2021 Bentley Flying Spur V8 review – why it's so much more than a posh RS6
Does Bentley's big limo make sense with a V8 instead of a W12?
You probably know how this is going to go.
"Bentley has put its 550hp 4.0-litre V8 in the Flying Spur and it's not quite as fast as the W12 but it sounds better, is lighter, less expensive, more frugal and it's the sensible choice."
So far so meh. But nothing really prepares you for what a complete motor vehicle the new Flying Spur is – regardless of its engine. Read on for a full review, or watch below to see it in action.
What is it?
It's a four-door saloon based on the latest Continental GT. It's a 5.3-metre long luxury behemoth with four- and five-seat options. It costs £153,900, but you'll end up spending at least £40,000 more on options – the delicious Dragon Red car we tested came in at £205,000. And, frankly, it's money well spent.
Sort of. For a start, the Flying Spur makes you feel incredibly good about life. Once you've got over just how much of the B pillar you can see when you open the driver's door, you're immersed in a fairly standard Bentley interior – which is to say, a place that'll make you coo with joy at just about every prod of the controls. The centre console's a litany of buttons that three years ago would've been called an old-fashioned hodge-podge. But given how many modern cars are sticking every function into a stupid bloody touchscreen, it's a joy.
Heated armrest? Check.
The leather is supple and the three-sided rotating prism that can hide the pin-sharp infotainment screen or display three analogue clocks is a work of art. The £6,660 Naim sound system will encourage you to leave the house and sit on the driveway when your favourite artist drops a new record. It's a ridiculously pleasant interior.
Physical buttons for things. Hoo-bloody-ray
The Flying Spur feels huge when you first ease it out of a parking space and onto the road. But as you start to follow the B emblem that protrudes almost-out-of-sight at the end of the bonnet, you realise the Flying Spur's on your side. Four-wheel steering is standard, and it transforms the driving experience around town. You don't ever feel as if you're poking the Bismarck into a Venetian cul-de-sac. The steering's light and the car's covered in cameras to help you avoid twatting an expensive 22-inch rim into a kerb outside the chippy.
While the Flying Spur looks better than ever, there's still something about its bum that isn't quite there yet
The Flying Spur pulls off the usual uncanny Bentley sense of serenity. Left in comfort mode, the air suspension irons out the vast majority of lumps in the road, and it's only over bigger potholes when the weighty wheels send a clunk into the cabin.
But we always knew the Flying Spur would be able to waft with the best of them. What's it like when you've got to get to the partridge-death accessory shop before closing time?
The Flying Spur's default driving mode is B (for Bentley). This is your auto mode that blends comfort with sportiness, and it does a decent job, but you'll want to use sport mode when you're really in the mood for a blast. In this mode you can attack a twisty road and quickly realise that the Flying Spur's a limo in shape only. The way it shoulders its 2.3-tonne mass into a corner is mind boggling. The combination of that air suspension and active anti-roll bars means this thing can be hustled to a ludicrous degree.
Yes, the wings of the flying B light up at night. Don't act like you're not impressed
Even on soaking roads, I didn't detect an ounce of understeer. In sport mode the power goes to the back wheels until the Spur's electronics detect some slip. At this point it switches into four-wheel drive and it hauls you out of the corner, but not before giving you a little slide from the back tyres to put a grin on your face.
I know it's a bit gauche but I wish Bentley would offer carbon ceramics… you'll want to drive the Flying Spur hard
Half the fun of driving the Flying Spur is just how capable it is when driven quickly. Sure, it has limits and you'll certainly notice its mass when you have to jam on the huge – but easily modulated – brakes.
But – and here's where the Bentley completely outclasses the Audi RS6 – you'll reap a huge amount of enjoyment on a twisty road in the Flying Spur. Bentley's engineers have given it some real love and attention. They haven't just assessed that it can grip and corner and signed it off. It has a charm and a playful side that I wasn't expecting.
What else do I need to know?
The rear seats have loads of room and the comfiest headrests this side of a cloud
The Flying Spur's a reasonably practical car. The 420-litre boot is a useful shape and there's an absolute county of rear legroom for your passengers, who also get a touchscreen to control the blinds, check the sat-nav and so on. The car I was testing had the four-seat spec with headrest cushions so comfortable you'd happily have them in bed. To sleep on.
So it's good then?
Yep. The only negatives I can point to are the slightly weird narrow door apertures up front, a slightly slow throttle response in sport mode and the fact that Clarkson's one had a bit of a problem, which is already being fixed. Honestly, it's a do-it-all car that feels like just about the most well-rounded and luxurious car for drivers who like to, well, drive. Nice one, Bentley.