Had our new Flying Spur not had rear wheels that (below 60mph) turn progressively in the opposite direction to the fronts as the driver applies lock — thus dramatically sharpening the car’s low-speed turning circle — our departure from Casino Square would have had to include some unedifying back-and-fill manoeuvres, the last thing you want when trying to cut a dash. Instead, the new Bentley negotiated the available road space with imperious precision and we glided up the hill towards wider roads — where I learned that over 60mph the rear wheels turn at microscopic angles in the same direction as the fronts, stabilising the car in abrupt lane-changing manoeuvres.
As it happens, this four-wheel steering is the perfect flag-carrier for an overall ability Bentley wants to stress about the new Flying Spur: its duality of purpose. It is a luxury car for the owner either to drive or be driven in. Its smart 4x4 system means it’ll cope in tough as well as perfect driving conditions. Its quality means it is robust though there aren’t many on the road. And best of all, it mixes super-luxury with high performance.
Trouble is, practically everyone in the expensive car game makes claims about delivering performance with luxury. There’s a danger of Bentley’s claims being lost in a melee of high-sounding verbiage — until you spend time in the new Flying Spur and establish beyond doubt that this mighty, all-British saloon can accelerate like a Macca and ride like a Rolls.
What level of performance can the Flying Spur deliver?
Its revised 5950cc W12 — now delivering an amazingly efficient 626bhp courtesy of with different high- and low-speed induction systems and a low-load cylinder cut-off system‚ propels the car to a 207mph and delivers stupendous 0-60mph acceleration of 3.7 seconds. These figures shoot holes in the performance of the previous model, whose top speed was a miserable 193mph. Still talking duality, the new Flying Spur’s four-mode, three-chamber air suspension (with 48-volt active roll-control) even allows it to do well on a track. Duality of purpose? Plurality might be a better.
Bentley claims the only meaningful thing this new Flying Spur shares with its predecessor is the name, and its much experienced project leader Peter Guest reckons its design, development and manufacture have thoroughly utilised the Crewe company’s full capabilities. It’s not enough these days to say this is an aluminium car: its monocoque sub-structure contains aluminium, steel and composites while the exterior panels are in superformed aluminium. The whole thing weighs 2437kg, respectable for a 6.0-litre W12 limo.
You’d be wrong to regard the Flying Spur as some kind of one-off, though, unrelated to other group designs. Major elements of its make-up, including the rear suspension, have a close relationship with the Porsche Panamera. Indeed, Bentley insiders say one of the best things about this car is that when group big-car decisions were made, they were able to pitch as early as the rest. In front of the windsceen, the Flying Spur bears a strong resemblance to the recently launched and much lauded Continental GT.
It’s a handsome beast. More haunchy than the outgoing car and with better-defined muscles front and rear to match its extra performance. It rolls on either 21- or 22-inch wheels (smaller previously) and the design especially benefits from the fact that the new package has moved the front wheels six inches forward as on the new GT. Details are designed with the care we expect from Bentley; features like its “cut crystal-effect” round LED headlights and new wraparound tail lights, and there’s now a new, retracting Flying B bonnet motif, perhaps to sharpen the rivalry with Rolls-Royce.