The new 2014 Bentley Flying Spur V8 is powered by its smallest engine yet, but surely it’s not downsizing to reduce running costs and avoid the London congestion fee? After all, if you can shell out £136,000 for a bold, imposing saloon that weighs two-and-a-half tonnes, you’re hardly likely to be too environmentally sensitive nor let a CO2 charge ruin your day.
So why has the Bentley Flying Spur V8 been downsized?
The 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 has been fitted to the Flying Spur to attract not only new buyers to the brand, but also due to tax laws in foreign markets - particularly China, where taxes are higher on engines bigger than (you guessed it) 4.0 litres.
China is Bentley’s second biggest market behind the US, but even in the States, since this V8 was introduced in the Continental GT last year, sales have been split evenly between it and the W12, with the V8 expected to take over as the top-seller in the coupe in 2014. Bentley expects the V8 Flying Spur to become the higher seller too, gradually taking over from the Flying Spur W12.
What are the differences between the V8 and W12 Flying Spurs?
In an all-out stat war, the 500bhp V8 is 116bhp down on the W12, its 488lb ft is 102 less and you’ll save £14,000 on the list price against the W12. That’s not much of a jump, so the likelihood of a V8 buyer not being able to afford the W12 is almost unthinkable.
The Flying Spur V8 does have a weight advantage, though, but it’s a paltry 30kg from the engine, with another 20kg shaved off by spec changes such as running 19in wheels compared to the W12’s 20in spinners. It still makes this car a crushing 2435kg, so it’s hardly a crash diet. The V8 is more efficient, of course, helped by cylinder deactivation – 25.9mpg plays 19mpg (gulp) – and it’s 0.7 sec slower from 0-62mph, but its 5.0sec time isn’t exactly hanging around. Nor is its 183mph top speed, even if the W12 manages 200mph.
So does the Flying Spur V8 hold a candle to the smooth W12?
Sure does. On paper it may seem out-punched, but the V8 is a superb engine. Of course, it’s capable of much more - it makes 552bhp in the Audi RS6/RS7, which were both downgraded from 572bhp when they arrived in 2013 – but it’s near silent when cruising and sounds like an old-school V8 wrapped in a blanket when your driver gives it some welly (posh Hunter boots, presumably). If you’re at the wheel yourself, you’ll notice how old this car feels, despite the acres of leather around you, and the new S-Class – a car that Bentley expects buyers to ‘upgrade’ from – will dazzle you more.
The steering is very similar to the W12’s set-up, as in fact most of this car is identical: there’s the same eight-speed ZF auto, with the same ratios and final drive at the rear end, so the driving experience isn’t night and day different. The ZF ’box does take a while to respond, so you can catch the Flying Spur flat-footed momentarily before it leaps into action.
It’s a mighty quick machine, with loads of grip as you drive it on the heavy nose, settling it into a corner despite the accurate yet vague-feeling steering, and power on out. There’s no rear break away, but a fair amount of roll thanks to the air suspension - you’re acutely aware of this car’s heft whenever you call on it be remotely athletic.
So the 2014 Bentley Flying Spur V8 is a cruiser?
Absolutely. This car has the brand on the bonnet to fall back on, and styling that’s confident, assured and a cut above. So while an S-Class may feel better, you won’t be mistaken for a hire car in a Flying Spur. And then there’s the ride: even in the softer setting, it steams over road seams and surface joints well, and in Sport you can feel divets and inconsistencies slightly (but not a great deal) more. It’s not a sports car, nor is it meant to be. Like the W12, it’s a straight-line monster: an opulent train not on rails, but the road.
The V8 is such a good engine that the W12 exists for one, simple reason: bragging rights. You can still spec up the V8 with the Mulliner pack (pushing the price to £145,800), but regardless you still won’t have the top model. It’s a bit like the Mercedes AMG S63 and S65: the V12 S65 isn’t exactly the better choice, but with a bigger engine and higher price says ‘I’m king’. For the Bentley, though, the V8 may not say ‘I’m king’, but it does say ‘I’m smarter’.