Luxury four-door gets tweaks designed to make you give the chauffeur the day off
Choosing a Bentley Flying Spur used to be a simple affair, with its well-heeled buyers facing a straightforward choice between the power of the Wl2-engined version and the poise of the V8 one, but now Bentley has made things a little more complicated. Although there are no new powertrains (so still the W12 and V8), the line-up has been punctuated with models that display a sportier character to give owners a “real sense of Bentley’s racing heritage”, in the company’s own words.
As well as the Flying Spur V8 S driven here, Bentley has introduced a W12 S and given both cars the same uprated suspension and sportier exterior details, in addition to increasing their power outputs. The V8 S gains 21bhp and 14lb ft of torque over the standard V8, taking its total output to 521bhp and 502lb ft. (For the record, the W12 S has 626bhp and 605lb ft, increases of l0bhp and 15lb ft over the regular W12 model.)
As for the rest of the mechanicals, Bentley has made the suspension tauter, but in an effort to maintain comfort, it hasn’t lowered the car in the way that it has done with the S versions of the Continental GT. The S also gets a black honeycomb grille, gloss black rear diffuser and dark tinted lighting, all in the pursuit of giving it a meaner look.
The Flying Spur’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 may not offer the same sense of occasion that the W12 or the Mulsanne’s 6.75-litre V8 bring, but its lighter construction gives the Flying Spur greater poise and it is able to haul this near three-tonne car to 60mph in just 4.6sec and continue on to a top speed of 190mph.
It’s impressive that, even with the suspension tweaks, the V8 S remains a superb cruiser that glides smoothly and quietly. Yet if you stamp on the throttle, the engine makes itself known through its satisfying burble. Slot the solidly built, knurled chrome gear selector into S mode and the V8’s presence is all the more obvious, with the ZF automatic gearbox holding onto each ratio longer, allowing revs to rise as you bask in its bassy note.
In truth, the V8 engine’s ability was never really in question. However, the Flying Spur’s air suspension is less impressive, so you would be forgiven for thinking that making it sportier could only be to the detriment of this big Bentley. Sure enough, it thuds over imperfections in the road surface around town. However, the similar-priced Aston Martin Rapide S is more jarring, and the Flying Spur is impressively cosseting at higher speeds.
It still leans over like a large SUV when it’s in its softest damper setting, but when you toggle it towards the sporty end of the spectrum, the V8 S firms to the point where body roll is barely noticeable and you almost forget the car’s heft.
Inside, you’ll find lashings of lavish materials and the craftsmanship for which Bentley is renowned. However, for every hand-finished, fine-grade material used, there is a sense that its effect has been undone by the infotainment system. The Volkswagen Phaeton-sourced system is functional, but it is too slow and clunky compared with the modern, polished systems in Rolls-Royces, Range Rovers and Mercedes-Benz S-Classes. It’s a shame, because it takes away some of the allure of the Bentley’s otherwise luxurious interior.
Although the V8 S isn’t perfect, it’s the best model in the Flying Spur range,because the engine is as good as ever and Crewe has successfully converted a car to be chauffeured around in into a car you’ll enjoy driving. True, it’s priced very close to the Rapide S, but although the V12 in the Aston Martin is soulful, the Bentley is a far more enjoyable and easier car to live with day to day. It might even tempt buyers out of the rear seats and into the front.
Engine and chassis upgrades make this the pick of the Flying Spur range, if you prefer to drive yourself
Price: £ 118,810
Engine: V8, 3993cc, twin-turbo, petrol
Power: 521bhp at 6000rpm
Torque: 502lb ft at 1700rpm
Gearbox: 8-spd automatic
Kerb weight: 2972kg
Top speed: 190mph
Economy: 25.9mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 254g/km, 37%
Rivals: Aston Martin Rapide S, Rolls-Royce Ghost