Flying Spur: The beauty and the beast
Buying a Bentley isn’t just about owning a fancy car, it’s about access to discovering a certain way of life. There’s something about this classic British brand that you just don’t feel in the same way with a mere Mercedes or a Porsche.
The W12 S, with its 635hp, is the sportiest representative of the Flying Spur range, rendered even more exclusive than usual through a partnership with French luxury company Lalique to sell 12 examples of a unique perfume box called the Black Cristal Edition. The price of this one-of-a-kind scent? £17,500 – definitely Bentley territory.
The Flying Spur has been around since 2013 – the second generation of the Continental Flying Spur, introduced in 2005 as a four-door saloon version of Bentley’s then successful new Continental Coupe, which has captured the hearts of footballers across the globe. The Spur is also a prestigious competitor of the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class. If you want to get into serious luxury territory the Bentley Mulsanne tops out the Bentley collection, beginning around £230,000 – £60,000 higher than even our top-spec Flying Spur W12 S.
Like a finely ageing wine, the Flying Spur only seems to get more charismatic the longer it is on sale. Its elegant lines are distinctly Bentley, yet as Crispin Marshfield – responsible for exterior design at Bentley – explained, the work done on the sides of the W12 S model makes this a Flying Spur like no other.
There is of course the imposing visual signature that’s all Bentley – the round headlights and regal grille. On our model W12 S, the chrome has completely disappeared from the body, in favour of black inserts lacquered to beautiful effect – a theme picked up on the beautiful 21-inch wheels.
This subtle blend of elegance and sportiness continues inside. The Flying Spur’s distinguished dashboard tries to remain faithful to the bygone era of company founder Walter Owen Bentley, who started his eponymous firm on 18 January 1919. The challenge here is to marry the two elements of atmospheric luxury that some will consider outdated with the most modern of technologies.
There are no giant touchscreens in here, though – it’s all about touch and feel in this sumptuous environment. There are heavy push buttons for the ventilation nozzles, top quality leather covering the entire interior (you shudder to think how many cows were sacrificed for the honour of this particular role), and carpets so thick and soft you feel like you should be driving in your slippers.
Perhaps some will lament the fact that the Flying Spur isn't a particularly high-tech car – but obsessing about head-up displays, emergency brake assist and such is to miss the point of the Bentley. It’s more than a mere gadget, in fact it’s craftsmanship. And however nice the interior is, that craftmanship is nowhere more evident than under the massive bonnet.
The W12 engine, sourced from the depths of the Volkswagen factory, is a colossal six litres, with two turbos, a peak power rating of 635hp and peak torque of 605lb-ft. It pulls like a train – and at 2,475kg it weighs almost as much as a train – but those 12 cylinders are all very discreet.
From the driver’s perspective everything is serene behind the wheel, but mash the accelerator pedal and a fury is unleashed that still never manages to ruffle the Flying Spur’s suave demeanour. The performance is staggering, and perhaps less down to British craftsmanship than German wizardry inherited from parent company Volkswagen. The automatic transmission is never jerky and the suspension and damping work together serenely well to keep things under control.
The W12 S is a car of two halves – you can be equally at home as an engaged driver, or lounging in the back being chauffeured while you enjoy a massage in one of the car’s sumptuous individually reclining chairs. It’s a charming and seductive environment, even as you consider the size of the house you could buy in most parts of the country for this car’s specced-up price of £198,400. Just lie back and relax…