A morning of slapstick slides on a carved-out course proves the Spur’s active all-wheel drive system has our best interests at heart. Switch the knurled dial into Sport and the rear axle always receives at least 69% of the power. Ally such bias to a long wheelbase and big, silly drifts are as accessible as you’d hope, but the best news is that you get a small but arguably even more satisfying taster of this ability on road.
On the slushy, gritted roads nearby, slightly looser ESC reins allow just a hint of oversteer in second- and third-gear corners before all four wheels hook up and haul you forwards with nary any fuss. Four-wheel steer is carried over from other Spurs and allows the Speed to deftly play the role of a sports saloon, albeit one that doesn’t stampede firmly across a road, instead working assuredly with it. It’s uncannily good fun for something nudging 2.5 tonnes and it’s ceaselessly impressive that a car so focused on cosseting comfort can provide such interaction when you demand it.
That’s the crucial bit. At all other times this is the effortless limo you’d rightly expect it to be at such a stern price point, but the distinct personalities uncovered by switching the drive mode dial between its default Bentley and Sport settings provide some neat duality. A duality that’s echoed in the W12 that we’ll soon be talking about in past tenses and reverent tones.
Indulge yourself in a Launch Control start – or more realistically, get a little overexcited after a long wait at a freeway red light – and there’s a classy snarl and some heart-warming upshift wuffles as the engine and smartly tuned ZF eight-speed automatic combine to prove the car's startling, sub-4.0sec acceleration. But the moment your foot eases from the throttle, tranquillity is restored. The tachometer sits well below 1500rpm on a 70mph cruise although you might inadvertently leave the gearbox in the more dynamic map of Sport mode. That it’s just as hushed sat in sixth gear as eighth really hammers home how refined this thing is.
All told, this is a supremely engineered powertrain reaching its zenith, and it’s of great credit to the rest of the Flying Spur’s dynamic traits that they meld so convincingly around it to form a deeply satisfying whole. The lighter, freer-revving Flying Spur V8 S is probably more dynamic still, but a drive in the Speed can’t help but be underlined by its context. Bentley says W12 build slots are now supremely limited, whichever of its cars you feel like hurriedly slotting one into. I’d want it to be this one.