Driving a Bentley is an occasion: even in money-soaked London, there’s still a level of exclusivity in a Flying Spur, more so than the Bentley Continental GT. Yet if you had £150k, would you stump up for the big Bentley?
For that princely sum, Bentley will give you a 5295mm-long saloon with all-wheel drive, a 616bhp 6.0-litre W12 – packing two turbochargers – that weighs 2475kg yet accelerates from 0-62mph in a mere 4.3seconds. The Flying Spur, which takes the now familiar four-headlamp front end and adds a new, Marmite-rear with its trapezoidal tail lamps, is stately, bold and turns heads, but we’re not so sure about the emperor’s new clothes. I’s an odd mix of curves and sharp edges around those 21-inch alloys, part of the Mulliner kit seen here, the top-spec Flying Spur.
In the driver’s seat, look into the mirror and you can see the sharp-edged shoulder as you realise just how steep the rear windscreen is while ahead of you, the bonnet’s central crease is like an arrowhead slicing through the air: the sharpness of all these creases is confident and strong, like freshly-folded paper.
The cabin itself is beautiful: rich, dark wood, chrome details on every vent, switch, handle and ridge, with cream quilted leather on the seats. The chairs are comfortable and supportive, even if they could be bolstered a little better. Oddly, there’s an ignition key slot on the right, yet the priority has been given to left-hook models, with the engine start button on the left of that eight-speed auto’s beautiful, textured shifter – just like the radio knob, too. While lovely, the cabin’s hardly seductive or as sumptuous as the £150k base price would have you think, even if it’s all Space Shuttle tight. On the move, there’s no squeaks or rattles – and you can’t even hear the Breitling clock tick…
The steering wheel is thick and solid, yet the Bentley doesn’t feel heavy or sloth-like. That W12 is so quiet at idle, you’ll wonder if it’s on, and squeezing the steel throttle pedal brings only a slight, warm rumble – this is a refined device, not a hoon’s delight, after all. The legendary ‘wave of torque’ has you riding high in its 590lb ft, pushing you gently yet quickly forwards. There’s no adrenaline rush, just fast moving scenery as you follow that crease in the bonnet.
The ride on the two-piece wheels is smooth at slow speed, but it’s surprisingly clunky over smaller bumps and potholes. It’s also too soft, even in the stiffest Sport setting, and the suspension has the Flying Spur rolling too much around corners, not helped by the horrible steering. There’s no feel and no precision from the wheel, making quick cornering difficult as the big saloon is hard to place: it’s hardly composed or assertive. Instead, the soggy suspension and vague steering have you approaching corners with caution, and long sweepers that this car should devour are merely nibbled.
It makes the ungainly, cheap-feeling shift paddles all the more redundant, as the eight-speed won’t be exploited in and out of corners so much, and it won’t let you hold gears, anyway. Yet fast cornering is not what the Flying Spur is all about: it’s about comfort, refinement and quick, smooth progress. It’s an amazing car, yet you can pay far less for better-riding cars, and there are also far superior handling super saloons on the market too.