contrast to all this cutting-edge technology, the 6.0-liter V-12 that drives the S600 is not exactly a brand-new piece of kit. The three-valver harks back to the 5.5-liter V-12 that first appeared in the Maybach 57 in 2002. With 523 hp, the twin-turbo motor is the relative weakling of this trio—the Ghost has 563 hp, and the Bentley 616 hp. But the Mercedes does make the most torque, at 612 lb-ft, and it is the lightest at 5,038 pounds. (The Bentley and Rolls each weigh about 5,500 pounds.) Although the Mercedes is super comfortable and ultra safe, it remains at all times commendably involving.

Bentley Flying Spur Vs. Mercedes Benz S600 Vs. Rolls Royce Ghost Series Ll

The word “involving” also applies, surprisingly, to the Rolls-Royce. What makes all the difference here is the optional dynamic driving package. Quicker steering commanded by a thicker-rimmed wheel, retuned dampers, and a revised rear- suspension impart precision and heightened road-holding capabilities on the formerly floaty Ghost. The slight slack just off center that we’ve noticed at high speed in earlier Ghosts has all but disappeared. Despite its considerable weight, the Series II is confidence-inspiring when pushed, as body roll and brake dive are now better suppressed.

“The brain buys the Benz. Our adrenal glands want the Bentley. The gut, though, would almost certainly spend even more for the keys to the Ghost.”

Still, there comes a point where Sir Rolls prefers a more leisurely pace. With stability control on, the Ghost is automatically reeled in early enough for the glasses on the rear picnic tables to stay put. But with the nannies off, you find yourself maneuvering the Titanic through the upper reaches of the Thames. The Rolls is at its best surfing the V-12’s wave of low-end torque, which crests at 575 lb-ft at 1,500 rpm. It appreciates defensive steering and throttle angles, and it even uses info from its navigation system to avoid superfluous gear changes. In this car more than in the other two, a smooth driving style will be rewarded with total refinement and, pardon the cliché, splendid isolation.

2015 Bentley Flying Spur Cockpit

Black beauty: The Bentley is tastefully appointed all around, but its interior is cramped for a car this size.

As we reach the picturesque mountain range that unites the southern tip of Bavaria and the slim end of Austria, we ditch the autobahn for remarkably challenging driving roads. When the corners tighten and the grade becomes steep, the Bentley Flying Spur emerges as the undisputed master of ceremonies. It’s the only car of the trio that boasts all-wheel drive (Mercedes offers it on the S63 AMG but not the comfort-oriented S600), which means it can more frequently make use of the 590 lb-ft of torque from its sonorous and eager-to-rev 6.0-liter W-12. It’s the quickest car here, able to sprint to 60 mph in a factory-measured 4.3 seconds (versus 4.5 for the Mercedes and 4.8 seconds for the Rolls-Royce). More important on the autobahn, it’s by far the fastest, hitting 200 mph where conditions permit, whereas the S600 and Ghost are limited to 155 mph.
2016 Mercedes Benz S600 Cockpit

Creature comforts:
The Benz’s interior prevails with perks such as heated armrests. The Rolls (below) has improved iDrive.

Under the pressure of fast downhill sections, we’re amazed by the collective stopping power of the brakes. All three cars employ manhole-cover-size discs straddled by calipers big enough to tame a train. The 500-pound weight advantage of the S600 pays off by shortening the stopping distance. The heavier Bentley has help from optional carbon-ceramic rotors, which combine fade-free stopping power with commendably progressive pedal feel. Even so, we wish the Bentley had shift paddles so we could more easily manage our speed via engine braking. The Rolls-Royce boasts a potent stopping apparatus that works as effortlessly as the rest of the car. Like the light two-finger steering, the brake pedal only needs a couple of toes’ input to deliver. Another forte our behemoths have in common is unerring directional stability. All three models were virtually immune to strong crosswinds, foul weather, and sudden surface variations. Fast corners were rarely an issue either, but like a full-size bullet train, our 36-cylinder convoy had to slow down significantly for tighter bends.

2015 Rolls Royce Ghost Series Ll Cockpit

Of course, these cars need to offer more than just high-speed capability. First, they need to be supremely comfortable. The German contender is hard to beat on this metric, and this verdict extends to the second-row accommodations, which offer ample leg- and headroom, not to mention a chair massage. The Bentley, though just as long, is comparatively cramped, and even the driver’s seat feels relatively flat and insufficiently adjustable. These cars also need the latest and greatest equipment. Top honors go again to the Benz, which won’t even charge you extra for most of the first-class goodies. The flip side is that the S600’s cockpit is a hard-to-decipher maze of touchpads, knobs, buttons, and thumbwheels. The BMW-inspired Rolls-Royce does better with an improved version of iDrive. In these matters the Bentley, the oldest of the trio despite a recent refresh, shows its age via a dated infotainment system and a conspicuous lack of modern driving aids. Fuel economy might not be a priority here, which is just as well. Over a weekend of hard driving, the Mercedes averaged nearly 15 mpg, the Ghost Series II 12 mpg, and the thirsty Bentley 11 mpg.

2015 Rolls Royce Ghost Series Ll Rear Side Profile

Score one for drama: Suicide doors are just one of the eye-grabbing features of the Rolls. Inside, the rear seats are subtly angled toward each other for more intimacy.

Harder to measure, but more important, are presence and a sense of occasion. If you like Teutonic flair paired with overkill engineering (motorized buckles, airbags for the rear belts, perfume dispenser, etc.), you will appreciate the Mercedes-Benz S600. If you prefer more of a gentleman’s club atmosphere, the beautifully executed and tastefully appointed Bentley Flying Spur might be the right choice. But to make a statement of real presence and affluence, nothing beats the Rolls-Royce Ghost, with its dramatic suicide doors, inviting theater seats in back, and remarkably well-appointed cabin.

Bentley Flying Spur Vs. Mercedes Benz S600 Vs. Rolls Royce Ghost Series Ll

Battle royale: The S600, the Ghost Series II, and Flying Spur all have their merits. But if you had to choose just one …

So where would the lottery win go? The brain buys the Benz. It’s the cleverest high-end sedan by a long shot, capable of spoiling you with a bouquet of creature comforts yet involving you on a high-speed drive. Also, it’s a bargain among this company, with a sticker starting at less than $170,000, a price that includes most of the impress-your-friends options. Our adrenal glands want the Bentley, which combines traditional British craftsmanship with the style and brawn of the related Continental GT Speed. It will appeal to customers who deem a Jaguar XJR too mundane. And too cheap. The Flying Spur starts at $221,125, and the carbon-ceramic brakes add $14,150 (plus another $1,525 if you want the calipers painted red). The gut, though, would almost certainly spend even more—$291,350 before any options—for the keys to the Ghost. It is the best of the best, the most extroverted, and the most prestigious. More simply put, it shouts, “Look at me! I’m rich!” the loudest.

2015 Mercedes-Benz S600 Specifications

On Sale: Now
Price: $169,525
Engine: 6.0L DOHC 36-valve twin-turbocharged V-12/523 hp @ 4,900 rpm, 612 lb-ft @ 1,900-4,000 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Layout: 4-door, 4- or 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD sedan
EPA Mileage: 12/21 mpg city/highway
Suspension F/R: Multilink, air springs/multilink, air springs
Brakes: Vented discs
Tires: 245/45R-19 Pirelli Winter Sottozero (winter fitment)
L x W x H: 206.5 x 83.9 x 58.7 in
Wheelbase: 206.5 x 83.9 x 58.7 in
Weight: 5,038 lb
0-60 mph: 4.5 sec
Top Speed: 155 mph

2015 Bentley Flying Spur Specifications

On Sale: Now
Price: $221,125
Engine: 6.0L DOHC 48-valve twin-turbocharged W-12/616 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 590 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Layout: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan
EPA Mileage: 12/20 mpg city/highway
Suspension F/R: Control arms, air springs/ multilink, air springs
Brakes F/R: Carbon-ceramic vented discs
Tires F/R: 275/35R-21 Pirelli P Zero
L x W x H: 208.5 x 86.9 x 58.6 in
Wheelbase: 120.7 in
Weight: 5,451 lb
0-60 mph: 4.3 sec
Top Speed: 200 mph

2015 Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II Specifications

On Sale: Now
Price: $291,350
Engine: 6.6L DOHC 48-valve twin-turbocharged V-12/563 hp @ 5,250 rpm, 575 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Layout: 4-door, 4- or 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD sedan
EPA Mileage: 13/21 mpg city/highway
Suspension F/R: Multilink, air springs/multilink, air springs
Brakes: Vented discs
Tires: 255/50R-19 Goodyear Ultra Grip (winter fitment)
L x W x H: 212.6 x 76.7 x 61.0 in
Wheelbase: 129.7 in
Weight: 5,445 lb
0-60 mph: 4.8 sec
Top Speed: 155 mph
Bentley Flying Spur Vs Mercedes Benz S600 Vs Rolls Royce Ghost Series Ll Rear

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