Bentley Flying Spur review


What is?

Well, first of all, quite handsome. Notice the proportions: the feeling that the front wheels have been pushed forward, the windshield tilted back sympathetically, the way it sits on its wheels. In profile, it’s a damn good design. We’ve never been able to say that about a Flying Spur before.

Well, not since the badge first appeared on a four-door in 1957. It’s an element of design director Arthur Taylor Johnstone’s heraldic crest that gave the car its name. The badge returned in 2005, adorning a sedan version of the first-generation Continental GT. It wasn’t attractive, but Bentley sold 37,000. The problem was that the latest-generation Flying Spur, even after its facelift in 2013, was a driver’s car, not the driver’s. It looked and felt too heavy on the nose. Better to sit in the back.

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Is it now a car for the driver then?

Instead. Especially if you choose the “entry level” V8. Not “entry level” like Dacia, blacked out bumpers and broken stereo. It’s a sleeker, cleaner, and slightly less powerful car than the top-tier W12. Power sets are 542 hp for the V8 and 626 hp for the W12. Both are twin-turbo units, with the W12 taking you to 62mph 0.3 seconds quicker (3.8 seconds).

Isn’t there a third engine?

There’s a 3.0-liter hybrid V6, which puts a 134-hp electric motor between the engine and gearbox. Same total system power as the V8 and same price (£155,500). Not a great hybrid though: small battery, insufficient range, very slow charging. Bentley says it will do 30 miles on electricity at up to 84 mph. Not both at the same time, that’s for sure. The reality is more like 20 miles, and charging the 14.1kWh takes at least two hours. It is an AC charge only.

How is the technology underneath?

Whichever model you choose, it’s longer and wider than before and lighter. Crucially, the axles are now 130mm apart, the chassis (all new and all-aluminum, body too) has an optional 48-volt electrical system that runs an active stabilizer bar and four-wheel steering. The four-wheel drive system is more rear-facing, the gearbox is not a regular automatic but a dual-clutch eight-speed.

It is a much more dynamic car than before. Rear steering, more torque at the rear axle, the driver sat further back on a longer wheelbase and a top speed of 207 mph if he opted for the full W12. It even has launch control.

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Jeepers. The limousine is as fast as the Continental GT…

Correct. It’s not much heavier, and most of these features (except rear steering) are taken from the current Continental GT coupe. But beyond that, it feels like Bentley has put a lot of thought into how and where to put this car. To emphasize, owners will be just as happy to be seen driving as they are to be driven. It’s a smart move and should give it broader global appeal, but also set it apart from the regular chauffeured stuff (who these days would buy an S-Class to drive solo?).

It’s a profoundly intelligent car, bridging the gap between driver and driver more completely than any other luxury sedan. German brands may be more affordable, but they are also more generic, hard to differentiate and lack presence. Cars for the destination, not for the journey.

Our choice of the range.

Side Bentley Flying Spur
4.0 V8 4 doors automatic

What’s the verdict?

The hottest four-door luxury sedan on sale today

You like driving? This is perhaps the most compelling four-door sedan Bentley has ever built since the anachronistic Arnage. It uses technology very effectively but does not allow it to dominate. The hybrid doesn’t have the road manners of the easier V8s and W12s, but it’s a useful urban dodge for the wealthy and in other areas a fast, confident and truly luxurious sedan. Turbo S and much more comfortable. And for enthusiasts, the cabin’s spaciousness, design and feel set it apart from anything a conventional brand has to offer.

The Flying Spur is a very, very compelling car, beautiful and majestic enough to usurp the now deceased Mulsanne, more personalized and special than a Bentayga, possibly an even bigger step forward than the Continental GT. The best advertisement for the return of the four-door sedan we’ve driven in years.

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