2014 Bentley Flying Spur review

By: Peter McKay

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Bentley Flying Spur Bentley Flying Spur Bentley Flying Spur
Bentley Flying Spur Bentley Flying Spur Bentley Flying Spur
Bentley Flying Spur Bentley Flying Spur Bentley Flying Spur
Bentley Flying Spur Bentley Flying Spur Bentley Flying Spur
Bentley Flying Spur Bentley Flying Spur Bentley Flying Spur
Bentley Flying Spur Bentley Flying Spur Bentley Flying Spur

With more power and torque, but also quieter and more fuel efficient, the new Flying Spur is Bentley's fastest four-door saloon...

2014 Bentley Flying Spur review
Driven: Bentley Flying Spur

 

Bentley Flying Spur

Unlike one-time stablemate Rolls-Royce, Bentley has never had qualms about mentioning the output of its engines in an overtly measurable way.

But ask the urbane gent from Bentley which of his products would be fastest around a racetrack and he waves the ––question aside with a dismissive "that’s immaterial to our customers". Bentley owners are more interested in the quality of the journey than the speed. And this is not to suggest that any Bentley lacks pace. Four doors or two, hardtop or convertible, they’ve always been the sporty uber-cruiser with a history steeped in Le Mans success.

The four-door, five-seat 2014 Flying Spur, introduced to the world in the flourishing Chinese market in April, offers supercar performance in a cosseting, whisper-quiet cocoon, leaving its occupants insulated from, well, working-class reality. You’ve got to be thankful for the double window seals and acoustic glazing as well as all the other NVH measures.

Visually, the new Spur has some design cues repeated from the flagship Mulsanne, including adopting the same sharp shoulder-line crease. But it’s smoother around the regal nose and tail (with standout LED lighting) and in general takes on a more contemporary and sleeker look that contibutes to a brilliant 0.29 coefficient of drag.

Unlike the Mulsanne, owners of the Flying Spur prefer to drive themselves rather than employ a bloke with a hat up front to have all the fun. Hence the need for the Spur to have a sporting character beneath all that luxury.

Heavily revised, the new second-generation Flying Spur is Bentley’s most powerful four-door production model, its two parallel turbochargers force-feeding the 6.0-litre W12 engine, now boosted to 460kW and 800Nm – the same as the GT Speed coupe. Alloy block and heads, aluminium bonnet and fenders, and a composite bootlid bring the kerb weight down by 50 kilos to a slim, um, 2.5 tonnes.

Helped by the permanent all-wheel drive, the quoted acceleration figure from rest to 100km/h is an impressive 4.6secs. That will scare some of Europe’s legendary supercars.

Helping performance, refinement and economy is the elbowing of the old six-speed automatic, replaced by a silky ZF eight-speed auto with sport mode (which changes the gearshifting and throttle mapping, and also permits block shifts, meaning it will go from eighth to third in one go).

With the new model, Bentley applies a slight rearward bias to the all-wheel-drive system, too, with a nominal 40/60 front-to-rear torque split that, depending on grip, will change instantly as required.

To make it ride better over some of the rugged roads of rapidly evolving markets such as China and Russia (where Bentleys are selling at a rate commensurate with the creation of new billionaires), the new Spur’s front and rear air springs are 10 and 13 per cent more forgiving respectively than its predecessor’s. Anti-roll bars are softer, too, contributing to a sumptuous ride.

Bentley’s choices inside the cockpit extend to the so-called Damper Settings, found by pressing the shock absorber button and selecting one of four levels ranging from ‘comfort’ to ‘sport’. The differences are not blurred. In comfort mode you find yourself on a magic carpet ride. In sport mode the body control is way firmer (with better steering feel) and the Flying Spur feels more than nimble for its size and weight.

There is a little on-centre vagueness with the steering, but only a little. Then it turns in quite positively and the rear-biased torque delivery means that using the accelerator generously doesn’t hurt poise during cornering.

At 100km/h, the Spur purrs along at a mere 1200rpm, a full 5000 revs shy of the red line. And yes, even at that just-above-idle speed, the W12 responds effortlessly to a tickle on the throttle. It can be soft and cuddly one instant, ferocious the next, and owners – mainly males in their 40s and early 50s, and obviously happy to unleash close to half-a-million dollars – would want it that way.

The AWD system works away subtly, with just a hint of understeer revealed when pushed hard. The huge brakes haul the big rig up in an easy, progressive and ultimately reassuring way, with just a touch of front-end dive.

The Spur’s raison d’etre is its unfussed adhesion and instant urge when the right designer shoe slams down on the accelerator exiting slow corners and the four 275mm wide tyres bite and go. The Spur rockets to and beyond the speed limit before you can adjust your dislodged designer sunnies.

One cute trick comes at 195km/h, when the Spur lowers itself 5mm at the front and 10mm at the rear for greater stability and reduced drag. At 240km/h, it drops a further 8mm and 13mm respectively.

Wheels/tyres range from 19s through to 20s and 21s, plus winter 21s. In Oz, the 19s choice will provide added compliance on our crap roads.

We’re not sure we’re thrilled with the new exhaust and full-length acoustic shield making the Spur way quieter than before. We kinda like the noises the W12 makes when it busts out in an understated way under hard acceleration, accompanied by some rebellious intake sounds.

The roomy cabin – gentleman’s club meets Marc Newson – gets wraparound polished woodgrain similar to the Mulsanne, along with the usual hand-crafted quality leathers, extravagant carpet and knurled knobs. Individualisation is the key here. No two interiors need be the same.

The craftsmanship is exquisite. Quilted hide seats, soft-close doors, seat warmers, privacy screens, circular Brietling dash clock, killer sound system… Oh, and two cupholders on the console.

There is also an emphasis on multimedia. Central infotainment is controlled through a high-resolution eight-inch touchscreen interface, complete with satellite-navigation system and Bluetooth connectivity, while infotainment features can be controlled by voice activation. Rear-seat passengers have access to a smorgasbord of technology – a pair of 10-inch screens with their own DVD player, USB port, SD card inputs, 12-volt charging and headphones.

As well as getting the mandatory big touchscreen navigation system, the Spur can now be a wifi hot-spot with router and 64GB connectivity unit, with internet access through portable devices, laptops and tablet computers.

On more prosaic though important matters, official combined fuel consumption is a reasonable 14.7 litres/100km, but the Spur drinks harder when the driver swaps caution for enthusiasm. The boot is ballroom-size (442 litres) and there’s no spare. Will it fit your garage? It’s a smidge off 5.3 metres long.

Go ahead, pamper yourself.


SPECIFICATIONS

Bentley Flying Spur

Engine: 5998cc twin-turbocharged W12 cyl, DOHC 48v
Power: 460 kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 800Nm @ 2000rpm
Weight: 2475kg
Gearbox: 8-spd automatic
0-100km/h: 4.6sec
Top speed: 322km/h
Price: $423,160 plus on-road costs

 

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