Keep calm and drive on: We celebrate the absolute best in British motoring

We’re quite fortunate that the automotive world is just that: a global community. Cars are made almost everywhere and we get to celebrate achievements like Germany’s precision engineering, the reliability of Japanese cars, the sexy sportiness that Italy brings, and good ol’ American muscle.

But today, we’re here to talk about our cousins from across the pond: the English. Their long history with the automobile coincides with their tradition of refinement. As such, they mastered luxury and tenacious performance a long time ago. We decided to explore what makes the Brits so outstanding with two shining examples: the Bentley Continental Flying Spur and the Jaguar F-Type R.

Fit for a Queen

The English mastered luxury and tenacious performance a long time ago.

Bentley’s Continental Flying Spur is the automaker’s flagship vehicle. It proudly houses a twin-turbo 6.0 liter W12 engine, which can bluster up 616 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. This amount of power on tap is enough to propel the 6,000-pound saloon from 0 to 60 in 4.3 seconds and carry on to a 199 mph top speed. An eight speed automatic transmission does its part to keep the ride smooth while managing all the grunt.

It’s unmistakable chrome grille, Jewel headlamps, and flying “B” logo are instantaneously recognizable at first glance. From there, your eyes will follow its classic silhouette, past its distinctive wing vents and to its haunched flank. It’s a car that bears an almost unapologetic stature; it’s proud to be a sedan, and not trying to ape any sporty styling. Like an older gentleman or lady who has aged gracefully, it’s dignified without pretending to be something it is not.

That isn’t to say the Bentley isn’t up for a bit of rough and tumble. Comfort may be key, but the Flying spur can move when it needs to move. Along with the aforementioned power output and acceleration, the suspension settings can be swiftly dialed into a sportier configuration. This makes the Bentley impressively nimble for a car of its size.

Inside is where we really get into what is stunning about the Flying Spur. Hand stitched diamond quilted leather makes up all the surfaces that aren’t made up of the crisp wood veneer. Beyond that, it’s incredibly satisfying to manipulate the dials and knurled metal details on the shift knob. That may sound like a strange thing to say out loud, but flipping the plastic switches in other cars just doesn’t give the same tactile sensation. Here, things feel solid, heavy, and genuine.

And now for something completely different

The English have been a part of motorsport history since the beginning, so it’s no coincidence that a great deal of racing’s iconic drivers and teams originate from the island nation — even if they can’t figure out which side of the street to drive on (we’re joking). That love of sport and racing has transcended the generations, resulting in England producing some of the best handling coupes and roadsters the world has ever seen. Jaguar certainly played its part in this, but of all its vehicles, the E-Type is most legendary. It’s the coupe that Enzo Ferrari himself believed was most beautiful car ever built. A follow-up would have mighty big shoes to fill, so there were a lot of expectations placed on the F-Type.

Did it live up to them? Oh boy, did it.

The Jaguar F-Type is a villain compared to the prim and proper Bentley Flying Spur.

The Jaguar F-Type is a villain compared to the prim and proper Bentley Flying Spur, but what both have in common is their attitude. The exhaust note from the back of this Jaguar is unsurpassed. On the other end of those pipes is a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 that musters up a hearty 550 horsepower. This is delivered to an all-wheel drive system by way of an eight-speed quickshift automatic. As it turns out, that’s the one concession for all the extra power: If you want rear wheel drive and a manual, you’ll need to scale back to the V6 model.

That version’s a lot of fun, too, but once you’ve heard that exhaust and felt the grunt of the V8, it’s too addictive to let go of. Thankfully, this car can back up its roar. Its handling is smooth because its suspension can actively adjust to control pitch and body roll. The suspension, engine response and steering can all be configured to the driver’s preference, too. Want comfort? Dial it in. Want the car to leave you alone? Go for it. Mess with some switches and you can rile the Jaguar into a frenzy; then you can unleash the safeties when you want to try and tame the beast.

On top of its performance, it’s an incredibly attractive coupe that throws practicality away. It can seat two and store a minimum amount of baggage, which is perfect because this car is made for actual driving. That means you have to think about what, or who, comes along for the ride. That stuff you couldn’t fit or that person who got left out? You probably didn’t need ‘em anyway.

The F-type finally got the SVR treatment, too, which means an even fiercer version will hit the streets sometime soon. We can’t wait.

Expats

You may have been shaking your head this whole time and thinking “Hang on, guys, Jaguar is owned by Tata motors, and India-based automaker and Bentley is under the Volkswagen umbrella. How can you say these cars are British?” Cut us some slack, both cars are assembled in Crewe and Birmingham, respectively, with a lot of that being by hand. Jaguar even drove home how just how British the F-Type is with its “Good to be bad” ad campaign, where the villainous coupe was the ride of choice for Hollywood bad guys.

Apart from that, though, both have proven to excel in their both particular fields — luxury and sport. They also both have a twinge of eccentricity that sets them apart from the rest of the pack. The Bentley conveys its luxury with warmth and grace, making passengers feel that much more important than they’d feel in the back of an S-Class. Meanwhile, the Jaguar stuns us with its looks, serenades us with its crackly exhaust, and excites us with dynamic driving.

They both have something extra, which we believe is the spirit of England’s age-old love affair with the car.

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