bentley flying spur long-term test review: perfect harmony
bentley flying spur long-term test review: perfect harmony
bentley flying spur long-term test review: perfect harmony
bentley flying spur long-term test review: perfect harmony
bentley flying spur long-term test review: perfect harmony

► CAR lives with a Bentley Flying Spur► Ben Pulman’s your guide to luxury life► It’s a hard life, but someone’s got to do it

North Wales used to seem so close when I lived near CAR’s Peterborough HQ – and, crucially, was young. Take a 911 GT3 to Snowdonia for a photo shoot tomorrow? All in an evening’s work, and no problem to drive straight back once the pictures have been shot. Now, though, I’m old, sleep-deprived thanks to two tots, and Betws-y-Coed is the best part of six hours away.

But I know the current Bentley Continental GT is a great car for long drives, and so the closely related Flying Spur should be equally perfect. Here’s hoping, as so far we’ve not quite gelled…

We’ve been starting to get there, though. When there are two under-threes to herd, family outings to the nearby beach are always an event, but they’re actually a pleasant event when you’re travelling by big red Bentley.

Hilariously incongruous too, with the boot stuffed with buckets and spades and picnic blankets and tents, queuing for Mr Whippy like everyone else, and being rather more in the public eye when trying to change into dry clothes back at the car after.

But unless you live in London and exclusively reside aft of the B-pillar, you don’t buy a Bentley to stay within 10 miles of your own home. No, you should darn well go places in it… and wait, what’s this, a 1000-mile work trip? Perfect.

Off I go from Hampshire to Snowdonia, and with a 90-litre tank the only breaks are prompted by my thirst, not the car’s. After sunshine, rain storms and even hail, crossing the Welsh border I replace the podcasts with something more up-tempo for the last leg. Now, I’m no audio expert, but my amateur ears decree the optional 2200w Naim system astonishing (though so it should be for £6725).

The first proper stop is at a quarry in Bangor, and after 300 or so miles the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 (complete with imperceptible cylinder deactivation) has returned an indicated 29.9mpg at an average of 55mph. The next 100 miles are more brisk (down to a rendezvous in Snowdonia, a pizza run to keep my colleagues fuelled to dusk, and a late-night razz to a hotel) and take us to 401 miles, in just over eight hours at the wheel, and a not too shabby 25.1mpg.

Better yet, the Bentley and I are finally on the same page. As well as being the fabulous cruiser you’d expect, able to schlep serenely or suddenly surge forward on a great wave of torque when a gap in the traffic opens up, it also reveals another dimension to its talents. While other limos might match it on the motorway, the Bentley is pretty special on a blast through Snowdonia in a way no Rolls-Royce can rival.

Our Spur has the optional £5855 Bentley Dynamic Drive and Electronic All Wheel Steering, and at first it had felt just a bit weird. The rear-steer part of the package is relatively easy to get used to: a suddenly tightening turning circle when coming out of junctions. But the 48-volt active anti-roll control system is a less natural fit.

Now, however, thanks to my miles in North Wales, it’s starting to make a lot of sense. Yes, the Flying Spur still rolls a tad, even with up to 1300Nm of anti-roll torque applied in 0.3 seconds. That wasn’t the problem. The difficultly was my brain getting used to by how much, and under what conditions, it would roll. I think the issue is that it behaves so unlike any other car of this size – there’s simply nothing comparable tucked away in your memory banks.

Yet the ride never seems to suffer, with even the worst bumps Snowdonia can throw up unable to disrupt the progress of this vast suite of leather and captain’s chairs. Mind duly adjusted, the Flying Spur will hustle like nothing else. This is revealing itself to be one heck of a car.

By Ben Pulman

Logbook: Bentley Flying Spur

Price £160,200 (£216,225 as tested)Performance 3993cc twin-turbo V8, 542bhp, 4.1sec 0-62mph, 198mphEfficiency 22.2mpg (official), 20.5mpg (tested), 288g/km CO2Energy cost 32.1p per mileMiles this month 1073
Total miles 2773

Month 2 living with a Bentley Flying spur: Dreamliner vs reality

bentley flying spur long-term test review: perfect harmony

By the bottom of our road on day one I am nonplussed by the Flying Spur. The low-profile tyres mean it doesn’t ride quite as well as the just-departed e-Tron (on wheels with the same 21-inch diameter). And after the serenity of a pure-electric Audi, the V8 rumble and the changing of actual gears – no matter how smooth – makes the Bentley feel unrefined by comparison.

Before setting off we have an issue, too. Most cars have obvious access points to their Isofix mounts, via little plastic flaps or zips in the seats. Not so the Flying Spur (because that would rather spoil the aesthetics of the plush rear accommodation – accommodation that most owners are unlikely ever to put small kids in). Instead, you need to part base from backrest; a process that in my father-in-law’s old Astra is a doddle. But in the Bentley, with its thick, sumptuously-stuffed leather, it’s a fight. A real, 30-minute, sweat and swearing fight that makes you think your child seats won’t fit and you can’t keep the Bentley. I do eventually succeed, but only after admitting defeat and then being sent back out by my wife.

Seats sorted, that first journey is a 100-mile trip, punctuated only by the newborn dropping his dummy into the cavernous no-man’s-land between the front and rear seats and the first born being fascinated by the in-built blinds.

The Flying Spur is serene to cruise in, but I discover a few more foibles in comparison to the e-Tron: despite the Bentley’s 568lb ft of torque, the initial throttle response can’t match that of an EV; and in retrospect I’ve come off the fence about the Audi’s dinky digital mirrors because the Bentley’s massive mirrors create their own huge blind spot at junctions.

But after that family trip, and the odd solo run (quite a way to arrive for your second jab…) I’m still rather flummoxed by the Flying Spur – I don’t love it and I’m not won over. That’s what these long-term tests are about, though, so maybe a planned 1000-mile trip will reveal more…

By Ben Pulman

Logbook: Bentley Flying Spur

Price £160,200 (£216,225 as tested)Performance 3993cc twin-turbo V8, 542bhp, 4.1sec 0-62mph, 198mphEfficiency 22.2mpg (official), 22.2mpg (tested), 288g/km CO2Energy cost 30.0p per mileMiles this month 229
Total miles 1700

Month 1 living with a Bentley Flying Spur: asking a lot, getting a lot

bentley flying spur long-term test review: perfect harmony

In the past decade or so I’ve been exceptionally fortunate to run all manner of long-term test cars, but two favourites stand out: an E92-generation BMW M3 Competition, and a Mk1 Porsche Panamera GTS. Both had big V8s that were equally happy whipping around the dial or cruising at a few thousand revs, dual-clutch gearboxes that could slur or snap through the changes, and each pulled off that mythical trick of feeling as special in a Friday-night jam as they did on your favourite road.

I never tired of either of them. Both were sporting GTs in essence (and the M3 has definitely suffered a little revisionist judgement that now deems it too heavy, with too many cylinders) and yet I never once felt either needed to be more focused. They darn well did it all. And the overdue point is, after nearly 15 years living with all manner of metal, I know what I like, and the next long-term test car might just enter my pantheon of greatness alongside an M3 that some don’t seem to like any more and a big white Porsche.

Enter the Bentley Flying Spur V8, a £200k gateway to maybe the most ridiculous few months my family and I will ever experience. We will forever make a point of telling everyone we know that we once had a Bentley for the summer and used it for everything.

In fact, we already have. Within hours of the Flying Spur arriving we were off to see family in the countryside and my daughter was having a post-nursery picnic in the back. The next evening I took it paddleboarding, and soaking wet gear from the Solent got dumped in the boot (I fall in a lot). It’s been to the beach multiple times in its first week with us, too. It is fantastically opulent, and an utterly ridiculous way for myself, my wife on maternity leave, and our two-year-old and five-month-old to spend a chunk of 2021.

This is the third-generation Flying Spur, a four-door sibling to the Continental GT, and both now share a platform with the current Panamera (while the Mk1 and Mk2 cars were related to VWs and Audis). That’s about as good as the gene pool gets. While any Stuttgart DNA left in the Flying Spur is welcome, you’d never know it is in any way related to a Porsche for all the wood and leather and gentleman’s club ambience.

I have high hopes. I’d not driven a current Flying Spur before this but CAR’s Gavin Green declared of the W12-enginered version: ‘No big limousine today can simultaneously play the high-performance saloon with such conviction.’ And my own experience in a current W12 Continental GT is that there is no finer place in which to consume motorway miles.

bentley flying spur long-term test review: perfect harmony

So, our car. It was pre-ordered by Bentley and… it’s not how I’d spec it. Slightly because I’m old before my time and like a bit of chrome on my Bentley, but mainly because I’ve actually no idea what I’d go for. Crewe’s configurator is so vast I can’t even decide upon a favourite colour; the choice of paint is split into seven sub-categories and I counted 89 different hues. Then there are over a dozen leather colours, an even greater number of veneers, contrast stitching…

With the decisions made for us, our Flying Spur is Cricketball Red, with Blackline specification (£3620) rather than chrome trim. Inside there’s both Linen and Burnt Oak leather and a Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus veneer.

The main options are the Mulliner Driving Specification (£10,290, and including 21-inch wheels, quilted seats, and beguiling 3D leather door panels); the Touring Specification (£6480, for lane assist, adaptive cruise, night vision, and a head-up display); a £6725 Naim audio system; the £4865 swivelling central display that can be a digital screen, a trio of clocks, or a veneer panel; and £5855 for rear-wheel steering and 48-volt anti-roll technology.

We did ask for one extra to be added, though, a £295 heavy duty rubber boot mat from the accessories catalogue. It’s currently protecting the too-nice-for-a-boot carpet, and all is well in our make-believe world.

At least it is now, one month in. Inside the first 60 minutes of having the keys, and after much sweat and swearing, I was convinced the Flying Spur was useless to us and would have to go straight back. But we’ll save that for next month…

By Ben Pulman

Logbook: Bentley Flying Spur

Price £160,200 (£216,225 as tested)Performance 3993cc twin-turbo V8, 542bhp, 4.1sec 0-62mph, 198mphEfficiency 22.2mpg (official), 18.6mpg (tested), 288g/km CO2Energy cost 35.6p per mileMiles this month 161
Total miles 1471

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