First drive: Bentley Flying Spur
What is it?
An updated version of the luxurious Flying Spur that was first unveiled to the world in 2005. Many hours have been spent working on a new identity for the model that doesn't shy too far away from the iconic yet understated lines of a Bentley but adds a modern edge to keep it abreast with rivals from the UK and Germany. The levels of sumptuous, handcrafted detail remain amongst some of the best in the world but an injection of new technology aims to appease the slightly younger, more gadget-savvy buyer.
What's under the bonnet?
The same almighty 6-litre twin-turbocharged W12 unit that can be found in the outgoing model but with a few technological tweaks that reduce fuel consumption by 13.5 per cent and boost performance figures. Top speed is now 200mph, with Bentley marketing the monster as 'the world's fastest saloon'. That claim becomes quite apparent when the right pedal is pinned to the carpet as, despite weighing nearly three tonnes, it can despatch the 0-60mph sprint in just 4.3 seconds. After listening to feedback from customers, Bentley has slaved tirelessly to decrease the encroaching grumble of the mighty W12, so noise in the cabin has decreased by an impressive 40 per cent.
What's the spec like?
A basic Flying Spur will set you back £140,900 so naturally specification is going to be on the generous side but, if one goes wild with the options list, prices can easily tickle the £170,000 mark. Basic W12 models come with opulent, 14-way adjustable seats, multi-zone climate control, rear-seat entertainment units and swathes of hand-stitched leather and natural wood veneers. A W12 Mulliner version, that includes bespoke interior hide colours, diamond quilting on the seats, embroidered Bentley logos on the seats and sporty drilled alloy pedals and knurled gear lever, is available at a premium. To give an indication of the extent of possible luxurious specifications, the options list includes a lamb's wool boot carpet at the cost of £600.
The Flying Spur will always face fierce competition from the Rolls-Royce Ghost, a car whose badge arguably carries more gravitas amongst discerning customers, but also an equally eye-watering price tag. Bentley also cites the likes of BMW and Mercedes as key rivals as well as the sportier luxury saloons such as the Maserati Gran Turismo and the Aston Martin Rapide. Land Rover is also making waves in the luxury market with the Range Rover - a vehicle that is just as comfortable as the Spur but can also tackle a mountainside if the mood takes.
What's it like to drive?
Effortless power is the name of the game here, the big Bentley whisking its occupants to high speeds without those inside the leathery cocoon knowing any different. The suspension does a great job of wafting over cracks and bumps through town and manages to steam roller any imperfections in motorway surfaces - it's an absolute joy to be driven in. But the real surprise comes when you actually slide behind the wheel and take control of the Spur. It feels big and heavy but not in a negative way, the car encourages a sensible driving style around town but the well-judged steering lightens up at slow speeds, making tight roads and tricky roundabouts a breeze to navigate. Firm up the suspension, slip the gear lever into sport mode and the twisting A-road becomes a fairground ride. It's in no way a Lamborghini but the three-tonne cruiser handles with little body roll through corners and blistering pace on the straights. According to those who sell these machines, 90 per cent of Bentley owners drive themselves and we can see why.
The AOL Cars verdict
It is very difficult to find fault with such an expensive vehicle that is lavished with Bentley levels of attention to detail and there is no denying this is one very beautiful, very accomplished machine. Slight niggles would surround the additional tech elements with many of the menu screens proving fiddly and unintuitive. The Bluetooth phone connection requires too many stages to operate fully and we struggled with the on-board Wi-Fi. Eagle-eyed customers may also notice that a large amount of technology is carried over from other models in the Volkswagen group and those parting with £160,000 probably don't want the Sat Nav from a Skoda. Tech aside, it is classic Bentley, boasting understated yet elegant looks, impressive power and interior comfort that is hard to find anywhere else.
Model: Bentley Flying Spur W12
Engine: 6-litre, twin-turbocharged W12
Power: 616bhp, 800Nm
Max speed: 200mph
0-62mph: 4.3 seconds
MPG: 19.2mpg combined
Emissions: 343 g/km