We recently got the chance to drive the new Bentley Flying Spur. The Flying Spur is marketed as an alternative both to the luxury sedans from German rivals and to the more expensive Bentley Mulsanne. We tested it thoroughly by taking it through rush hour traffic in Antwerp and up to the abandoned ghost town of Doel, a small village where all the inhabitants had to move for the expansion of the port of Antwerp. The question we had from the start was: is this a car to drive or a car to be driven in?
Bentley has used the Flying Spur name since 1957. However, for the modern Flying Spur, our history lesson need only go back to 2005 when the British company first introduced the Continental Flying Spur. The introduction of the new model saw Bentley drop the Continental part of the name, and baptized the car as the New Flying Spur.
Under the hood of the new Bentley Flying Spur sits the most powerful engine the Bentley brand has ever offered in a four door saloon package. A 6.0 liter twin-turbocharged W12 engine producing a total of 625 hp available at 6,000 rpm together with 800 Nm of torque available from 2,000 rpm. Compared to its predecessor the new Flying Spur has 73 more horsepower while the total torque is raised by 150 units.
Due to the recent upgrade of the motor control management and the latest version of the Bosch ME17-interface, this engine gets a better controlled turbo system, an optimized torque management and an improved throttle response at low and high speeds. The new Flying Spur also sees an improvement of 14 per cent in the power-to-weight ratio compared to the previous model.
Gearbox & Drivetrain
The W12 engine comes with the latest eight-speed automatic ZF gearbox, which can now be found in all Bentley models. Gear changes happen almost unnoticed in less than 200 milliseconds while the engine always runs at its most efficient rpm to improve the emissions and fuel consumption. Those later figures have dropped by a whopping 13 per cent.
The gearbox runs as smooth as a train through gears, once switched into sport mode there is a small difference to note in the shift time but, the feeling remains comfortable. Only when changing to manual shifting, either with the gear shifter or with the paddles behind the steering wheel, there is a small difference in the smoothness of driving. When manual mode isn’t used anymore for a short time, the gearbox will automatically set itself back into ‘drive’.
The new Bentley Flying Spur comes as standard with a four wheel drive system. The standard distribution will send 60% of the power to the rear wheels and 40% to the front wheels, but that partition may vary up to 85% to the rear and 62% to the front axle depending on the available grip. Thanks to this the Bentley can create an optimal utilization of the potential power in all possible conditions.
If there is one thing that we do not have to access in the new Flying Spur, it is weight savings. Dry weight is a whopping 2,475 kg with a maximum permissible weight of just under 3 tons. The W12 engine is therefore not at all undersized to move this very heavy car, certainly not combined with a length of 5.3 meters.
Despite its weight, this engine can produce almost incredible figures. The new Flying Spur sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in just 4.6 seconds and reaches 160 km/h in just under 10 seconds. The particular car we drove had a maximum speed limit of 260 km/h but thanks to the power and the eight speed gearbox the ne Flying Spur will easily run to a factory released top speed of 322 km/h.
When reaching higher speeds, the ride height of the vehicle is automatically lowered for aerodynamic reasons via the pneumatic suspension. This not only improves the vehicle stability, but also reduces consumption and benefits the speed. The reduction in the height proceeds in two steps: 5 mm front and 10 mm rear at 195 km/h and another 8 mm by 13 mm at a speed of 240 km/h.
The ride height can also be manually adjusted at any time via the onboard computer. Here however, there are only two possible choices, being ‘normal’ and ‘high’. To lift the driving comfort of the Bentley to an even higher level, the front and rear springs were made 10 and 13% softer respectively. The way in which the damping became harder is noticeable when cornering at higher speeds. Next to that the stabilisers have been softened to improve the separate movement of each wheel. This improvement makes sure that the New Flying Spur eliminates all possible shocks.
The combination of the new springs with hydraulic dampers are specifically designed for maximum comfort. The revised electronic damping control (CDC) guarantees a perfect balance between body control and stability at all speeds. When actually driving the car it’s almost unbelievable how every small bump in the road is filtered away and it’s even more impressive when knowing that our car sat on a set of huge 21 inch wheels.
When getting inside the new Flying Spur it is even more breathtaking than its exterior design and engine. No less than 600 new parts were installed in the car. Only the sun visors, door handles, armrests and some control elements of the center console were carried over from the previous model.
The seats offer plenty of comfort and come equipped with air conditioning and heating function as well as massage. In the back you can chose two different configurations, being three or two seats depending upon the owners wish. Special to the four seat configuration is the center console that is created in one part from the front to the back. For the upholstery of the seats there is an exclusive leather package available in no less than 12 different colors.
Installed within the interior are several technological features that can be easily operated using the touch screen located on the center console and by many different but user friendly buttons around it. Rear passengers can also control multiple functions through a wireless remote control with touch screen. As an extra you can opt for the Bentley Connectivity Unit (BCU) which makes it possible to connect to the Internet with a laptop or tablet via a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.
The new Flying Spur is much like its predecessor, an imposing appearance with a length of up to 5,295 mm. Design wise is to be noted that the double headlights as well as the rear lights are in the same style, but with an updated look.
As with the interior the new Flying Spur distinguishes itself through its impressing appearance in every possible angle. The oval exhaust pipes on both sides of the back and the 21 inch painted wheels match perfectly with the ‘Dark Cashmere’ paint scheme our test car was equipped with.
For our first Bentley road test in Belgium we had the chance of driving an official press car specially prepared for the European press. Bentley Belgium, based in Brussels, made sure we had the chance to take the car through heavy traffic to start with. We drove through the city centers of Brussels and Antwerp as well as the rather abandoned areas of the Port of Antwerp and the town of Doel. As it should be, the new Flying Spur received maximum attention from bystanders.
Important of course is to see what the Bentley is capable of; to see what effect it has on the driver and the passenger when slowly queuing in one of the many traffic jams. One thing is for sure, in whatever possible situation we were bathing in luxury.
After trying out all possible settings for the suspension, it was time to see what the rather heavy Bentley is capable off. First thing to notice, which is less positive, is if we press the gas pedal down the acceleration does not respond instantly. After a slight hesitation, the Bentley surely shoots out of the starting blocks like a real sports car. At higher speeds, there is even a sporty exhaust sound coming from the back of the car.
The acceleration happens very rapidly and the time of 4.6 seconds to reach the 100 km/h is impressive considering the rather slow reaction to the gas pedal. A small negative experience comes when the car needs to get back to zero because you then can feel that the cars weight is almost affecting the way of braking. Add another 100 kg of weight to the car and we believe it might get into trouble when braking but this was most probably tested by the Bentley engineers.
Changing gears is simply mind blowing. When the transmission is in automatic mode, the gear changes, both up -and downshifting, are so soft that you really need to concentrate if you want to feel them. It is only when the pedal is pushed down, and the driver chose a manual gear selection, that you can feel the engine select a new gear, and even then it is extremely subtle.
Like changing gears the behavior of the Bentley when cornering is just as impressive. The main reason for this is of course the constant all-wheel drive system that is keeping control over the power being released to the wheels. Both at low and high speeds, thanks to the redesigned suspension, the car gives no kick. Of course you cannot expect the new Flying Spur to act as a race car, but for Bentley that is not important, because potential buyers will not do so.
Inside the new Flying Spur you need to relax, even when driving rather fast you can still easily relax and enjoy being surrounded by luxury. The driver and passengers have all sorts of gadgets to play with, from the cars setup and navigation system to digital radio that can all be operated via a portable device installed in the back of the car. After a stressful day, you can easily calm down by enjoying the massage you can get in every seat in the car, even when driving yourself.
The head turning effect that comes with the new Flying Spur is quite high. When we parked the car in the empty town of Doel, the contrast between the abandoned houses and the car was so big that it even made us look to the car over and over again. When driving through more populated areas everybody had a look at the Bentley driving by, even people who did not have any interest in cars at all.
Remarkable was the reaction from local police officers when we asked politely if we could drive in a no car zone for the photoshoot – ‘ with a car like this we can only allow you to make the best pictures possible’ – thank you officer.
Of course we had to test what it is like to be a passenger in the Bentley. When cruising down the motorway from the Port of Antwerp to the city center of Brussels you have to cross one of the most terrible traffic intersections Belgium knows, the ring around Antwerp combined with a passage in the Kennedy tunnel.
To get back to Brussels you need to cover a distance of about 40 km’s and those are mostly very stressful because almost half the day there are so many cars on the road that sometime you want to just put the car on the hard shoulder and leave it there. But that is a change when you are sitting in the back of the new Flying Spur. The only thing that is going through your mind is trying to find the best way to relax. You can easily do that by turning the radio on, winding up the window blinds, put the massage function on and take a newspaper in the hand.
At this point our experience in the new Flying Spur was almost finished. When getting back to the importer we really had a hard time to switch the Bentley for our own car. Only positive note in the switch was the fuel consumption that gets back to ‘normal’ because the Bentley is really thirsty, up to 18l / km without really pushing it, but that of course cannot be an issue when driving a car like this one.
What to spec?
During our day with the new Flying Spur we also had a look at the various options and packages available for the car. The test car itself had most of it yet installed but the most important, through our eyes, are :
• Mulliner driving specification with 21” painted wheels: this includes a bright chromed lower bumper matrix, color specification, diamond quilting to seats and doors, drilled alloy sports foot pedals, emblem stitching to headrests, indented hide to headlining, jewel fuel filler cap and knurled sports gear lever. An all in package that is yours for an extra of 9,745 euro.
• Rear view camera: speaks for itself with a car like this. Extra price is € 930.
• Comfort specification : electric front seatbelt height adjustment, front and rear seat ventilation & massage, front seat cushion extension adjustment. An option for just € 1,850 what is just what you need to get maximum comfort every day of the year.
• NAIM Premium Audio System: this system designed specifically for the Bentley comes with 1,100 W via separate subwoofers for enhanced bass response. An absolute experience to listen to for € 5,725.
What about the competition?
This is probably the best question to ask. Is there any competition for this car? Of course we can think about the Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG but this is more brutal and at the same time a bit more civilized and less eye catching car. Then there’s also the Rolls Royce Ghost to think about, but honestly we believe this is just another step higher in the market than the new Flying Spur.
We have only positive things to say about the new Bentley Fying Spur. The way it drives, feels, looks is simply amazing. All the luxury and performance you could ever want from a car like this. Which leads us to the main question we asked ourselves when picking up the car; is this a car to drive or to be driven in?
This is a hard question to answer as a car enthusiast, but we believe it is better to be driven.