Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear and, in this instance, everything is too close for comfort amid the maelstrom of traffic. The sharp detail lines tapering over the rear fenders to the Spur’s new pinched rear-end are in serious danger of being punctuated by damaging contact with the traffic.
Beijing, China in a $200500 cocoon of serenity among the chaos of daily road users makes it easy to understand why China’s elite are buying Bentleys in such large numbers. The supple leather, plus the turned metal and veneered surfaces offer respite from the madness outside.
The old Continental Flying Spur never sat particularly comfortably. Too close to the GT coupe, the styling was too similar, making it look as if the coupe had been unceremoniously stretched into four doors.
No such accusations can be levelled at the new Flying Spur. Bentley even dropped the Continental name to distance it further, although the change of styling direction gives greater separation from the GT.
The link is obvious; Bentley didn’t dispose of its DNA with the Spur, but merely modified it.
Longer, wider and lower, the Spur is more assertive, sharper. The creases down its flanks are so sharp Bentley altered its manufacturing techniques to create them. And the bold front grille, with its glorious detailed mesh, underlines the company’s attention to detail.
There’s some deco to its looks. The confidence to mix curves with defined lines and intricate detailing delineates the Flying Spur from mainstream luxury sedans from Mercedes, BMW and Audi.
Previously alone, the Spur now shares its price bracket, being pinched from above and below. Mercedes-Benz’s Dr Zetsche is on record saying the S-Class will span from its existing base to the rarefied bracket where Rolls-Royce exists. The Flying Spur sits in the middle, with its $200k price tag (bank on spending at least 10% more on options) making it appear like conspicuously good value.
You only need to spend a few seconds inside the Spur to understand why it eclipses its volume luxury rivals. The hand stitched finish on the beautiful leather is both a tactile and visual treat. The wood veneers, richly polished to a mirror finish, are likewise an exercise in futility to resist touching the smooth surface. Add cool chrome and machine-turned metal, if you’ve optioned it, and the Flying Spur is a sensual overload.
It’s quiet too. Significantly more so than the previous model. Bentley has suppressed extraneous noise, with the 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W12 only heard when pushing the accelerator deep into the carpet.
Billing the Flying Spur as the most powerful Bentley sedan – the W12’s 616hp betters the Mulsanne’s output, but its 590 lb-ft isn’t able to match the flagship model’s 740 lb-ft.
Those figures manifest in a 0-60mph time of 4.3sec and the headline 200mph top speed. It’s AMG performance, but despite an effortless ability to change velocity quickly, Bentley admits the Flying Spur has changed from a once overtly sporting sedan to a more luxurious conveyance. As a result, the Flying Spur’s time-bending pace is a by-product of its breeding more than its focus.
That’s immediately evident when entering Beijing traffic. The Spur’s response was more measured and calmer than before, from the slick efficiency with which the new eight-speed automatic deals with its numerous ratios, to its reaction to the accelerator pedal as you flex your right ankle.
The steering, curiously heavy and leaden at manoeuvring speeds, lightens once moving, although never totally losing its initial resistance. No doubt the weighting aids stability when approaching the double century, but it detracts at more normal speeds.
It’s rare that a manufacturer admits dialling back suspension settings, but the Flying Spur’s rates are 15% softer. The changes also include bushings that are 25–38% more compliant. This has removed the harder edge ride for a more supple suspension, but also robbed the car of some of its roll control, even in the firmest of the four damper settings. The Flying Spur certainly feels more luxurious than sporting in the bends.
This is all relative, of course. The Flying Spur will still hustle if you’re in the mood. There’s more initial roll when turning-in, and pitch on braking or acceleration, but the power is still delivered to all-four wheels, but with a greater 40/60 rearward bias. Not that you’d know it… the Spur’s nose being the first to give up grip, signalled by protest from the front tires rather than through the steering. However, to reach that point, the Spur is travelling faster than most drivers will want, and any passenger in the back will desire. If speed is your aim, Bentley’s inevitable Flying Spur Speed model will satiate hardcore desires.
As it stands, the Flying Spur is a confident change of direction for a brave new world. It works. It remains a unique proposition at its price point, and a better car for not chasing outright dynamic ability but focusing on luxury, refinement and comfort.
2014 Bentley Flying Spur
Layout front-mounted engine, four-wheel drive
Engine 5998cc twin-turbocharged W12
Drivetrain eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, AWD
Suspension four-link double wishbones f, trapezoidal multi-link r, self-levelling air suspension with Continuous Damping Control
Brakes 405mm f, 335mm r (optional Carbon-Silicon Carbide 420mm drilled f, 356mm r)
Wheels & Tires 20x9.5", 275/40 ZR20 (19" standard)
Power 616hp at 6000rpm
Torque 590 lb-ft at 2000rpm
Top Speed 200mph
Weight 5451 lb
Economy 12/20/15mpg (city/highway/combined)