Bentley Flying Spur - The Wizard of Crewe
Bentley’s new Flying Spur not only replaces the car that went before it, but also the soon-to-be-retired Mulsanne. So it needs to be bloody good to pull it off. Have the crew from Crewe yanked one out of the hat?
If you’re not a Bentley Boy, you might not know that the cars with the Flying B come from a place called Crewe, in the UK where the company has had its HQ since 1946. And the latest wheels to roll from the famous factory are those of the new Flying Spur, a recent arrival in the country. While this latest Spur has the lofty ambition to replace two cars, it is also tasked with delighting both those who like to take the wheel and those who prefer to lounge in the back, so a sports car and a limo in one. Easy then.
Helping spice this Spur, it slips on to the same platform as the new Continental GT and it uses the same W12 with its plentiful yet refined outputs. An automotive Brodie Retallick, this Bentley is a beast, yet it’s crazy quick and freakishly dynamic. It has a collection of magical contraptions to help tame the corners akin to having Merlin, Gandalf and Dumbeldore all working to subdue the evils of physics.
With the front axle having been pushed forward on the new platform, the weight balance improves, with the front axle poked through the sump of the W12, while the AWD is now variable. It operates chiefly as a rear driver, feeding the fronts when need be. This aids the initial turn in, the front wheels concerned only with steering, but also traction on exit when all four wheels are deployed to ground the grunt. It works seamlessly too; you wouldn’t otherwise know.
And then there’s the brake-biased torque vectoring on each axle helping it stay true to its line. It’s perhaps the addition of rear-wheel steering that brings the most benefit. The Spur turns deftly, and holds on firmly to that defined line the front wheels scribe around the bend. It’s hard to engender a hint of push up front, while there’s a dash of life to the steering too. Voluminous three-chamber air springs suspend the Spur and with adaptive damping tech and ride height sensors, they deliver a cultivated, even ride in the Bentley (or adaptive) mode. They firm appropriately in Sport, though you can expect more bumps as a result. Despite the Spur’s epic proportions and accompanying mass, its active sway bars, which tune the roll stiffness on the go, lord over the wallow, making this two and a half tonne floating palace stick to the tarmac in ways it just shouldn’t.
But weight is always the enemy of pure dynamics and this never really shrugs that off; it’s sporty for sure, but always feels big. Thankfully the brakes are reassuringly good; they maul the velocity back when things get a bit hot. So we’re not sure this is ‘the world’s most engaging Grand Tourer’ as Bentley pontificates; that’s probably the Panamera, but the Spur is one hell of a sporty limo.
With the W12, you’ll want for nothing in terms of go, with masses of low end pull, it rolls on superbly in gear. At full noise, it swings like a grumpy gorilla, a wave of almighty oomph thrusting from 2500rpm through to 6000. The eight-stage twin-clutch gets it in the mood too, sweet and swift with the shifts, with no need to use the paddles.
It’s fast enough; stall it up in Sport and hello, there’s a launch mode, the engine bouncing away at 4000rpm before you step off the brake and send the Spur flying to 100 in 3.9sec. And it takes mere moments to overtake, hurtling through 80-120km/h in two seconds flat.
Flick the drive mode back to Comfort, and it’s a whispering cocoon of pleasurable passage. For while it can run riot, it’s going to be mooching about for most outings. This is a big rolling lounge with massive presence; it’s huge, long and wide. Yet with rear-wheel steer, it can turn around in spaces that big cars usually can’t. The steering too is quick (2.4 turns) and easy in Comfort, the wheel sensibly sized rather than overly large for the sake of it.
The eight-speed twin-clutch is remarkably refined, once she’s all warmed up. There’s a smooth creep and it slips through the ratios, the protocols programmed for cream when the going is slow. There are the occasional driveline snatches, but then just try taming something that has 900Nm churning through it. It means you’re never lingering, waiting for action; you’re off on a whiff of gas and across the intersection before the others have even thought about moving. That’s the advantage of AWD, nothing is wasted. Along with cylinder deactivation, there’s idle stop/start, which is smooth in action, though the kill switch is easily located if you’d prefer it just didn’t. Fuel use is high however, mid-teens at best, but a 90L tank lets it range wide.
While this doesn’t quite blot all imperfections at town speeds, the ride is otherwise settled, suspension noises well muted. There’s a decent parking camera although it’s not quite enough to overcome the sizeable blindspots when reversing, created by the substantial pillars.
But for those who are driven, that will be Parker’s problem. The large rear doors make for easy access and, once ensconced, one’s bonce can luxuriate on the pillowed headrest after motoring the seat into its recline mode for some shut-eye on the move. It’s a two-plus-one type seating arrangement, though no one will really feel comfortable perched in the middle. But otherwise it’s spacious and comfortable with a mix of new tech and old luxury charms. The boot is oddly narrow, but wide enough at the front to take the golf sticks while there’s more than enough space for the Louis Vuitton luggage.
Up front the cabin’s exquisitely lined, with fine, hand-stitched leather everywhere. The seats are big and encompassing, accommodating of a frame nourished more with beef than broccoli. They adjust every which way and deliver a thorough massaging too.
Bentley has been a tad heavy on the bright work however, while some of the diamond knurling is a touch blingy. But they’ve managed to blend the modern mass of screens and associated gimmicks with the old-worldly charms of a Bentley, like the organ pulls for the ventilation.
There’s a mass of buttons on the console, while there’s plenty to fiddle with on the touchscreen, like making the Flying B hood ornament disappear and reappear to amuse passersby. Up until recently, Bentley has emphasised the opulence and power while skirting technology but the new models come with all the conveniences and driver aids, including extras like night vision. As to how much it all costs, and what the process involves, read our report on the ordering process here
Model Bentley Flying Spur Price $420,000
Engine 5950cc, V12, T/DI, 467kW/900Nm
Transmission 8-speed twin-clutch, on-demand AWD
Vitals 3.89sec 0-100km/h, 14.8L/100km, 337g/km, 2485kg