Believe it or not, I know my way round a Bentley. I was lucky enough to experience the Bentley Continental W12 at Kirkistown a few years ago, so I was ultra-keen to see what its bigger brother had to offer.
The guys from Charles Hurst Specialist Cars on the Boucher Road, didn’t let me down, either. I was handed the keys to a 2015 Flying Spur, fresh from the factory in Crewe and just nicely broken in. Once all the paperwork was out of the way and I had been made thoroughly aware of all the controls and Bentley mannerisms, I set off for an obligatory lap of the Lisburn Road.
Firstly, it was hard not to notice the highly unconventional damson hide. In fact, when anyone stepped inside, it was the one thing that they commented on. If damson doesn’t take your fancy, there are seventeen colours available for the hand upholstered interior, complete with colour co-ordinating deep pile carpet and over mats.
Swinging my legs in to the car was akin to stepping into the drawing room of a manor house. The driver’s seat takes on the form of the Lord of the Manor’s very own armchair. Normally when test driving a car I would describe the level of comfort and style of seat; well the Flying Spur offers luxury sofa-like comfort and support.
The heated settings were as expected, simply perfect. However, it doesn’t stop there; there is an option for cooled and massaging seats. The front and rear seats offer enough space for giants and can all be moved independently, under electric power, from buttons on the side of each seat.
The rear also has a removable panel that controls the heating, meaning those in the rear can dictate the climate inside this super sedan. This FLying Spur was a designated “Mulliner” specification car, which gains a diamond quilted stitching throughout the interior, perforated hide, drilled alloy sports pedals, knurled sports gear knob and jewel fuel and oil filler caps amongst the many other finishing options.
The only real downside of this car was the infotainment system. It just didn’t feel worthy a car costing around £170,000 (that’s complete with a plethora of options which were ticked on this test car). The touch screen system is very outdated and basic, while the speakers were… well let’s not go there! Other than to say the “Naim” for Bentley premium audio upgrade, at £5,835, would be the first option I would pick when ordering a new Flying Spur.
Outside, the designers have kept this Bentley smooth. The new contours accentuate just how beautiful the curves and lines of this big car really are. The front end features the signature Bentley radiator grill alongside the trademark dual round headlamps.
With over one hundred paint colours available and even duo options, this is one car that is hugely customisable. Indeed, if you have a colour that you have fallen in love with, whether its a colour on a new watch or the casing of a pen, bring it to Bentley and they will match that colour to the outside of your Spur!
When it comes to luxury cars, we often think calm, collected and sophisticated; unhurried and totally relaxed at the wheel. Maybe this is appropriate, as luxury is something that has to be savoured, appreciated and enjoyed over time. But when the horses were selected from the Bentley Stable for this Flying Spur, they were the best of breed for sure, but, they are a whole hillside away from being calm and collected.
In fact, the 6.0 litre W12 engine in the model I tested is a feat of engineering. It has been about for a long time, but with revisions and updates along the way. On a steady cruise, the car will shut down one bank of cylinders and run only on the remaining six, in the name economy. Nevertheless, when the throttle is pressed hard, its like thunder passing through a rainbow.
By that I mean it’s something that you just don’t expect! Like taking that one crazy friend to a black tie dinner – mannerly and respectful – but at some point, you know things are going to get wild and a dance floor will be created from a table top. That’s just how life feels with the W12. The car pushes 616bhp, with the help of twin turbos, to the road via all wheel drive. The set-up is 40:60, front to rear torque split. It will reach 60mph in a staggering 4.3 seconds and has a top speed of 200mph. On my combined drive over two day, an average consumption of around 18mpg was achieved.The eight speed automatic gear box, complete with paddle shift added to this model, was an absolute joy. Smooth and barely noticeable, it just worked away and done what was needed in the most efficient and professional way it could. You couldn’t know, feel or hear what was going on underneath.
Fast luxury is the name of the game and I possibly understand part of its name, “Flying” Spur! At just shy of two and a half tonne in weight, it’s one heavy car and indeed this can be felt with the brakes. Without the ceramic upgrade the pads take a little time to kick in and if being driven in a highly spirited fashion, they would get warm very quickly.
With its self-leveling air suspension, the Flying Spur is more than capable of propelling its occupants at high speed along an A or B road with ease and pure comfort, aided by its adjustable settings via the touch screen system on the dash. I was truly amazed by the agility of the Spur for its size and weight, most certainly an athlete in a larger body.
The mighty Flying Spur was a huge delight, despite the minor gripes. To me, the Flying Spur is to roads, what Samson and Goliath are to the shipyard – an immense presence!