- Car Reviews
- Flying Spur
Handsome and well proportioned, dynamic breadth, interior design
Hybrid version plugs a gap but isn’t the full ticket
What is it?
It’s the only limo Bentley currently sells. Since the venerable Mulsanne retired from service in 2020, your choice of four-doors with flying Bs has slimmed down to one.
Full limousine duties are actually being picked up by an extended-wheelbase version of the Bentayga, the folk at Crewe realising that the high-net-worth individuals of this world might prefer the stocky swagger of an SUV to the grandeur of an elongated saloon.
Which, in the company of the latest Flying Spur, seems a crying shame. No doubt about it, this is a mightily handsome car. 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. It’s a bloody good bit of design. And you might not have said 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 first-generation Continental GT. It wasn’t a natural looker, yet Bentley sold 37,000 of them. But that late Noughties 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. It was better to sit in the back.
Is this now a car for the driver then?
Absolutely. Perhaps that’s why the Bentayga has been given the chauffeuring reins: buy a Spur and you might just end up relegating your driving staff to gardening duties.
There are three engines to choose from and talking you from biggest to smallest feels like an Ascent of Man illustration. Let’s call it the evolution of luxury powertrains. Top of the tree, for a little while longer, is the 6.0-litre W12 that’s starred in most Bentleys since the original Conti GT revolutionised how we view the brand back in 2003. It isn’t long for this world; the last orders bell has tolled and you might need to shoot the landlord an endearing wink in order to sneak a deposit down for one of the outgoing Flying Spur Speeds which host a 626bhp tune of this wonderfully smooth power unit.
Beneath that sits the smaller, thriftier (relatively speaking) and sportier V8. A 4.0-litre twin-turbo unit familiar from other big bruisers in the VW Group, it possesses 542bhp but has less weight to shift, most notably in its nose to give you sharper responses that better play into that ‘driver’s Bentley’ mentality.
The third option completes our evolutionary diagram, at least for now, by virtue of being a plug-in hybrid. It links a 3.0-litre V6 to a 134bhp electric motor to match the V8’s power as well as its price. This is a real ‘naughty or nice’ conundrum on the configurator, but perhaps the choice will already be made for you if you buy or lease your cars on any emission-based taxation thanks to its 75g/km CO2 claims. Not to mention up to 30 miles of electric-only mileage if you’re able to plug it in (a two-hour job).
How’s the tech underneath?
Whichever model you choose, it’s longer and wider than any Spur before it while lighter, too (ignoring the weight gains of the Hybrid). Crucially, the axles are now 130mm further apart while the chassis features four-wheel steering and an optional 48-volt electric system that manages an active anti-roll bar. The four-wheel-drive system is more rear-biased and the gearbox is 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 top speed of 207mph if you’ve gone full-fat W12. It even has launch control.
Jeepers. A limo as quick as the Continental GT…
Correct. It’s not much heavier and most of its dynamic 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 appears to have given the car more far-reaching global appeal. Sales and profit figures released by Bentley just keep swelling.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
It’s a deeply clever car this, bridging the gap between the driver and the driven more comprehensively than any other luxury saloon. This is perhaps the most compelling four-door saloon Bentley’s built since the anachronistic Arnage. It uses technology very effectively but doesn’t allow it to dominate.
The hybrid doesn’t quite have the road manners of the more effortless V8 and W12, but it’s a useful urban dodge for the wealthy and in other areas this is a swift, sure-footed and genuinely enjoyable luxury saloon, faster than anything this side of a Panamera Turbo S and way more cosseting. And for the driven, the spaciousness, design and tactility of the cabin lifts it well clear of anything a mass-market brand has to offer.
The Flying Spur is a very, very convincing car, handsome and stately enough to usurp the now-deceased Mulsanne, more bespoke and special than a Bentayga, arguably an even bigger step forward on its forebears than the Continental GT. It’s the best advert for the traditional four-door saloon we’ve driven in years.