We road tested the new Spur last year, and, truthfully, our reservations were not centered on the engine bay; it was the air suspension's inability to imperiously snuff out every nook and cranny that rankled in a car deliberately softened with limo-like aspirations in mind.
That view, even on the smaller, standard 19-inch wheels previously unavailable to us, remains unchanged. Poor surfacing – of the type you’d find anywhere in town – continues to unsettle the Bentley’s unchanged air cushion, and its failure to isolate occupants from the kind of intrusion that a Mercedes-Benz S-class would solve is a definite issue.
What is not an issue of any kind is the new engine. As with its fitment in the GT, the V8 instantly replaces any serious consideration of its quality with a lingering bewilderment on why, precisely, anyone would knowingly still choose the W12. So endearing is the consummate all-rounder’s innings in fact, that its realization of the two main Bentley prerequisites – refinement and A-bomb style impulse – appear to have been almost no challenge to it at all.
Consequently, and rather ironically, the dual nature the car tries so hard to evince at every turn is easily bested by the masterclass of amenability and aggressiveness being endlessly delivered from under the bonnet. Muted and utterly biddable in traffic, with its furtive transition from eight-cylinder operation to four conducted entirely in secret (and silenced by an extra muffler on the asymmetrical exhaust), the engine is obligingly anonymous when you decide to pay it no mind.
Then, when the mood takes you – as it frequently will – the V8 simply selects carefully and quickly from its buffet menu of gears, and hurls you and the surrounding tonnage a thoroughly gratifying half a mile up the road. It is the quality of this acceleration that marks the Spur as distinct from most rivals; because the twin-scroll turbos spool up so quickly, Bentley has fitted a stiffer torque converter than in the W12, allowing peak torque to arrive not at a deadened waft, but in the very physical manner of a half-as-heavy sports car.
The stability-minded all-wheel drive grip makes the performance easy enough to tap into anywhere, and even a casual driver would recognize a more involving brand of contact with the road surface through the hydraulically-powered steering than its rival at Goodwood would manage. But most B-road stretches tend to remind you first and foremost how big and heavy the Spur really is; lunging agreeably at straight lines, and then straining forward under brakes like a darts player tethered to the oche with bungie cord.
Tellingly, the car’s finest moments are experienced on the motorway, where the fallible secondary ride gives way to the primary fluency of its air springs and it finally oozes the kind of poise one would equate with four-door Bentley. Combined with the surroundings – still stitched together and polished as well as anywhere – the high-grade supremacy of package suddenly becomes tangible.