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The Top Gear car review:Bentley Flying Spur
For:More room in the back, more gadgets, more better. Limo luxe
Against:Ruinous to run in W12 trim, but very little else
4.0 V8 4dr Auto
A smaller-engined Spur that loses little in performance. The four-door Bentley of choice.
All-new Flying Spur makes a tricky home debut. Smaller wheels would help smooth things out. As would one-click suspension control
More room in the back, more gadgets, more better. Limo luxe
Need something a cut above your average S Class? Head this way sir…
What we say:
New Flying Spur is at last the car it should always have been - finally a viable, super-luxury alternative to the S-Class
What is it?
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.
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.
There are two engines - both of which should be fairly familiar. There’s the 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 - which now gives you 616bhp, making this the most powerful four-door Bentley ever - and there’s the Audi-derived 4.0-litre V8. The W12 accelerates with ruthless commitment, summoning a sort of earthly strength to go from 0-62mph in 4.3secs. 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 rounded off nicely with a top speed of 200mph. The V8 isn’t that much slower, but it’s 10 grand or so cheaper and a notch more economical.
On the inside
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 1,100w 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 behind.
Mid-teens mpg (for the W12 - the V8 should do 26mpg), group 50 insurance, max tax (obviously), utter brain crippling depreciation in this market - you have to want one. And you do, right?
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