What is it?
Choosing a Bentley Flying Spur used to be a simple affair with its well-heeled buyers having a straight decision between the power of the W12 and the poise of the V8, but now Bentley has made things a little more complicated.
While there are no new powertrains, the line-up has been punctuated with models that display a sportier character to give owners a ‘real sense of Bentley’s racing heritage’.
Here we are driving the V8S, but Bentley has also introduced a W12S and given both cars the same uprated suspension and sportier exterior details, in addition to increasing their power outputs.
The V8S gains 21bhp and 14lb ft of torque over the standard V8 Flying Spur, taking its total output to 521bhp and 502lb ft of torque, while the W12S gets more modest 10bhp and 15lb ft increases, lifting it to 626bhp and 605lb ft in total.
As for the rest of the mechanicals, Bentley has made the suspension tauter, but in an effort to maintain comfort, it hasn’t lowered the car in the way it has done with the S versions of the Continental GT.
The changes don’t stop under the skin, with the S versions of the Flying Spur getting similar exterior changes to those the Continental GT V8S received, most notably the black honeycomb grille, gloss black rear diffuser and dark tinted lighting, all in the pursuit of giving it a meaner look. But have these changes made the Flying Spur a more enticing proposition?
What's it like?
When we drove the Continental GT V8S, we confidently stated it was the sweet spot in the range, and the changes work just as well here.
The Flying Spur's 4.0-litre V8 might not offer the same sense of occasion that the W12 or the Mulsanne's 6.75-litre V8 bring, but its lighter construction gives the Flying Spur greater poise and is able to haul this near three-tonne car to 60mph in just 4.6sec and continue on to a top speed of 190mph.
It’s impressive that even with the suspension tweaks the V8S remains a superb cruiser that glides smoothly and quietly about its business. Yet if you stamp on the throttle, the engine makes itself known through its satisfying burble. Slot the solidly built knurled chrome gearlever into ‘S’ mode, and the V8’s presence is all the more obvious, with the ZF automatic gearbox holding onto each ratio longer, allowing the revs to rise as you bask in its bassy note.
In truth, the V8 engine’s ability was never really in question. However, the Flying Spur’s air suspension was less impressive, so you would be forgiven for thinking that making it sportier could only be to the detriment of this big Bentley. Sure enough, it thuds over imperfections in the road surface around town. However, the similarly priced Aston Martin Rapide S is more jarring, and the Flying Spur is impressively cosseting at higher speeds.
It still leans over like a large SUV when it’s in its softest damper setting, but when you toggle it towards the sporty end of the spectrum, the V8S firms up to the point where body roll is barely noticeable and you almost forget the car’s heft.
Inside, you’ll find lashings of lavish materials and the craftsmanship Bentley is renowned for. However, for every hand-finished, fine-grade material used, there is a sense that it has been undone by the infotainment system sat in the middle of the dashboard.
The Volkswagen Phaeton system is functional, but is too slow and clunky compared with the modern and polished systems in the Rolls-Royces, Range Rovers and Mercedes-Benz S-Classes of this world. It’s a shame, because it takes away some of the allure of the Bentley's otherwise luxurious interior.
Should I buy one?
While the V8S isn’t perfect, it’s the best model in the Flying Spur range, because the engine is as good as ever, and Crewe has successfully converted a car to be chauffeured around in into a car you’ll enjoy driving.
True, it’s priced very close to the Rapide S, but while the V12 engine in the Aston Martin is soulful, the Bentley is a far more enjoyable and easier car to live with day to day. It might even tempt buyers out of the rear seats and into the front.
Bentley Flying Spur V8S
Where Buckinghamshire; On sale Now; Price £188,810; Engine V8, 3993cc, twin-turbo, petrol; Power 521bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 502lb ft at 1700rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerbweight 2972kg; Top speed 190mph; 0-60mph 4.6sec; Fuel economy 25.9mpg (combined); CO2 na; Rivals Aston Martin Rapide S, Rolls-Royce Ghost