If you want one key indicator of this car’s performance, and why, despite having the smallest engine fitted to a Bentley in the company’s history, it should still be taken very seriously, it is this: its acceleration on 2.9-litres and six cylinders with a hybrid drive is near identical to that a conventional Flying Spur V8 with 4.0-litres and eight cylinders.
Make no mistake, this is still a very fast car, as its 4.3-second 0-62mph sprint makes clear. Had it been fitted with the Bentayga powertrain, you could probably have added an entire second to that. But there’s more to any car’s performance than bald numbers and few where how it’s delivered is even more important than in a Bentley.
And the bad news is that if you’re really gunning it, working the V6 hard in the upper reaches of its rev range, the off-the-peg noise and ever so slightly coarse power delivery are not very Bentley experiences, particularly when compared to the gorgeous V8 alternative.
Then again, when will most Flying Spur owners drive their cars this way? It’s far more likely behaviour from a Continental GT driver, which may explain why, despite the powertrain having been available for some time now, no Continental GT hybrid has yet been produced. Drive the Spur in the way most will be driven and such concerns melt away.
Unsurprisingly it’s at its absolute best when the internal combustion engine is just a redundant lump of cold metal sitting in the nose as you’re swept along on a silent wave of electrons, for this could scarcely be more ‘Bentley’ progress. But as we know, it won’t go that far on electricity alone so it pays both literally and figuratively to think hard about how and when you’re going to use it. What it does do however is open up the prospect of Bentley motoring to journeys for which it would have never previously been considered: the school run, the weekly supermarket shop or any local errand: for not only can these be conducted in the most soothing of silence, so long as you charge at home (about 90 minutes from a standard 7kW home charger), the Spur is about as cheap to run in energy terms as a 1.0-litre city car.
And one benefit of the hybrid system is that it appears to fill in the gaps in the power delivery between gearchanges, important when there’s a double clutch gearbox doing the changing. The effect is the slur the change in much the same way achieved by a torque converter, but with no loss of shift speed or dynamism. The best of both worlds? In this regard it would seem so.
You don’t expect a car tuned for comfort, sitting on an enormous wheelbase with a kerb weight of nearly 2.5 tonnes to handle like a sportscar, even if does come from a company that won Le Mans six times. But the Spur is still a genuinely good car to drive hard, as all authentic Bentleys should be. It’s not fun in any conventional sense, but it is so composed, so accurate, so good at controlling its body movements it’s never less than genuinely pleasant to aim along a curving coastline and often highly satisfying.