– Fast for a “base” engine
– Cabin comforts and features
– Ride and handling
– Expensive for a “base” model
– Fun while parallel-parking
– Softer than its coupe sibling
It was only a matter of time before the long-running Bentley Continental GT coupe got a four-door sibling. So there was no surprise when the Continental Flying Spur burst onto the uber-upscale automotive landscape a decade ago, looking pretty much like a four-door version of the GT with a conservative roofline. By late 2013, it was time for a refresh of sorts, and the Flying Spur distanced itself further from the GT by gaining unique front-end design elements as well as dropping the Continental from its name.
While the Flying Spur now sports its very own design, it still features typical Bentley styling cues, such as the mesh grille, the four circular headlight elements and the raised rear haunches. Our V8-powered tester comes with further unique touches such as red “B” badges and figure-8 exhaust tips, but no other clues to the motor under that long bonnet.
Once inside, we instantly realised that the new body is built on the old “Continental” as the interior remains almost unchanged from the previous model. The double-arched dashboard, shared with the GT coupe, is covered in stitched leather and thick wood trim, as is the rest of the cabin. Even the headliner is lined with leather, while details such as the gear knob, pedals and a/c vents are precision-moulded metal.
There’s an abundance of space, obviously, with generous legroom both front and back. All the four main seats are mildly-bolstered for a lounge ambience, with massage functions all round, and wooden tray-tables for rear passengers. The boot is massive, with a long load floor, carpeted from top to bottom, but overall useable volume is hampered by two huge speakers hanging from the boot’s ceiling. No folding rear seatbacks though, as you’re not expected to carry large cargo in a Bentley. And there’s four cup-holders, so any fifth passenger you squeeze in the back has to go without a drink.
The tech features, upgraded for 2014, continues to be sourced from Volkswagen, with a familiar touchscreen multimedia system that integrates Bluetooth phone, stereo and navigation functionality, as well as short-cut buttons below for each. The Flying Spur also gets a touchscreen control panel for rear passengers that can be popped out of its holder and used as a wireless remote. The Naim-branded stereo is excellent, while the four-zone a/c is above-average. Other features include ventilated power seats, powered boot lid, adaptive cruise control, HID headlights with LED running lamps, electric rear window blinds, front-side airbags, smart keyless entry with starter button, and a rear camera with sensors.
The “base” V8 engine really is properly powerful. The turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 makes 500 hp at 6000 rpm, and feeds all four wheels with 660 Nm of torque from 1700 rpm all the way up to 5000 rpm, so there’s a kick at any speed. Mated to an 8-speed automatic with plastic paddles, it feels ridiculously quick, and managed a 0-100 kph time of 5.5 seconds in our March tests. And at 15.6 litres/100 km of as-tested fuel consumption, it’s a fair bit more economical than the V12 variant. Our only concern was a slight throttle delay on initial tip-in as well as a reluctance to downshift while overtaking, before the inevitable massive surge of power.
For a massive car, it’s easy to drive quickly around corners, within reason of course. While there’s tons of grip aided by all-wheel-drive, body control is very good, but not as good as the Continental GT. So it’s not quite the four-door iteration of a GT Coupe that we thought it was, but a slightly softer version, even with the adjustable suspension set in the firmest mode. And that’s no bad thing, as the ride is fittingly smooth and quiet for the most part, with wind noise only becoming noticeable beyond 120 kph.
And yet, it’s still fairly satisfying to drive, more so than a Rolls-Royce Ghost, thanks to well-weighted steering with a bit of feedback, solid brake-pedal feel and a generally responsive behaviour on curvy high-speed roads. You’ll only realise it’s a big car when it’s time to parallel-park it.
The V8-engined Flying Spur is great value, if there is such a thing as “value” in this upper-crust realm. Almost as quick as the W12 versions while offering all the looks, gadgets and creature comforts as its pricier brethren, the red-badged Spur is the one to have if you’ve outgrown that Continental GT already in your garage.
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