From £132,8007
V8-powered four-door Bentley is luxurious and powerful when the occasion calls for it, but lacks about-town refinement

Our Verdict

Bentley Flying Spur

This second-generation Flying Spur changes tack in its quest to become a slicker limousine

Nic Cackett
6 June 2014

What is it?

A year on from Bentley’s comprehensive re-engineering of the Flying Spur it has finally added a second engine to compliment the headlining W12. It's the same twin-turbocharged V8 4.0-litre unit that forced us to upgrade our appreciation of the GT not so long ago, and is also found powering a number of big-money Audis

While it falls short of the exclusivity and heritage of the fabulous 6.75-litre pushrod V8 powering the Mulsanne, it is of the same vintage as the industrial-strength RS6 – and therefore its thrust potential is beyond question. In breathed-on Bentley format (the turbochargers and engine map are different) it develops 500bhp and 488lb ft of torque from 1750rpm, levering its thoroughly English greatcoat to 60mph in a shade under five seconds and a top speed of 183mph. 

Lavish numbers for what remains a near two-and-a-half tonne car, then, although outright performance is only part of the story; of equal importance is the 25.9mpg combined quote and Bentley’s bold claim that a full 90-litre tank will deliver a range in excess of 500 miles. The ability to prospectively swallow London to Frankfurt whole is an important part of what distinguishes the new Flying Spur from its 12-cylinder teammate. 

The visual differences between the two are more subtle. At the back there are now chromed figure of eight exhaust pipes and – as in the GT – the winged Bentley badge receives a red centre to denote the V8. Much, as you’d expect, is standard on the Spur, but many customers will still choose to indulge the huge option list or opt for the slightly more expensive Mulliner trim which adds 20-inch alloys along with all manner of quilting, indenting and additional veneers inside. 

Otherwise, the revised Spur is much as we left it: still four-wheel drive, air sprung and furnished with ZF’s super-smooth auto 'box for your comfort. The V8 is a variation on a theme then – but an important one. At £136,000 Bentley is hoping to attract new customers to the brand; particularly luxury saloon buyers who may previously have thought the W12 either too expensive or (more likely) too extravagant to seriously consider. 

What's it like?

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. 

Should I buy one?

Our recommendation, then, comes with much the same proviso as before; in altering the Spur’s identity, it hasn’t quite achieved the right balance – being too easy to trip up in town, and not quite the full ticket out of it either. 

If that doesn’t put you off, and the Flying Spur’s opulence and sense of style has already done its trick, then there’s every reason to pick the V8 over the W12. The performance on offer is already intoxicating enough to make its further embellishment all but redundant, and as it comes as standard with fewer stops opposite a pump, it’s more convenient too. 

Whether or not the V8 version (and its lower price) is good enough to tickle your fancy in the first place is a different matter. From a polite distance the entry-level Spur is a fine car; handsome, hushed, beautifully trimmed, just big enough to fit the limo bill and, pace-wise, a proper four-door Bentley. But it isn’t as good all the way around as an S-class or a Range Rover or a Jaguar XJ – and with the customers the brand has in mind, that’s short of where it should be. 

Bentley Flying Spur V8

Price £136,000 0-60mph 4.9sec Top speed 183mph Economy 25.9mpg (combined) CO2 254g/km Kerb weight 2425kg Engine 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged, V8 Power 500bhp at 6000rpm Torque 488lb ft at 1750rpm Gearbox 8-speed automatic

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Comments
4

6 June 2014
...the rear styling could do with a few tweaks, not keen on it at all. Which is a shame because despite not liking the Continental, I've always liked the Flying Spur and the V8 sounds delicious.

7 June 2014
the rear reminds me of a Skoda Superb, still wouldnt say no to it though.

7 June 2014
...nuff said

10 June 2014
My lingering bewilderment is why, precisely, anyone would knowingly still choose this car over any V8 Audi A8, given that it's slower than the slowest of them, the V8 diesel.

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