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Driven: Bentley Flying Spur V8. Image by Bentley.

Driven: Bentley Flying Spur V8
The 'smaller' engine in Bentley's luxury limo. Does downsizing really work in the rarefied echelons of automotive exotica?

 



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Bentley Flying Spur V8

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: supremely smooth ride, beautifully refined drivetrain, exquisite

Not so good: doesn't enjoy being hustled, V8's supposed extra range over W12 not that easy to elicit

Key Facts

Model tested: Bentley Flying Spur V8
Pricing: 136,000 basic; 165,230 as tested
Engine: 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbocharged petrol
Transmission: four-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: 254g/km
Combined economy: 25.9mpg
Top speed: 183mph
0-62mph: 5.2 seconds
Power: 507hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 660Nm at 1,750rpm

Our view:

If you're a captain of industry, or just one of the landed gentry, you've probably got quite a few quid stashed away somewhere. And you're probably also someone who likes the finer things in life, with price tags often an irrelevance to whether you're going to purchase luxury goods or not. So trying to save a bit of cash on fuel bills for your Bentley might seem like the very definition of an exercise of futility.

Nevertheless, this is what the Crewe company has done with the latest Flying Spur saloon. While the car is now more clearly differentiated from the Continental GTs with which is shares a lot of its componentry, there's still a link between the two and there are plenty of V8 offerings in the Conti line-up that are worth looking at instead of the W12-equipped versions. Chief among these is the epic V8 S model, and therefore Bentley has decided to strip the Spur of four cylinders, 125hp and 140Nm in an effort to broaden the model's appeal.

The thing is, though, the Continental - for all the fact it is 2.5 tonnes, all-wheel drive and not the most delicate of performance cars - is supposed to be the sporty one of the range, upholding Bentley's traditions of offering opulence with a bit of driving pleasure. So fitting a lighter-over-the-nose V8 engine makes sense and indeed works in the aforementioned S version.

But the Flying Spur isn't particularly trying to be a driver's car. Instead, Bentley claims the reason for slotting a 4.0-litre, twin-turbo V8 under the bonnet is to increase the car's range to around 500 miles between fill-ups, courtesy of an official combined fuel economy figure of a whisker under 26mpg, thanks to the car running on four cylinders when you're not demanding all of its 507hp. Well, we can say that figure looks wildly optimistic. In a week of (mostly calm) driving, we got 17.9mpg out of the Spur, equating to 244 miles on a tank. Admittedly, we never took it out on a long run to let that figure build up into the 20s, and quite a lot of the Bentley's work was done driving around Nottingham's congested streets, but even so, to get 500 miles out of one tank would require some bizarre combination of a frictionless surface, the right air mix and yet no wind resistance that could surely only exist on one of the moons of Jupiter.

If this sounds like we have a downer on the Flying Spur V8, you couldn't be more wrong. In every respect it is an absolutely wonderful car, although at 165,230 as tested, it really, really ought to be. This second generation of modern Flying Spur is a far more successful stylistic spin-off of the Continental GT than the 2006 to 2013 edition, so much so that 'Continental' has been dropped from the Spur's nameplate. The main visual improvement over its predecessor is obvious when you look at the rear-end treatment, which is much more lithe and athletic in appearance than the old model. V8 signifiers are hard to spot, so that owners don't get W12 envy, but the two main giveaways are red-backed 'B' badges front and rear (12-cylinder Bentleys get black badges) and those tailpipes that look like figure eights on their sides.

There's not a lot to say about the interior, other than it is deserving of every superlative going. Curmudgeons might besmirch the Bentley's quality by pointing out that some of the switchgear can be found in Volkswagens. So what? We all know Bentley is owned by Volkswagen and we all know that Volkswagens are known for comparatively excellent interiors for the price, so why would you redesign perfectly functional dashboard buttons just for the hell of it? If you're looking at the Germanic satnav controls in a Flying Spur's cabin, instead of its hand-stitched, quilted leather interior, or the wonderfully knurled metal rotary dials, or the weighty organ stop controls for the heating system, or the immaculate walnut wood trim, then there's something wrong with you. As a way of carrying four people in ultimate luxury, it's hard to think of anything that could better than this. Apart, possibly, from a Bentley Mulsanne.

The great expectations whipped up by the Bentley's looks are not let down by the drive, but it is fair to say that harrying the Spur along twisting roads is a pointless endeavour. It will charge along working out its bump stops if you ask it to but it never feels entirely comfortable doing so and nor, for that matter, do you as the driver. This is because Bentley has softened the Spur's chassis set-up down to provide comfort and on that score Crewe has absolutely nailed it. We'd stick our necks on the line and say there is nothing on sale today that can ride better than the Flying Spur, which dissipates every rut and pothole into nothingness long before any intrusions can upset the car's well-heeled occupants.

The serene way in which the Bentley floats over rough road surfaces is matched by the creamy power delivery of the drivetrain. Absolutely flatten the accelerator and you can just about hear the V8 roaring away up front, but it's heavily muted in comparison to the Conti GT V8 S. Wind noise and tyre roar are eliminated by the double-glazed glasshouse cutting out unwanted racket. And 507hp, 660Nm and all-wheel drive bless the car with monster pace; it doesn't feel markedly slower than the W12 version. The eight-speed auto is also a peach.

When it comes down to splitting hairs over whether you'd have the V8, with its ever-so-lightly greener drivetrain and cheaper price tag, or the full-fat W12, for the status it bestows, is most likely tangential thinking. As we said at the outset, the comparative costs of the two Flying Spurs are of no consequence to target buyers. And the 500-mile range just doesn't look feasible in the V8. But should you opt for this, ahem, entry-level Spur, you definitely wouldn't feel short-changed, because it's one of the most comprehensively brilliant luxury saloons you're ever likely to encounter.

Alternatives:

Rolls-Royce Ghost II: an almost automatic alternative to the Flying Spur, the Roller costs considerably more at 216,000 and you can still find BMW switchgear inside. Like the Bentley, though, it is a truly lovely thing.

Mercedes-Benz S 63 AMG: a 120,000 technocrat with a 5.5-litre biturbo V8 that comfortably outpunches the Bentley, this German simply doesn't ooze class like the Flying Spur does.

Porsche Panamera Turbo S: this thing drives phenomenally well, making the Bentley seem cumbersome, and it has a superb ride and mega soundtrack too. But those looks... good grief, those looks!


Matt Robinson - 15 Jan 2015









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2014 Bentley Flying Spur V8. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Flying Spur V8. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Flying Spur V8. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Flying Spur V8. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Flying Spur V8. Image by Bentley.

2014 Bentley Flying Spur V8. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Flying Spur V8. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Flying Spur V8. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Flying Spur V8. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Flying Spur V8. Image by Bentley.



2014 Bentley Flying Spur V8. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Flying Spur V8. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Flying Spur V8. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Flying Spur V8. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Flying Spur V8. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Flying Spur V8. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Flying Spur V8. Image by Bentley.
 

 






 

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