Bentley

Continental

8

10

Model

Flying Spur

Price

$423,160

The Numbers

5998cc, W12, AWD, 460kW, 800Nm, 14.7L/100km, 0–100km/h in 4.6secs, 322km/h, 2475kg

The Topgear Verdict

More room in the back, more gadgets, more better. Bentley limo luxe

Flying Spur

Whichever way you looked at it, the old Spur was really just a stretched version of the Continental coupe. Too big to be sporty and not gracious enough to be a proper GT. This new one drops the Conti bit – just Flying Spur will do now – and shifts focus from the front seats to the back. That’s where most Spur owners will sit, especially in China, where most of them will live. It’s still roughly related to the Conti, but the differences, both mechanical and visual, are greater than before. It’s not as grand and expensive as the enormous Mulsanne, but Bentley reckons it’s still a cut above your average German barge.

So perhaps it’s best to begin in the back, where things have changed. Firstly, you’ll have to choose between two individual rear seats, or a bench with three. Then you’ll wonder whether to spec the rear entertainment package, which you should, because it comes with 10-inch screens mounted behind the front seats, hooked up to the on-board WiFi and a pop-out touchscreen controller. It’s the size of a smartphone and controls everything from changing the TV channel to altering the heated/cooled/massaging rear seats, and even streams dashboard dials so you can keep an eye on the nav and speedo.

If you’re feeling especially flush, you should option the fold-down picnic tables, which just accommodate a laptop or perhaps a small dinner plate plus a glass of champers. Which, of course, you’ll have cooled in the optional fridge behind the central armrest. Finally, exercise your ears with a whopping 1100w Naim stereo – also optional, but essential. It sounded good in the old Spur, but this time it’s even crisper thanks to thick double glazing and a less boomy exhaust to reduce ambient noise and focus the ears. The cooler and stereo amps take a chomp out of the boot, but you can still slide a couple of golf bags in the space left.

So, with all those options ticked, the Flying Spur’s pitch has changed. The last one tried hard to convince us it was up for a Sunday blast. This one has relaxed a little. Like the new Conti coupe/cabrio, it isn’t a completely new platform, but a thoroughly re-engineered one. The distance between the wheels across the front axle is 2cm more than before, and 3.5cm greater at the rear, giving it a more confident stance. It still has air suspension, but the springs are 10–13 per cent softer than before. The suspension bushes are 25–38 per cent softer. All of this gives it a degree of compliance that the last car lacked.

The suspension has four modes: Comfort at one end, Sport at the other, with two in-betweeny settings. Full Comfort mode loosens body movements without becoming too squishy. Full Sport tightens things up without becoming harsh. Fine. But you have to toggle between modes by stabbing at the infotainment screen, which means you take your eyes off the road rather than feeling for a switch or button. Still, the new settings help the Spur feel more balanced, and a touch more deliberate in its movements, perhaps. And apart from when you’re absolutely standing on the brakes or asking it to properly attack a tight corner, this never really feels like a 2.5-tonne car, which is perhaps its greatest dynamic achievement.

This is especially true when you’re accelerating from a standstill. The engine – a development of Bentley’s 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 – now gives you 460kW, making this the most powerful four-door Bentley ever, including the Mulsanne. It accelerates with ruthless commitment, summoning a sort of earthly strength to go from 0-100km/h in 4.6secs. And the old six-speed auto has been replaced by the excellent ZF 8spd – like a good butler, it works diligently around the clock, though you’d never really know it was there. The stats are topped off with an ample max speed of 322km/h.

You’ll notice this new Spur also comes with a much braver face than the outgoing model. The trademark Bentley headlights have been swapped around, so the larger one sits on the outside, helping to frame the nose more confidently. It has wider grilles. Tailored lines. Crisper creases. And a longer, lower boot, which defines a rather stately rear end (reminds us of a WW2 bomber, actually). And those flying B-wing vents complete the new visuals. The idea was to give it a stronger identity of its own, and although you’ll make your own mind up on the styling, we’re inclined to deem it a success. It certainly has the sort of presence that the last car was lacking.

And the bill? That’ll be $423,160 for an entry-level car. At this money, the Spur lives in the territory between the Merc S 63 AMG and the cheapest Rolls Ghost, but it fills this space with absolute confidence. From what we’ve seen of the new S, it could be a better out-and-out limo. But it’s not as well-mannered or exclusive as a Spur, and when fitted with a V12 it creeps out of its natural price point. And while a Ghost might be more imperious and even rarer in most parts of the world, you could buy a few decent hot hatches with the price difference (we suspect this may be more relevant to we Aussies than a Beijing stockbroker).

Our one concern? Maybe they could’ve gone even further with the luxo stuff. The headrests could have a little more squish to cushion wealthy heads. And how about some fluffier carpet upon which to rest our freshly shined shoes? Ultimately, though, this is a mostly handmade Bentley full of the finest hides and timbers, and it feels special enough to command such a price. If you’d have asked us a few years ago, we’d have told you to save for a Rolls. Now? We’d think much harder. This is one properly cultured car, whether you’re driving or not.

 

Reviewed by: Dan Read

Driven: August 22, 2013