- FIRST DRIVE – BENTLEY FLYING SPUR
THERE’S been much for luxury brand Bentley to celebrate already this year – but the serious business is only just beginning.
The green light for the company’s first SUV model, creating 1,000 new jobs in the process, was switched on in July.
A whopping £800 million is being invested in its headquarters at Crewe and the development of new models over the next three years.
And the Bentley boys will make a return to top level motor sport next year with the Continental GT3 in the FIA Blancpain Series.
First though is the arrival of the most powerful Bentley saloon car ever built, the new Flying Spur which seems sure to push sales that are already 25 per cent up in the home market, to new heights.
The original Flying Spur was a significant car in its own right, selling almost 20,000 worldwide since its 2005 arrival.
But its replacement is a completely different proposition – more eye-catching, powerful and efficient as well as being a techno tour de force.
What Bentley has achieved with this car is a blend of power, comfort, refinement and hand-crafted quality, but offering a more sporty driving experience than before.
It really looks the part too with a lower roofline, wider more muscular stance, sculpted panels and a striking new wing vent complete with the flying ‘B’ motif.
Pairs of jewel-like LED headlamps, a more upright chrome grille and lower criss-cross intake complete what’s a dramatic new face for the Flying Spur.
Beneath the bonnet lies Bentley’s 6.0-litre, twin turbo W12 engine, coupled to a ZF eight-speed transmission and delivering power to the road via all-wheel drive with a 40:60 rear-biased torque split for a more engaging drive.
Developing a massive 616bhp and 800Nm of pulling power its performance is thunderous, capable of a 0-60mph time of 4.3 seconds – 0-100 is reached in 9.5 secs – and a 200mph top speed.
The press launch test route started from a vicinity synonymous with extreme luxury – Mayfair in central London – and took in 250 miles of urban, motorway and rural roads to the New Forest and back.
While a re-engineered body structure with more use of aluminium has made the Flying Spur 50kg lighter than its predecessor, it nonetheless remains a very substantial motor car.
Such are its dynamics though that the feeling of ‘I’m driving a big limo’ simply doesn’t exist. Power is instant yet smooth, the grip immense and feel from the steering perfectly balanced as the Bentley conveys what you could describe as a magic carpet ride on steroids.
As a model equipped both for business and relaxation, and a proportion of its owners will have a chauffeur at the wheel, the attention to detail in the rear has been meticulous.
I stretched out in the back to appreciate the strides made, not just in comfort but also sound-proofing.
A new exhaust system with full length acoustic undersheets, specially developed 19-inch Comfort tyres, acoustic glazing and double window seals all contribute to the sound of rear silence – at least until you switch on the eight-channel, eight-speaker 1100W Naim for Bentley premium audio set-up.
Then it’s a case of relaxing in the quilted leather hide seats with their 14-way adjustment surrounded by wood veneers in burr walnut or dark fiddleback eucalyptus and luxury touches like picnic tables and Champagne bottle coolers.
A multi-media system driven by a 64-gig hard drive affords wi-fi connectivity on the move and in the rear seats a pop-out remote controls everything from climate control to the DVD players viewed via screens in the backs of the headrests.
So who will buy the Flying Spur? Well Bentley’s head of UK marketing Kiran Haslam says the customers will be business leaders and entrepreneurs, the Richard Branson type though more typically in their 40s.
Then all they need is a princely £140,900 – before the irresistible add-ons, of which there are many.