From £132,800
The new Spur is a genuine luxury saloon in size and it has a cabin of rare opulence - but is that enough to see off the opposition?

Our Verdict

Bentley Flying Spur

This second-generation Flying Spur changes tack in its quest to become a slicker limousine

What is it?

It’s Bentley’s latest; the new Flying Spur luxury saloon. 

Note it’s no longer a Bentley Continental Flying Spur. Bentley wants to put clear air between the Spur and the Conti coupé/convertible, hence some new visual differences at the nose. It’s the outer rather than inner pair of front lights that is bigger on the Spur, while a chrome horizontal strip makes its way onto the lower grille.

Pretty subtle, but both form part of a thorough redesign that includes more muscular rear haunches beside a tail that otherwise drops heavily at the rear – a bit reminiscent of a Bristol Blenheim. You won’t mistake the new Flying Spur for the old one from the back.

The rest of the redesign is just as thorough. As with the Continental that launched last year, this isn’t an all-new platform, but is comprehensively re-engineered.

Some of the stand-out technical changes to this 5.3-metre long saloon are an increase in body rigidity of four per cent, alongside a drop in weight of 50kg (though a steel monocoque, there are some aluminium panels at the front and plastic ones at the rear), and the fitment of ZF’s eight-speed automatic gearbox instead of a six-speed.

The W12 engine, meanwhile, arrives here in 616bhp form, making this Bentley’s most powerful-ever four-door. The top speed is quoted (probably conservatively) at 200mph, and 0-60mph at 4.3sec. It’s pretty decadent at the pumps too; at the moment the Spur is only available with the W12 engine, which means 19.2mpg and 343g/km.

Inside, there are a few carried-over parts around the dashboard, but the rest of it is new, although familiar in feel. You know the sort of thing. Lots of leather.

The most significant alterations to the new Flying Spur, as we’ll see, are to the suspension. The old Spur never rode particularly calmly, particularly for customers in its primary markets – China (where more than half of Flying Spurs are sold) and the USA.

So, this time around spring rates have been dropped by 10 and 13 per cent front and rear respectively, with anti-roll bars softened 13 and 15 per cent, while bushes are 25 per cent softer and the standard tyres, running on 19in rims, have a higher aspect ratio.

What's it like?

Better, no question. From the off, you can tell that the Flying Spur rides with more maturity than its predecessor; it’s calmer and softer around town.

It’s quiet, too. If there’s any hint of additional ambient noise, the Spur is the kind of car in which you have to look at the tachometer to see if it’s running. Step-off from rest is suitably easy, the throttle pedal long and the brakes easy to modulate. It’s a simple car to run (or be run) around town in.

Up the speeds on motorways and it’s a similar story. The W12 engine remains über quiet at speed, other noise seems well suppressed and the gearbox shifts cleanly enough. The steering’s very stable around the straight ahead, too. I only took the car up to UK motorway speeds, but it feels like it’ll stay that way well beyond three-figures. 

That’s one of the advantages of engineering a car for 200mph, says Bentley: customers might not do that speed, but Bentley would make a very different car if it didn’t have to engineer it that way. 

One of the disadvantages, I wonder, is whether the Flying Spur isn’t all the luxury car it could be because of that duality of purpose. True, it rides better than the old car by a truly significant margin, but its air suspension still brings with it a “sproing” (er, technical term…honest), a slightly hollow thud to it. It’s less isolated from the road surface than a Rolls-Royce Ghost, you feel. 

And, if you’re on anything other than straightish, smooth roads, this 2475kg, 1976mm wide car brings with it some sizeable body movements. The previous solution to containing them was by tying the suspension down hard.

Given the customer has said that’s no longer acceptable - and it really wasn’t - the alternative has been to set those movements freer. Some customers might find them too free, though; that there’s too much float in some circumstances, while not being compliant enough in others, occasionally both at the same time. 

The Spur’s dampers can be switched through four settings: we’ll need to drive it in the UK, but one down from Sport struck me as the best compromise. For my money, though, an Aston Rapide, which of course has the advantage of being about a half-tonne lighter, better blends ride and handling (and steering).

Inside, the Spur feels, as its £140,000-£150,000 price suggests it should, a cut above top-end luxury cars from more mainstream manufacturers. Functionality is in some places excellent (rear passengers get a superb controller for audio/climate functions and the like), but a little clunkier in others (the front touch-screen and sat-nav is not VW Group’s best). Overall, though, the cabin feels pretty special.

Should I buy one?

If you’re in the market, there’s every chance. The Flying Spur’s advantage is the amount of clear air around it.

Big Audis and BMWs feel out of their price bracket when you give them 12 cylinders, while a Rolls-Royce Ghost wants more than £170,000 and the Aston Martin Rapide – while a lovely car to drive – is short on room for rear occupants.

A Range Rover probably feels special enough to compete, but maybe doesn’t say enough: the Chinese, in particular, are still keen on big saloons to imply status. Seemingly, the longer and blacker the better - and the Spur fits right in.

It’s a genuine luxury saloon in size and has a cabin of rare opulence. That makes it easier to overlook some of its foibles.

Bentley Flying Spur

Price £14,900; 0-62mph 4.3sec; Top speed 200mph; Economy 19.2mpg; CO2 343g/km; Kerb weight 2475kg; Engine W12, 5998cc, twin-turbo, petrol; Power 616bhp; Torque 590lb ft; Gearbox 8-spd automatic. 

Join the debate

Comments
21

14 May 2013

Big Audis and BMWs feel out of their price bracket when you give them 12 cylinders, while a Rolls-Royce Ghost wants more than £170,000 and the Aston Martin Rapide – while a lovely car to drive – is short on room for rear occupants.

What, no mention of the Jag XJ?! Blimey!

R32

14 May 2013

The Ghost is actually £200,500 not £170,000 - and I'd sooner have the Ghost thank you.

Such a shame Bentley couldn't have done better with the rear end styling - it really is quite awful.  Interior looks nice though but perhaps the forthcoming V8 will actually prove to be the better Flying Spur.

I think all Bentleys should be V8s not VW-sourced W12s.

14 May 2013

R32 wrote:

I think all Bentleys should be V8s not VW-sourced W12s.

And where do you suppose the V8 used in the Continential comes from?

R32

15 May 2013

I wasn't referring to the source - just the configuration.  Smart Alec.

14 May 2013

British (and, yes, I know, a bit of German!)  engineering at its best.  While I agree that the rear end could be a bit nicer to look at it is still going to be one of the most desireable cars on the road when it goes on sale.

It does make me wonder why anybody would buy the Mulsanne though, when this is so much cheaper and has so much performance and so much space and luxury.

I'd rather have this than the Ghost (fantastic car that that is) though, because at least the doors open the right way on the Bentley!!

14 May 2013

well that leaves the next S600 then as the closest rival

twitter @anikadamali, @notPCnairobi

14 May 2013


 Autocar wrote:

Functionality is in some places excellent, but a little clunkier in others (the front touch-screen and sat-nav is not VW Group’s best).

I am sorry but in this price range is that really acceptable


15 May 2013

probably not, but apart from the tech brigade will actual buyers of this car really care?

twitter @anikadamali, @notPCnairobi

15 May 2013

Citytiger wrote:


 Autocar wrote:

Functionality is in some places excellent, but a little clunkier in others (the front touch-screen and sat-nav is not VW Group’s best).

I am sorry but in this price range is that really acceptable


And that's the problem I have with modern Bentleys. I cannot remove from my mind that these aren't just blinged up Passats. Also no mention of it's strongest rival - S-Klasse which will ride properly, hug A-road apexes and have an intuitive infotainment system. 

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