What is it?
The purpose of a UK first drive, according to Autocar’s long and detailed test procedure, is to discover how a car that’s already been tested in foreign parts copes with this country’s very different roads.
There’s usually a major difference between the way a model first tested in Germany, say, copes with our own peculiar cambers, corners and crowns. And of course with our variety of surfaces (usually bad) with their built-in ruts and bumps.
So let’s deal first with the dynamic stuff in the case of the Bentley Flying Spur, which we first drove in Monaco late last year. The plain fact is that this £168,000 luxury saloon, with its sophisticated three-chamber adjustable air suspension, long wheelbase, considerable weight (helpful at a time like this) and years of painstaking development copes just as well in this country as in Germany or anywhere else.
At 5.3 metres of overall length, and over 2.2 metres of width (with mirrors) it may not fit comfortably down every London suburban street, but point it at any surface, corner or combination of bumps and you can more or less guarantee it’ll cope with greater quietness, comfort or poise than anything comparable, with the single exception — perhaps — of the latest Rolls-Royce Phantom. And we’d have to test even that to be quite sure.
Left to its own devices, with its ride mode selector in “Bentley”, the wise engineers’ choice, the Spur is the closest thing you’ll find to that mythical magic carpet, absorbing bumps quietly with near-perfect body control. And it has all the silence and the interior comfort needed to complement these qualities.
However, ride comfort is far from being the full Flying Spur story. Bentley’s bag has always been multiplicity if purposes: performance is also a principal issue. This car has the sheer shove to do 207mph flat-out, if you can find the road. Courtesy of its superior 4wd traction, it can also accelerate from 0-60mph in 3.7seconds, a Ferrari-beating time.
It’ll even cope pretty well at full noise on a racetrack because the Pirellis on its optional 22-inch wheels (the standard size is 21-inch) have been chosen as much for grip and consistency at 1g cornering speeds as for mild manners in town. And that three-chamber air suspension — which uses one chamber for the firmest ride rate, all three chambers for the most compliant — has a Sport setting that more or less eliminates body roll, squat or nosedive under the most unlikely track-day use.