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?

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. 

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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.

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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. 

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MrBlobby 16 May 2013

A Masterpiece

This car is truly the most masterful exercise in automotive design that it has ever been my extraordinary luck to experience.  It's fine wide lines, the sheer beauty of it's girth.   I's sheer bulk!  Oh! the personification of weight itself.  It's bloatedness from ever angle...  Just perfect.

Will they do me one in pink with yellow spots, please?

Blobbyblobbyblobby

sasbeer 15 May 2013

Until one approaches a corner

Until one approaches a corner that is.

jmd67 15 May 2013

Rear lights!!!

Those rear lights are wroong, wrong, wrong... I like the downward swooping tail but the lights just don't sit right. Far too small for such a large car. Apart from that pretty nice!

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