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Big saloon’s imperfections can be excused by the sense of occasion it offers
Test location: Cockfield, Suffolk
GPS: 52.154194, 0.785216
Photography: Dean Smith
Two Thousand, Three hundred and forty-two. Written out it doesn’t look like a big number. But 2342kg written numerically, and when seen on the technical specification for Bentley’s new Flying spur V8 s, is hard to ignore. As the cliché goes: Bentleys are the world’s fastest trucks…
The s in this Flying spur’s name refers to the company’s more sporting package that focuses on performance, agility and luxury, and it follows the same strategy employed on the two-door Continental GT.
Performance is dealt with by increasing the output of the 4-litre twin-turbocharged V8, which undergoes the gentlest of massages to produce 521bhp (a 21bhp increase over the regular V8 Flying spur) and 502lb ft of torque (an uplift of 15lb ft).
The result is three-tenths shaved from the 0-60mph time, which now takes 4.6sec on the way to a top speed of 190mph (up 7mph). Making nigh-on 2.5 tons of British and German craftsmanship feel agile is something Bentley invests a great deal in (see for our insight into how the firm develops its cars’ dynamics) and the s is no different. As with the Continental GT V8s the dampers are stiffer, but here they’re even more so, while retaining a modicum of the ride comfort one would expect from a Bentley.
You can go further in the dynamics department by replacing the standard cast-iron brakes with 420mm front and 405mm rear carbon-ceramics to reduce unsprung mass by 20 per cent and up the £142,800 price tag by a further £10,825.
Finally there is the luxury component of the s, and few car makers do luxury with quite the aplomb of Bentley. Its production systems may well have changed under Volkswagen ownership, yet every Bentley remains hand-finished and the lavishness of the materials used inside is superlative. One caveat is that the VW Phaeton-sourced infotainment system is shockingly bad to look at and use, yet it doesn’t detract from the overall splendour of travelling by Bentley. It remains touch and go as to whether it’s better to sit in the back or up front.
One of the Flying spur’s biggest challenges is that its rivals do so much of what it does so much better. Mercedes’ S65 and Audi’s S8 are as quick and their performance is more accessible because they’re nimbler and faster reacting cars.
The Flying spur feels a bit oldschool when it comes to flinging it down an enjoyable road: the steering is woolly, the throttle response is slow on the uptake no matter what setting you put the eight-speed gearbox in. Meanwhile, the s-class matches the Bentley for refinement and the Audi has the Crewe machine beaten for overall quality (although the Bentley has the better wood…). Both Germans are light years ahead on the technology front, and BMW’s carbon-core chassis’d 7-series is more advanced still.
Now in its 11th year of production, the Flying spur can still justify its place on the list of chairman-of-the- board contenders. But only just.
Unlike its mainstream rivals, the Flying spur has presence, and along with that it cocoons you from the outside world and immerses you in total opulence that the others can’t match. Where it falls woefully short in areas such as technology, it makes up for by raising a smile every time that V8 stirs into life.
There’s no gruff-sounding engine note or exhaust blare (a sports exhaust is conspicuous by its absence from the options list), but instead an evocative growl and a bellow as the tacho heads into the red and the nose gently rises as the thrust builds. As uncompetitive as it is in many modern areas of comparison, it’s untouchable in more traditional ways.
The Flying spur V8 s has its flaws, then, but it also has its place on the road. And those roads would be a duller place without it.
+ old-school approach to comfort and luxury
- old-school tech
Engine V8 , 3993cc, twin-turbo
Power 521bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque 502lb ft @ 1700rpm
0-60mph 4.6sec (claimed)
Top speed 190mph (claimed)
Weight 2342kg (226bhp/ton)
‘It can still justify its place on the list of chairman-of-the-board contenders’