Think this is a mystery Mercedes on test? Think again. Under the cunning disguise lurks a test mule for the next four-door Bentley Continental: the Flying Spur.
Following on from the two-door Continental GT, which was refreshed in 2010, the Flying Spur shares the GT's platform, and launches during 2013. It's likely to get V8 power for the first time.
Are you sure this is a new Bentley Continental Flying Spur?
Yes - there are tell-tale signs this is produce of Crewe. The enormous 21-inch alloy wheels are of the same design currently offered on the W12 Continental GT, and although heavily masked, the front grille is noticeably too bluff and upright to fit with the current Merc family. It's far more Mulsanne-esque.
Also, note the thin oval tailpipes, identical to the Continental W12's pipes. Sorry Bentley, you've been rumbled.
Our tame spy photographer alerted us to Bentley's history of Merc-masquerading: during the original 2005 Continental Flying Spur's testing regime, it too was scooped by CAR wearing a Merc mock-up suit to shield the details beneath. If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery then Mercedes should be rather pleased with this 'endorsement'.
Alright, I believe you, it's a Bentley. What else is new?
The Flying Spur's exterior will doubtless move in line with the rest of the Bentley brand, so expect large-diameter round headlights, and a stout chrome grille. The restyled rump will also receive the distinctive flat-edged sculpting we've seen on the new Conti, Mulsanne and Brooklands coupe.
Underneath, surprises will be few, as the Flying Spur is spun from the same drivetrain as its sleeker GT sister. That means full-time all-wheel drive, and a twin-turbo W12 engine good for 567bhp, plus a pricier Speed version in the future, fitted with the GT Speed's 616bhp motor.
And any chance of a V8 Bentley Flying Spur?
CAR would expect Bentley to create an 'entry-level' Flying Spur using the twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 that's won much praise in the Continental GT.
With 500bhp and the ability to shut down fuelling and run as a V4 under light load, the lighter and 40% more efficient V8 could well become the Flying Spur of choice, if Bentley takes the bait and drops it into the new saloon in due course.