Tested » Bentley Flying Spur W12
Words & Photos: Nitish Ramanujam
Launched in 2005, two years after the game changing Continental GT, the Flying Spur debuted with a platform shared with the humbler Volkswagen Phaeton and the mighty W12 powertrain from its two-door sibling. Over the years, numerous revisions and even an angrier Speed variant have kept the model on par with its rarefied competition. And now, Bentley has gone ahead and revealed the new Flying Spur (the Continental name has been dropped, reserved only for the two-door variants) at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show, its most powerful four-door yet.
Like most Bentleys, changes are evolutionary, but, unlike the coupe, you wouldn’t be hard pressed to differentiate between the old and new. The front is pretty much similar to the previous model, sporting a more upright chrome grille that sits between the pairs of LED headlights. Beneath it is a full width lower intake with no vertical divisions and a dominant chromed horizontal accent. Also new is a fender vent with a Bentley “B” motif, from where a strong shoulder line runs all the way to the rear door, accentuating the shape of the car. The rear end is the most different, with the rather chunky posterior and vertical taillights of the previous car replaced by almost Mulsanne-ish design and horizontal lights."
With all the Bentleys we have driven over the years, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the interiors are some of the best in the business. Apparently, the sumptuous cabin includes 600 new parts, with only the sun visors, grab handles, armrests and some of the front console and controls carried over from the previous generation. Offered in both four- and five-seat configurations, the new Flying Spur features a softer yet more durable hide that is available in twelve different colours. The posh chairs, naturally, come with memory, a multitude of adjustment options, heating, cooling."
Infotainment and sat-nav is taken care of by an 8” touch-screen interface, while audio requirements are met with by a standard eight-channel, eight-speaker audio system. Or you can specify the stellar, but as-expensive-as-a-used-car 1100-watt Naim system. There is an optional Multi-Media Specification that lets you connect your portable devices and laptops to the internet through the car’s own Wi-Fi hotspot with an active SIM and includes 64 GB of internal storage capacity. Two 10” LCD screens are fitted to the backs of the front seats, while top-loading multimedia players sit in pockets fitted beneath, letting you access video, photo and music content from DVDs, SD cards and USB devices. Another über-cool feature is a remote that deploys from a housing in the rear console, which lets rear passengers control a variety of different systems from climate controls and seat ventilation through to satellite navigation and multimedia systems."
Unlike the twin-turbo V8 in the Mulsanne, the Flying Spur gets the monster W12 engine, again, aided by a pair of turbochargers. Power goes up from the previous 552hp to 616hp, while torque also increases to a staggering 800Nm, thanks to a revamp to the latest Bosch ME17 interface, which results in improved torque management, turbocharger control, driveability and low speed responsiveness. Coupled to a smooth shifting ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, the big B hits 100km/h in around 4.6 seconds, going on all the way to a top speed of 322km/h, mighty impressive for something that weighs close to 2.5 tons! Power is transferred to all four corners via an AWD system with a 40:60 rear-biased torque split and, when Bentley says the system can transfer up to 85 percent to the rear and 65 percent to the front, I don’t doubt it, as overall composure and grip of the Brit behemoth is unbelievable."
With most manufacturers going on and on about stiffer suspensions and agility, Bentley has taken a different approach with its newest model in order to make it more comfy. Even when rolling on massive 21” wheels wrapped in 275/35 ZR21 rubber, our car was the paradigm of serenity, thanks to 10 percent softer spring rates at the front and 13 percent at the back, along with softened up anti-roll bars and bushings. On the other hand, cornering attributes are similar to its predecessor thanks to increased rate of stiffness during hard cornering. And if you want to really go for it, the Flying Spur lets you tauten up the suspension. Interestingly, the new car has a two-stage lowering strategy, firstly lowering by 5mm at the front and 10mm at the rear at 195km/h and then by a further 8mm and 13mm respectively at 240km/h."
The car does shrink a bit around you as the speeds increase, but there is no shaking off the fact that is a huge piece of metal at any time. Likewise, the steering is also not very keen on transmitting a huge amount of detail into your hands, which is understandable given the character of the car. Compare it to the Rolls-Royce Ghost and, well, they are two very different cars catering to possibly the same clientele. The Roller might have a slight advantage when it comes to prestige and ‘waftability’, but the Bentley trumps it on power, torque and, ultimately, driving dynamics. If you can call a 2.5-ton barge dynamic, that is."