Why has Bentley made a V8 Flying Spur?
Bentley has revealed another Flying Spur. But this Flying Spur features a V8 and that's really important.
I wrote an article mid-year professing my love for the current Bentley Flying Spur. It really is one of the most ultimate cars I've ever seen. It's spacious, it goes like the clappers and the car actually handles really well for what is basically a luxury tank on wheels. I love that. Problem is, you pay the price for a car so ultimate and that price is steep.
But Volkswagen (who are Bentley's parent company) have long known about the pricing issues of the Bentley Flying Spur. They know that the cars of similar stature in the industry such as the BMW M760li, the Audi S8 and what was the Jaguar XJR all hold price tags that are far more attractive for a target market that spends more time in the back seat than the driver's seat. This means normally to that buyer the performance neither matters nor is a massive selling point in the car, and if it is? Then why not choose value over that performance? I mean either way you're still buying a luxury car?
Bentley is well aware of this and so last week they revealed a revised Flying Spur with all the luxuries and everything that we love about the W12 Flying Spur into a V8 engine. Now that makes me really excited. It puts the Bentley Flying Spur back just within reach in price, makes the car generally lighter and still with a top speed of 320kmph and a 0-100 sprint time of 4.1 seconds.
Not just that but it's just a little bit better to the polar bears, and that's cool. That's real cool. Most of those bigger cars today in their next iterations are going to move towards electrification so the fact that Bentley has that in mind is impressive. The good news about the environment though doesn't end there. Bentley has intelligently given the car the ability to turn 4 of its 8 cylinders off in highway driving. A type of driving that I'm sure the Flying Spur is well versed too.
So why has Bentley done any of this? I think that's a good question to have. I mean the Flying Spur has a nice little niche that Bentley has classically pandered too and that niche serves them well in profitability. But serving someone well today just isn't good enough anymore. We're in the centre of a global pandemic and car brands are looking to be sold off every other day. Volkswagen just two weeks ago announced they're aiming to offload Bugatti and Lamborghini at some point as those car brands just weren't profitable anymore.
The V8 Flying Spur expands Bentley's horizon's just a little bit at very little cost (considering the V8 they use is already in existence). It means that more people can afford the Flying Spur but it doesn't make the car any less special, any less nichy.
That's important here because it gives Volkswagen a reason to hold on to the brand. It gives Volkswagen shareholders a reason to have hope that Bentley won't always just be a low volume niche flagship brand of the Volkswagen Group. We saw a hint of that when Bentley first released the Bentayga a few years back now.
It's also good for the worldwide market because funnily enough, a good whack of the world outside of Europe love V8 engines. Australia for example used to be one of the biggest V8 markets in the world per capita prior to the demise of its muscle car empire and Americans are absolute fiends for the gas gusslers. But as mentioned above and thankfully, the new V8 Flying Spur isn't all that much of a gas gussler. Oh no, if anything it's a gas saver compared to the other car.
I think that brings up a good point about electrification which brands are wrestling with at the moment. Electrified vehicles do not purely need to be whirring machines which do nothing else. Hybridisation has allowed the world to be a bit of both and there are many examples of sports cars coming to market which embrace that philosophy in recent times. The Polestar 1 was a perfect example of just that (probably far more to the extreme part of the scale). It allowed the customer to feel like he or she was still driving a combustion car but with a massive battery range (150kms) the car essentially ran on electrification whenever it hit a highway or a longer stretch of cruising road. It also made the car ridiculously fuel-efficient.
So what comes next? Well, my opinion for what it's worth is that we start seeing the emergence of a miniaturised version of a cruising battery placed in V8 vehicles like the new Bentley Flying Spur. The battery won't be used to get the vehicle up to speed, that's the job of the whopping V8. But once at speed, there isn't really any reason for the V8 to run. Why not just have it turn off and let a battery take over for a longer cruise? Bentley has more than enough aerodynamic expertise to do this as well.
All of this together though does show that Bentley still has its customer in mind. It's one of the rare manufacturers who listens to its customer. The customer who says that the Flying Spur is a tad too expensive and that they don't care if it goes a little bit slower. And they didn't just listen. But they acted on that feedback as well. And as a consumer, you couldn't ask for anything more. Good job Bentley, good on you for being fun but still taking life half-seriously.