What is it?
The latest version of Bentley's Flying Spur luxury saloon. It's a different proposition to the various flavours of Continental GT now on offer and is also deliberately less ‘sporty’ than its predecessor. This is the new V8 version and despite downsizing from a 6-litre W12 to just 4-litres (supplemented by two turbochargers, naturally) it’s still endowed with 500bhp at 6000rpm and 486lb ft.
Although those numbers pale compared to the W12’s 616bhp and 590lb ft, the claimed 0-60mph in 4.9-seconds and top speed of 183mph should be mostly adequate. The Flying Spur V8 costs from £136,000, around £14,000 less than the W12, and is a bit lighter, too. Don’t get too excited: it’s still 2425kg.
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Our test car’s shimmering Silverlake Blue and modest 19-inch wheel combo is a million miles away from the brash colour schemes beloved of people who run around after a ball and fall over a lot at weekends. In fact it’s about as restrained as a 5.3-metre saloon car with a socking great wire mesh grille can be.
Inside it’s simply beautiful and the quality in every little detail, the tactility of the materials and the sense of opulence is shamefully pleasing. In terms of technology it’s not a patch on, say, the new Mercedes S-class (and the Sat Nav is still bloody terrible), but there’s a timelessness about it that is hard to beat.
What's it like to drive?
Dynamically, the Flying Spur is resolutely not sporting. At all. It’s bloody fast, the 4-litre V8 is a really sweet, progressive engine and the eight-speed gearbox is just about quick enough – although it lacks the precision and speed of the same ’box in cars like the F-type R Coupe – but it’s not a car to carry speed into corners or attempt to hustle.
There are clues to its relaxed brief immediately: the elevated driving position, the fact that the gearshift paddles are a stretch too far to use comfortably and the light, slightly vague steering. These subtle messages tell you not to expect the surprising agility and body control of a Continental GT.
Having said that, the ride quality of the air-suspended Flying Spur is never as smooth as you might expect. You feel little surface ripples shudder up through the structure and there’s a bit of steering kickback over bigger lumps and bumps, too.
Dial the suspension to its stiffest of four settings and it actually feels more composed, and although there’s always plenty of body roll, vertical body movements are kept well in check and you can storm along the ground at quite a pace. The engine doesn’t quite have the ever-ready torque characteristics of the W12 but it sounds great and has a free-revving top-end delivery that’s more enjoyable.
Anything else I need to know?
In terms of ultimate handing balance… Well, if you’re really pushing along a 2425kg car of this size you’ve probably just stolen it. But for the thieves amongst you, the Flying Spur tends towards understeer but will exit a corner with a hint of oversteer if you get the V8 spinning hard. I dare you to try it… Most of the time you’ll just sit back, relax and be swept along by the whole Flying Spur V8 experience. It’s not the fastest or the most sophisticated but it’s a pretty glorious way to get around if you’re not in a hurry.
|Engine||V8, 3997cc, twin-turbo|
|Power||500bhp @ 6000rpm|
|Torque||486lb ft @ 1700rpm|
|Top speed (claimed)||183mph|