What is that?

It's a full bath of melancholy. Nothing else. Bentley's press department had configured another one in "Anthracite Satin" with interior in "Beluga and Cricket Ball". That's already top 1 per cent when you say it. It is likely to be one of the very last, because in just under a month, the elitist pleasures that come with a dozen cylinders in such lavish quantities will also come to an end with the flying "B". The W12 sings an opulent and dignified goodbye and we crash the farewell party.

Between us and the party, however, there is still a little lesson in engine history, because this engine is already 23 years old in its basic form. In 2001, the unit made up of two VR6 engines made its debut in the Audi A8.

In the same year, Volkswagen also presented its mid-engined W12 sports car, which never went into series production. Further applications can be found in the Phaeton W12 (2001 to 2011) and the wonderfully absurd Touareg W12 (2004 to 2009). Both achieved 450 PS and 560 Nm in the final expansion stage. Things became even more exotic with the one-off Spyker C12 La Turbie (2006) and Spyker C12 Zagato (2008). The Dutch sports car manufacturer increased the output of the twelve-cylinder engine to 500 PS and 600 Nm.

Bentley Flying Spur Speed (2024) im Test
Bentley Flying Spur Speed (2024) im Test
Bentley Flying Spur Speed (2024) im Test

Bentley has been using the W12 since 2003. Thanks to its special design, it is 24 per cent shorter than a classic V12. The British call "their" engine (it is now only used by Bentley) the "most advanced twelve-cylinder in history". The current generation was launched in the Bentayga in 2016. Since 2003, the company claims to have increased power and torque by up to 27 and 38 per cent respectively, while emissions have been reduced by 28 per cent. 

Of course, the grand finale will be the most powerful W12 of all time will be built exactly 18 times. It is transplanted into the Batur, which is hand-built by Mulliner. Output 740 PS and 1,000 Nm. Unit price: a good two million euros. 

In comparison, our Flying Spur Speed, which costs just under €345,000 with equipment, almost seems like a bargain. Basically the last W12 hurrah for the masses (cough, duck and go). With its 635 PS and 900 Nm, the latter should just about be able to live with it. Despite a questionable live weight of almost 2.5 tonnes, the driving performance is absolutely suitable for competition. The speediest of all flying spurs goes from 0-62 mph in 3.8 seconds and can reach a top speed of 207 mph if required (and hopefully a very empty motorway). 

Bentley Flying Spur Speed (2024) im Test
Bentley Flying Spur Speed (2024) im Test
Bentley Flying Spur Speed (2024) im Test
Bentley Flying Spur Speed (2024) im Test

If you prefer less spectacular headlines: in terms of performance, the current Speed offers no more than the "normal" Flying Spur W12. However, it would be very easy to spot at a Flying Spur forum meeting. Its name suffix can be found virtually everywhere, embroidered into the headrests, milled into the door sills and also on the dashboard. Here and there in an incredibly dynamic font that does full justice to the snappy model name. 

I don't need to say anything about the interior, the pictures in the gallery will take care of that all by themselves, but this is nonsense. Of course I'll say something about the interior. It is absolutely glorious. In almost every respect. What a wonderful change this celebration of opulence is, where more and more other high-end manufacturers are confusing luxury with total reduction and/or wallpapering with as many screens as possible.

The fact that one or two buttons (especially on the steering wheel) and the displays in the instrument and infotainment screen look like those in an Audi A4 from 2010 is something we'll generously overlook for now and instead focus on the rather perfectly shaped shell. 

On the outside, you can see that everything that usually shimmers in silver is black in the Speed. This also applies to the very special 22-inch wheels, which you unfortunately can't see on our test car because: Winter. The silver replacement 21-inch tyres are probably one of the more sublime combinations for the cold season. We're not complaining. 

How does it drive?

First class, because the less grippy winter rubber emphasises a wonderful natural characteristic of this elite power car. I'm talking, of course, about the highly entertaining rear-wheel drive that the Spur's all-wheel drive system provides when the surface is a little more slippery and the mode dial is set to "Sport". 

At least 69 per cent of the ample output then flies towards the rear axle. Add to this the obvious abundance of wheelbase and the most absurd drift angles are always just a bold step away on the right pedal. It wouldn't be a bad idea if the track was not only slippery but also closed off. 

But don't worry. Even if you don't have your own frozen lake in the garden (or the dubious gumption to thrash a brand-new Bentley saloon through the local roundabout with its rear end heavily upturned), you can still get a small but ultimately perhaps even more satisfying insight into the life-affirming all-wheel drive set-up of this 5.32 metre-long luxury beast in normal road conditions.

Bentley Flying Spur Speed (2024) im Test
Bentley Flying Spur Speed (2024) im Test

Especially in the aforementioned Sport mode with its somewhat more relaxed ESP attitude, the car feels beautifully rear-wheel-driven. The rear end willingly turns in on bends and if you take a more spirited approach in 2nd or 3rd gear bends, the track rewards you with a hint of oversteer. Afterwards, however, all four tyres simply claw into the asphalt again like madmen and catapult the car forwards without any frills.

The rear-wheel steering certainly plays its part in the fact that the Spur not only plays the role of the over-potent land yacht, but actually also passes as a, well, sports saloon. You would expect that no grass would grow where it appears, that it would simply roll down the road. Instead, it flows with the ground and passes this on to the driver very well, not least thanks to the expertly crafted steering. 

Of course, the head of the Flying Spur gang will no longer be the hook-hitting dribble artist in this life. There has always been a good deal of vigour and dignity in all its movements. Nonetheless, it is much more fun than a vehicle weighing a good two and a half tonnes with a 250-kilo engine in the front should be allowed to be. The combination of unconditional focus on comfort and driving dynamics is simply impressive.

Bentley Flying Spur Speed (2024) im Test

And that is definitely the great quality of this car. It does this better than anyone else in this segment (even if the segment is admittedly quite small). I am relatively certain that the classic Flying Spur customer is not exclusively a cornering enthusiast. Fortunately for them, the big car is exactly the weightless glider in all other situations that one would have expected. 

All you have to do is move the driving mode dial on the centre console from "Sport" back to the initial position "Bentley" or "Comfort" and the noble gentleman changes his character. Every manufacturer is only too happy to talk about "the wide spread between comfort and sportiness" in its driving modes. Here, for a change, it really is like that. 

Should I go for the W12?

Schizophrenia is certainly a somewhat unfortunate term in this context, but you probably understand what I mean. Incidentally, this also applies in full to the outgoing star guest, which is what this is actually about. 

Even a launch control start has been programmed into the W12's central brain. If you're a little too embarrassed to use it, you can also get the full dose of power if you're just a little too excited to hit the perfectly shaped accelerator pedal. 

It feels a bit like being beamed into another galaxy while carrying a really heavy rucksack. You can feel the mass, but ladies and gentlemen, it goes forwards. The potential for seduction is particularly high on an open motorway. You let the six-litre beauty in the front off the leash for a few seconds and you can't even look at the speedometer, it's 175-180 mph. You can't really feel it and you can't really hear it either. 

Bentley Flying Spur Speed (2024) im Test
Bentley Flying Spur Speed (2024) im Test

You are unlikely to experience the twelve-cylinder engine really going off the rails in the Flying Spur Speed. The mechanical stereo system with its two oval XL tailpipe trims has no real party mode. The Spur itself is too sophisticated as a "Speed" for that. A stylish, subtle growl when accelerating has to suffice. Also good for the soul is the subtle rumble when shifting up under load. 

As soon as you take your foot off the accelerator pedal there is instant silence. At 75 mph, the rev counter shows just over 1,500 revs. The cleverly set ZF 8-speed automatic transmission is an excellent match for the ambivalent and infinitely refined drive experience.  

A twelve-cylinder sensation at the zenith of its development, it's a tragedy that this chapter is now coming to an end. Of course, you can argue that the lighter, more rev-hungry Flying Spur V8 S is the more dynamic overall package or that the V6 plug-in hybrid ... erm well ... it simply consumes less. 

But the W12 also gives this car an aura, a presence, an importance that the other variants cannot have. For me, it suits the wonderful Flying Spur better than the Conti GT or the Bentayga. If you hurry, you might still be able to place an order. For me, it could only be the saloon.

Gallery: Bentley Flying Spur Speed (2024) review

Photo by: Fabian Grass

Bentley Flying Spur

Engine Biturbo-W12 TSI; 5.950 ccm
Transmission 8-Speed DSG
Drive Type All-Wheel Drive
Output 635 PS at 6,000 rpm
Maximum torque 900 Nm at 1,350 - 4,500 rpm
Weight 2,437 kg
Speed 0-62 MPH 3.8 seconds
Maximum speed 207 mph
Length 5,316 mm
Width 1,978 mm
Height 1,484 mm
Cargo Volume 420 litres
Payload 563 kg
Efficiency WLTP-Consumption: 15.0 l; Test consumption: min 12.0 l, max 20 l
Emission 340 g/km CO2
Base Price €258,800
As-Tested Price €345,175