Of all the new metal on show at Geneva this year, perhaps the most important for the UAE is Bentley's new Flying Spur
The new Flying Spur will undoubtedly be a pivotal model for Bentley's sales success in the UAE
There's no doubt that Geneva 2013 provided plenty of optimism for cashed-up folk who enjoy driving. Heck, even Rolls-Royce got in on the act with its two-door Wraith.
However, stepping away from the fantasies of LaFerrari and the absurd Lamborghini Veneno, of more significance to the well-heeled Middle Eastern customer was sitting on the Bentley stand.
In contrast to last year's Geneva show, when the EXP 9 F concept SUV made headlines around the world and was touted as the next big thing for the Middle East, the Flying Spur was subdued but more meaningful.
While talk of the SUV was virtually non-existent amid speculation it's not the certainty we were initially led to believe, the all-new Flying Spur was possibly the most noteworthy car in Geneva for this region.
Bentley saloons are big news in the Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia, so while the Mulsanne caters for the extreme high end, the Flying Spur remains the cornerstone of Bentley's range here.
With that, one of the key interior features in the 2014 Flying Spur was developed largely with the Middle East in mind. Rear seat passengers can now download a smartphone app or eject the phone-like device from the centre console cradle to alter the climate control settings, seat cooling functions, sat nav and multimedia systems.
It is a system that was developed by Bentley, rather than borrowed from another arm of the VW empire, and is partly the result of discussions with local customers, particularly women in Saudi Arabia who can now control the systems on their own without having to ask the chauffeur.
The new Flying Spur also has its own Wi-Fi connectivity allowing portable devices, laptops and tablet computers to connect to the internet, and includes 64GB of internal storage capacity. Two LCD screens are installed in the backs of the front seat while top-loading multimedia players sit in pockets beneath.
A V8 Flying Spur will follow later but, in the meantime, the 6.0L, W12 cylinder engine is standard. Developing 616hp, it's the most powerful four-door model in the range.
With 800Nm of torque on tap, coupled to an eight-speed ZF transmission and despite weighing in at 2,475kg, the Spur has a 14 per cent better power-to-weight ratio over the old model, allowing it to reach 100 kph in 4.3 seconds, on its way to a terminal speed of 322 kph.
Unlike the previous Flying Spur, which looked like a four-door version of the Continental GT, this 2013 model distinguishes itself from the Coupé with fresh lines that take in a beefy 'Coke-bottle' hip similar to the Mulsanne, and a more distinctive tail. Meanwhile, the interior has also come in for a makeover to differentiate it from the Conti, and rear seat passengers get even more legroom, making it one of the most spacious on the market.
With the changing dynamics of the global industry, Bentley has to look at China, the Middle East and the United States for most of its sales, so the four-door range is crucial. In China, Bentley's dealer network has grown five-fold since 2011, at the same time as Middle Eastern sales have hit record highs. Its traditional heartland of the UK now represents just 10 per cent of its volume.
When it reaches the showrooms here in the summer, prices are expected to stay the same as the outgoing model and, for the foreseeable future, this remains a more palatable proposition than the controversial SUV.