Bentley Flying Spur Speed (2008) review

Published:06 November 2008

Bentley Flying Spur Speed (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

Bentley has given its monstrously quick but vaguely anonymous Flying Spur a mild facelift and introduced the aptly entitled Speed go-faster pack to further distance itself from top-end V12-powered Mercedes, BMW and Audi models.

What’s been done to the base Bentley Flying Spur model?

What should have been done when it was launched in 2005, to be blunt. An extensive reworking of the suspension means the Spur now rides with a demeanour far more in keeping with its size and status. Bentley’s engineers call it ‘breathing’ – which means that revised spring, damper and anti-roll bar settings as well as new 19in Pirelli tyres with a softer compound tread pattern and less rigid sidewalls allow the ride quality to strike a decent balance between isolation and contact. The ride may not yet be of the magic carpet kind, but the low-speed bump-thump, the high-speed judder over transverse ridges and the hypersensitivity to grooves has gone.

The Servotronic steering has also been retuned for better feedback on lock and for reduced nervousness around the straight-ahead position, and even more sound insulation makes the car all but silent from idle to around 4500rpm.

So the standard model is all about cushy transport, while the Speed is about, err, speed?

How perceptive of you. Yes, the role of the Speed is to be the sharper handling, more aggressively tuned and more involving counterpart. It’s fitted with stiffer suspension bushings, the ride height is lower by 10mm, there's thicker anti-roll bars front and rear, and fatter 20in Pirellis. The Speed's also fitted with a new Dynamic Mode for increased wheel slip at higher speeds, while the ESP’s Sport Traction mode also raises the intervention bar – perfect if you fancy a quick 70mph powerslide on your way to the club.

Click 'Next' below to read more about the Bentley Flying Spur Speed

Let’s get to the Speed bit…

For the Speed, tweaks to the Spur’s W12 engine have boosted power by 9% from 552to 600bhp and torque by 15% from 479lb ft to 553lb ft, which kicks in at a low 1750rpm. The result is a 2475kg four-seater saloon that rockets to 60mph 4.5sec, nails the ton in 10.5sec and powers onto an electronically untouched 200mph. The standard car tops 195mph and takes 0.4sec longer to reach the 60mph mark.

Performance is as effortless as it is silent, the big Bentley gathering speed at an eye-widening rate that’s completely out of kilter with its size and weight.

But do they handle?

Up to a well defined point where physics takes over from Bentley engineering skill, yes. For big hefty chunks of metal, they can be steered with real confidence and accuracy. But it’s far better to waft along on that high and wide plateau of torque and push anything slower – that’ll be most cars – into the left-hand lane.

Both engines are mated to a six-speed ZF box with identical ratios, both employ the same permanent 4WD system, both average 17mpg, and both emit 396g of CO2 per km. When pushed, however, the consumption will instantly dive into single-digit depths

Presumably the Speed speaks quietly but wields a big old stick

The Spur’s overall stance remains unchanged, but you do get more brightwork, bolder bumpers and a more upright grille. The Speed package adds dark chrome air intakes, rifled exhaust tailpipes and multispoke 20in wheels.

Inside, Speedy drivers will enjoy lovely diamond quilted seat facings and door trims, with a less pretty three-spoke sports steering wheel and drilled aluminium pedals. A mind-boggling choice of leathers, woods, metals and paints should limit the chance of bumping into a similarly specced car on the high street. Key options include a £5000 Naim sound system, complete with custom-built speakers that pump out 1100Watts, and £10,000 carbon-ceramic brakes.

Click 'Next' below to read more about the Bentley Flying Spur Speed

So which is the car to go for?

CAR drove the 600bhp Speed back-to-back against the 560bhp model - and preferred the lesser version. With the more ostentatious Continental GT, where half of the buyers opt for the more powerful variant, the Speed pack makes more sense. But in an elite saloon, where comfort is the prime concern, closely followed by smoothness and refinement, it ‘s not such a clear-cut decision.

So surely the ultimate Flying Spur is the base model with the Speed’s gruntier engine?

Quite – it’s the combination Bentley boss Franz-Josef Paefgen opted for on his personal company car. Sadly for us lesser mortals, it’s a case of either or. And looking at Bentley’s recent figures, the number of lesser mortals with £133,000 to splash on four wheels is dwindling rapidly as the financial crisis deepens. Bentley's recent announcement of a 20% drop in its global sales for the year to the end of September was followed by a second cut in production at its plant in Crewe in less than two months. Don't expect the Speed to be a flyer out of the showrooms.

Speed or standard car? Continental GT, Flying Spur or GTC? Which would you have? Click 'Add your comment' below and let us know

Specs

Price when new: £133,000
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 5998cc turbocharged W12-cyl, 600bhp @ 6000rpm, 553lb ft @ 1750rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Performance: 4.5sec 0-60mph, 200mph, 17mpg, 396g/km CO2
Weight / material: 2475kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 5290/1916/1465

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Photo Gallery

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  • Bentley Flying Spur Speed

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

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