Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.
The Flying Spur is a name resurrected from the Fifties (or 1860s, if you’re interested in the British ‘extreme’ tea clipper that went by the same moniker), when it graced the bonnet of a four-door saloon built to order by Mulliner, Bentley’s coachbuilder of choice. A 1965 version, Blue Lena, formerly owned by Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, was auctioned by Bonhams at this year’s Revival. Nowadays, since the great Volkswagen Group take-over, the Flying Spur denotes Bentley’s four-door saloon version of the Continental GT, sitting below the Mulsanne in the range. The current Flying Spur is the second incarnation of this model, available with the famed W12 engine or the Audi-derived V8. Goodwood has tested the latter.
While some deride Bentleys’ vast proportions, the Flying Spur fits its suit well, with those retro headlamps and elliptical taillights – mirrored in shape by the twin exhausts – adding a touch of humour and modern styling to a conservative design. From the driver’s seat, the rear haunches rise and bulge, muscle-car like, out and over those vast 21in wheels, and the bonnet streams ahead down the road, a pronounced metal spine running down its centre. This metal makes a massive statement, and yet is utterly easy to place on the road.
The interior of our car is a stunning victory of hand-stitched pale cream (‘linen’) and navy leather mixed with burr walnut, providing the glamour of a Twenties ocean-going liner alongside the technology of the 21st century: touchscreen satnav, Naim audio speakers, rear-view camera, rear-seat DVD players and USB ports. A passenger could get lost in the rear, which is where the majority of customers will sit, during their Shanghai commute, being comforted by massaging and reclining individual seats, their feet muffled in the deep-pile carpet.
The figures, as usual, belie the weight. At almost two and a half tonnes, the Spur takes some shifting, but the prodigious V8 puts out a hefty 500bhp via two turbochargers and nearly the same torque figure in pounds feet. The result, alongside fuel economy that stretches into the low 20s for the first time thanks to the V8, is a nose that points skywards when throttle is pressed to metal, and a saloon that just keeps ploughing towards the horizon long after you lift off. The optional carbon ceramic brakes with their monster perforated discs bring this ship to a halt deftly, the whole burner sinking on its haunches imperceptibly.
What the Bentley saloon lacks in sporting dynamics, it makes up for in superlative British refinement. There are splashes of schoolboy humour: if you want to know where your nearest filling station is on the satnav, touch the image of a spaceship taking off… rocket fuel, you see. The air is one of a gentleman’s club with vintage-styled air vents and a Bentley case for your reading- or sunglasses. The studious craftsmanship that has gone into the build of this car oozes from the paint finish to the way the leather has been pulled tight across the headrests, where the Bentley logo is sewn in. Such artisanship is the definition of British passion and expertly deployed in this starship from Crewe.
Price tag of our car: £180,750
(£136,000 + £44,750 options)