Bentley Flying Spur V8 review - the best current Bentley
New ‘entry-level’ Bentley Flying Spur is the pick of the limos.
Bentley is heading towards its EV-only future and this oncoming transition means we’re witnessing the beginning of the end of being able to buy any new Bentley with V8 power, an engine which when fitted to the Flying Spur creates possibly the company’s best all round car. Yes, it has less power than the mighty W12 model and is a slower as a result, but just as Alpine’s A110 works better than its more powerful S big brother and Porsche’s 911 Carrera would be our choice over a Carrera S, the smaller engined Flying Spur is the pick of the range.
Engine, transmission and 0-60mph time
It’s a VW Group car so therefore the V8 in the Flying Spur is the same one fitted to everything from Audis to Lamborghinis and Porsches, too.
The twin-turbocharged hot-vee 4-litre V8 features twin-scroll turbochargers with individual parallel flow channels in the turbine housing to provide higher torque levels at lower engine speeds.
An iron coating is also applied to the cylinder bores using a plasma spray process to improve wear and protect against stresses. Meanwhile, cylinder deactivation technology shuts down four cylinders during light engine loads (below 173lb ft and 3000rpm) to improve fuel efficiency by as much as 16 percent.
Peak power is 542bhp and arrives at 6000rpm with 568lb ft of torque available across a 2500rpm window starting from 2000rpm. It’s sent to all four corners of the Flying Spur’s chassis via an adaptive four-wheel drive system and a ZF eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Four driving modes are available - Comfort, Sport, Bentley and Individual - with the Bentley mode pre-set by the engineering team to deliver the best of everything.
Against the clock the V8 Flying Spur will reach 60mph in four seconds and top 198mph, which for a car weighing 2330kg is no mean feat. The V8 engine weighs 65kg less than the mighty W12.
Continuing with the oily bits, three chamber adaptive air suspension, torque vectoring by braking, the drive dynamics control system and electronic powering steering are all standard features. Lighter front and rear anti-roll bars are also fitted to the V8, with Bentley’s 48-volt electronic active anti-roll control system and dynamic ride system both available as an option. So, too, is four wheel steering.
As with the W12, the V8’s adaptive four-wheel drive system sends drive to the rear axle the majority of the time, only distributing torque to the front axle when the algorithms think it’s required.
Iron brake discs are standard, with mammoth 420mm discs and 10-piston calipers fitted to the front axle and 380mm discs with four-piston calipers at the rear. 20-inch wheels are standard, with three 21-inch designs and one 22-inch design also available as options. Tyre sizes range from a 264/45ZR20 on the front and 295/40ZR20 for rears, to 265/40 and 305/35x21 and 275/35 with 315/30x22s.
Aluminium is used for the front double wishbones and multi-link rear suspension design, while continuous damping control accompanies the air-springs. Steel and aluminium is used to construct the Flying Spur’s monocoque chassis with superformed aluminium used to create the exterior panels, while the boot lid is made from composite. There are also full LED matrix headlamps, DRLs and tail lamps with high beam assist is standard.
Inside you’ll find Bentley’s new 12.3 inch touchscreen infotainment system, which includes HDD navigation, Bluetooth and WiFi streaming. Apple CarPlay and Sirius satellite radio are also included along with a 60GB solid-state harddrive. Bentley’s rotating display, which switches between the touchscreen interface, three analogue dials or an unbroken strip of your dash finish of choice, is a £4,820 option.
A 650W 10-speaker system is fitted as standard, with a 1500W, 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen and 2,200W 19-speaker Naim system both offered as options.
Dive further into the options and £15,345 buys you the Mulliner Driving specification, which includes 22-inch wheels, diamond quilted leather, three dimensional door panels and sports pedals. You also get a special finish to the fuel filler cap, embroidered Bentley emblems on the seats and a metal oil cap.
Touring specification (£6415) adds lane assist, adaptive cruise control, Bentley Safeguard Plus, night vision and a head-up display. A further £4060 gets you City Specification (auto-dimming mirrors, city assist, hands-free boot opening, pedestrian warning, a reversing and top view camera and traffic sign recognition). Still going? Okay, you might want to consider the Styling specification at £9090 (high gloss carbon fibre front splitter, rear lip spoiler, diffuser and branded side sills).
What’s it like to drive?
Nothing like your preconceptions would have you believe of a 5.3-metre car weighing 2330kg. We knew the fitment of the lighter V8 engine would improve an already good package, because it did just that when the same strategy was applied to the Continental GT. What we perhaps weren’t expecting was such a big step up.
There's a 107kg weight difference between the W12 and V8 Flying Spurs, and while that might equal less than five percent of total weight it adds considerably more to how the smaller engined car drives.
It feels lighter on its Pirellis, with the sensation that the W12 is pushing the tarmac into submission replaced with a sense that the V8 is able to work better with the surface and around the challenges. It’s at its most noticeable when you begin to drive a little harder, with the combination of the V8’s sharper reactions and more eager nature matched to the Flying Spur’s more natural approach to a dynamic challenge. It’s a calmer car to drive quickly, requiring fewer inputs to keep the nose where you want it go and when you ask it to react with very short notice it doesn’t leave you high and dry, worrying how you’re going to explain the sizable hole you’ve just created.
Much of the V8 Flying Spur’s ability can be traced to its three-chamber air-suspension and active dampers. With both W12 engined cars - Conti and Spur - it feels at its limit, working against the weight distribution and the nature of the car’s performance delivery, but with the lighter engine and improved weight distribution it feels perfectly suited to the Spur V8 and is certainly the best integration of the system we’ve experienced.
It manages body roll in such a controlled manner you barely notice it until you need to. Likewise pitch and yaw don’t leap out at you or shock, rather the system manages the movement to give the right level of feedback to let you know what’s going on and what is required to manage it. It makes for a deceptively quick and unexpected cross country machine.
Add to this the ability to master monster mileage with an effortlessness and grace few can match and an interior that you never want to get out of and it’s not long before you’re fighting your beliefs on how cars should be all circa 1000kg, short of wheelbase and with a naturally aspirated engine and manual gearbox.
Yes, it’s easy to be carried away by the opulence and grandeur of a hand finished car where quality exudes from every component, but it’s also hard not to be impressed by the best car Bentley current makes.
Price and rivals
£153,900 is Bentley’s asking price for a V8 engined Flying Spur (£22,000 less than a W12) and by the time you add options (and you will) you’re getting close to £200,000. Ouch. Then again, a new Rolls Royce Ghost starts at £233,235 and it doesn’t drive as well as the Spur regardless of the engine installed by the folk at Crewe.
Elsewhere a new S500 4Matic Mercedes-Benz S Class starts at £100,035. Our advice would be to buy the Bentley.