“Your Bentley’s beauuuuuuuuutifulllllll.”
The woman’s voice trailed off as she drove past in her silver Range Rover.
We were gathered around the big Barnato green Bentley Flying Spur, parked on a backstreet in a tony suburb. We’d come here to photograph Bentley’s new entry-level model in its natural habitat. This is a place where people street-park their Lamborghinis and where Range Rovers outnumber Honda CR-Vs by a 3-to-1 margin.
So consider it mission accomplished for Bentley, then. Not only did the woman recognize the car as something special, something rarer and more expensive than a Mercedes or BMW; she recognized it as a Bentley. Okay, its big square front grille, even when finished in black, is a pretty big tip-off. As are the Spur’s headlights, which look like Waterford cut-crystal goblets.
But this has been the challenge for the lesser Bentley sedan since it launched in 2005. Frankly, the first-generation Spur didn’t look like a Bentley. At a glance it could only be identified as a Large European Luxury Sedan Of Some Sort. That Flying Spur looked as if it had come from the wrong direction; it was floated up to the top of the VW Group soup instead of down from the massive Mulsanne four-door.
This Spur looks like a Bentley. It is unapologetically large and imposing. It’s not just the more upright appearance, either; the new Spur rides on a wheelbase of 125.7 inches, five greater than the old Spur. Much of that additional space was grafted between the front wheel and the A-pillar. The new proportions make the Spur look more convincingly like a rear-wheel-drive car in the traditional luxury-car, and traditional Bentley, mode. It’s not, of course. Like its predecessor, it comes standard with all-wheel drive.
Unlike its predecessors, which split torque 50/50, front to rear, the new car is effectively a rear-wheel-drive car until it detects wheel slip. The aim is to make this 5000-pound-plus road hog feel a little more sporting. And the Spur, which is built from the same platform as the Porsche Panamera, actually does feel surprisingly sporty considering its size and its heavy load of jewelry. This test car’s optional four-wheel-steering system certainly made the Spur feel more agile.
But it’s more than that. This car moves with discipline. Its body motions are kept in check. It feels composed. It feels serious. It feels... Well, like a large German sports sedan. There will be no wafting about in this Bentley.
Likewise, this Spur’s powertrain is more sporting than anything seen in a recent Bentley four-door. In place of the 626-hp twin-turbo 6.0-liter W-12, which premiered in the model last year, is a 542-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8. Even if the V-8 version weren’t about $22,000 cheaper than the Flying Spur W-12, I would still pick it. After all, the V-8 can motivate the car with plenty of authority; 0-60 is around 4.0 seconds. The V-8 also has a more energetic feel, accumulating revs in a rush. And the V-8 sounds much better.
Like W-12 versions, the V-8 is bolted to a dual-clutch automatic transmission. It’s an odd choice for a luxo-barge, but its shifts are quick without ever being jarring. It only reveals itself as a DCT from standing start, where it takes a half step or so longer to engage than a torque-converter automatic might. That’s easy enough to get used to.
Predictably, the interior is likewise easy to get used to. The company has done a fine job of incorporating VW Group switchgear and technology into an interior with roughly the same ambiance as the cigar room of a club exclusive enough that I’ve never heard of it. The diamond stitched leather is dark gray until the sun hits it and reveals a subtle green overtone. The only thing not stereotypically Bentley or British about the interior is the faultless logic of its controls and their placement.
This test car had $65,840 in optional equipment. One might think that a car that starts at $199,725 (including a $2725 destination charge and $1000 gas-guzzler charge) would be entirely loaded. One would be wrong about that. Perhaps you prefer to drink lukewarm beverages and therefore don’t need the Refrigerated Bottle Cooler option. You might then subtract the fridge’s $2440 cost, which would bring this particular Flying Spur’s price down to $263,125.
Personally, I’d swing for it. Why wouldn’t you want to offer the next cooing Range Rover driver a flute of champagne? You are, after all, a Bentley man.
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