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9/10
Overall verdict

The Top Gear car review: Bentley Flying Spur

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9/10
Overall verdict
Perhaps the most compelling four-door limo Bentley’s built since the Arnage
 

For: 

Handsome and well proportioned, dynamic breadth, interior design

Against: 

Throttle calibration could be better. Little else

Overview

What is it?

Handsome, isn’t it? Check out the proportions: the sense that the front wheels have been pulled forward, the windscreen sloping back in sympathy, the way it sits on its wheels. In profile it’s a bloody good bit of design. We’ve never been able to say that about a Flying Spur before.

Well, not since the badge first appeared on a four-door back in 1957. It was an element of Design Director Arthur Taylor Johnstone’s heraldic crest that gave the car its name. The plate came back in 2005, adorning a saloon version of the Continental GT. It wasn’t a looker, yet Bentley sold 37,000 of them. The trouble was that the last-generation Flying Spur, even after it was facelifted in 2013, was a car for the driven, not the driver. It both looked and felt too nose heavy. Better to sit in the back.

This second-gen car changes that. Particularly if you choose the ‘entry’ V8. This isn’t ‘entry’ level like you get at Dacia, the bumpers blackened and stereo yanked out. This is a skinnier, sharper and only mildly less powerful car than the top-rung W12.

Whichever you choose, it’s longer and wider than before while lighter, too. Crucially, the axles are now 130mm further apart, the chassis (all-new and all-aluminium, so too the bodywork) features a five grand optional 48-volt electric system that manages an active anti-roll bar and four-wheel steering. The four-wheel-drive system is more rear-biased, the gearbox is not a regular automatic but an eight-speeder with twin clutches.

It’s just a much more dynamic car than before. Rear steer, more torque at the back axle, the driver sat further back in an elongated wheelbase and a 0-62mph time of 3.8secs (plus a top speed of 207mph) if you’ve gone full-fat. It even has launch control.

Most of these features (bar the rear-steer) are lifted from the current Continental GT coupe, but beyond that you get the feeling Bentley has thought long and hard about how and where to position this car. To turn it into something owners will be as happy to be seen driving as being driven. That’s a clever strategy and should give it more far-reaching global appeal, but also set it aside from both the regular chauffeur driven stuff (who these days would buy an S-Class to drive themselves?).

It starts at £153,000, around two grand more than an equivalent Conti GT but substantially less than the £234,000 Bentley charged for its now retired flagship saloon, the bigger, heavier and in no way dynamic Mulsanne. You get the feeling that when the first Flying Spur was being developed over 15 years ago, VW kept a relatively tight rein on proceedings. Now Bentley has proved itself under the family umbrella – and the Mulsanne’s glass ceiling has shattered – it’s been allowed more control to let the Spur flourish. The result looks impressive on paper, so how’s the reality?

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