From £156,2009
Steering, suspension and comfort

Ever since it developed the Bentayga SUV, Bentley has been working with a new array of active chassis and suspension systems intended to make its big luxury cars feel smaller, lither and more agile on the road than they otherwise might. Now that four-wheel steering has been added to that armoury, the burning question is this: does it all come together?

In a simple objective sense, the answer’s an emphatic yes – because there can be no doubting how well this car hunkers down, turns in and then keeps on turning for one so heavy. Typically, limousines don’t handle half as purposefully as this. Where other rear-driven barges might be leaning on their electronics and see-sawing gently on their springs under high cornering loads, this one can simply carve its way through an apex with amazing precision and composure.

Air suspension doesn’t like most sharp-edged bumps, yet it smothers the softer-edged transmission bumps well.

Sport driving mode is the one in which the car undoubtedly has the closest body control, is as responsive as it can be to steering inputs and has the best-balanced handling. Even here, lateral body control is better than the vertical kind, and really testing surfaces taken at speed can give the suspension plenty to do to maintain a level body and to resist float and heave. By and large, though, it manages to do it.

Still, most testers preferred ‘Bentley’ mode, which comes with only marginally more permissive suspension settings but seems to allow the Flying Spur more consistent steering feedback; somehow to handle more like the big, fast, luxury saloon you expect it to be.

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This isn’t a laid-back, ‘one-finger-steered’ limo like an S-Class, quite plainly. While not the size of a Rolls-Royce Phantom, it’s still a large and wide car; and on single carriageway roads, keeping one side of its axles off the drain covers without feeling like you’re crowding oncoming traffic with the other side requires concentration. But in ‘Bentley’ mode, the Spur’s combination of tactile steering feedback, superb on-throttle stability and handling precision make that not only possible but also a hugely enjoyable task.

Getting to the performance limits of this car means marvelling twice: first at its outright speed and second at the chassis’ ability to carry that speed over a fairly level surface.

In Sport driving mode, it takes pretty severe long-wave inputs to upset the car’s composure, but the lateral grip and agility are startling. There’s sufficiently progressive steering response just off centre as to seem natural on a 2.5-tonne car, although it’s still pretty keen.

And then, once the car’s laterally loaded and its active systems are all contributing, there is such incredible balance, adhesion and roll resistance that much of the mass around you seems to shrink into thin air.

Handling isn’t adjustable like it might be a rear-driven sports car, but the Spur hardly understeers at any easily attained speed and it sticks to almost any cornering line you choose for it.

Comfort and isolation

It’s something of a pity to find this Flying Spur struggles to convincingly nail the mission-critical rolling refinement side of its dynamic brief.

Even on the smallest, 21in alloy wheels on which the car is offered (if you can really ever consider a 21in alloy to be small), the four-door Bentley feels more connected to the road surface than you might expect of a luxury limousine – particularly in its failure to filter out that last degree of surface noise, or to smother shorter, sharper bumps and edges.

Larger imperfections and expansion joints can also sometimes send a slightly undignified slap up through the suspension mountings when hit at speed. Which is odd, because the Flying Spur’s excellent primary ride is all pillowy, cradled suppleness.

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This is clearly a car created by those who know and care about ride comfort, then, and on better, well-sealed surfaces, it really shows what might have been. Undulations both big and small are near-perfectly absorbed by the Bentley’s ability to keep its body unerringly level at pace.

Isolation at motorway speeds is good if not outstanding. There’s a tiny bit of perceptible wind noise, which is accompanied by a present, if slightly muffled, amount of road roar. At 70mph, our microphone recorded cabin noise at 64dB – 1 dB louder than the Mercedes-Benz S350 we road tested in 2013 and 4dB louder than the latest Phantom.