Bentley Flying Spur Review
Car Tested: 2013 Bentley Flying Spur
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 4,01,15,150/-
The Flying Spur gets even better with the recent update, while retaining all its performance credentials.
Bentley is quite busy these days as it moves forward with its business plans. The carmaker is investing £800m at its headquarters in Crewe to develop and build an all-new sports utility vehicle (a Bentley first), which is expected compete with high end products from brands like Land Rover. When it happens it will be Bentley’s fourth model joining the Flying Spur, Continental GT and the Mulsanne. As the Flying Spur enters into its second generation, the first thing you note even before browsing through the specifications is that Bentley has dropped the Continental pre-fix in the second generation Flying Spur. The logical explanation for dropping the Continental prefix is to help provide differentiation from its coupé and convertible stable-mates. But we think there’s more to it. We think Bentley believes that its time this particular sedan needs to move out from under the two-door’s shadow. Hence the slight name change and not surprisingly, Bentley wants to project the large sedan as a highly capable with capabilities of touching 320 km/hr at top whack.
Motor Quest: The Bentley Continental Flying Spur was launched in 2005 and has been hand built since day one at the company’s plant in England. Bentley sold more than 4500 units in the first year itself.
Similar to transformation of the current generation of models in the Continental series, the transformation in the second generation Flying Spur also benefits from the application of aluminium ‘superforming’ technology. This has helped designers to play with the character lines and refine the body lines even further and the results are quite impressive by any measure. As a large sedan, the Flying Spur has a lot of mass, and the revised design exercise is reflected by a lower, wider appearance with sharper body lines and softer curves. The roof line appears lowered and the sheet metal panels deeply sculpted suggesting a sporting direction. There is more precision in the key character lines and along with the bulky rear end, the new Flying Spur appears more aggressive than before. The front end is now characterised by larger LED day-time running lights and a striking new wing vent complete with an elegant Bentley “B” motif, while at the rear, the tail lamp orientation changes from vertical to horizontal and is flush fit. The longer and lower boot lid adds to the swept appearance to the side profile and complements the car’s “Horse Shoe” character line which now runs the full width of the car.
In its construction, the car employs a mix of reinforced steel, aluminium and composites. The bonnet and front mudguards are aluminium, while doors are completely redesigned with fewer individual parts and the boot lid is made of polymer composites which also integrate the main antennae for the car’s electronic systems. We also notice improvement in shut lines and overall finish. Interestingly, despite its volume and solid appearance, the new Flying Spur has aerodynamic impressive properties for a large sedan, with an overall drag coefficient of just 0.29.
Inside the cabin, the atmosphere is familiar. According to Bentley, the new arrival gets 600 new parts [only the sun visors, grab handles, armrests and some of the front console and controls are carried over from the previous generation]. Entertainment and information technologies are updated and blend nicely with the traditional hand-crafted materials. The car is available in both four- and five-seat configurations, the new Flying Spur features redesigned front and rear seats trimmed in natural premium-quality leather.
New features for rear seat residents include an entertainment suite and a new hand-held touch screen remote which allows rear-cabin occupants to control an extensive range of features. Mobile connectivity including Wi-Fi can be accessed by both front and rear passengers. Leg room at rear is limo class, no wonder this car is a favourite in chauffer driven markets like China. And the specs just don’t end here. Bespoke Mulliner Driving Specification offers interesting upgrades like diamond quilted seats, drilled alloy foot pedals, a knurled sports shift lever, jewelled filler cap and a choice of wheels 21-inch two-piece alloy wheels.
Powering the car is Bentley’s familiar 6.0-litre twin turbo W12 engine mated to a ZF derived eight-speed transmission. Very much like the Continental GTC Speed for instance, it sees increased output, from 552 HP to 616 HP and 800 Nm of torque, and 14 percent improvement in the power-to-weight ratio over the outgoing model. In terms of performance, the 0-100 km/hr time of 4.6 seconds and a top-speed of 322 km/hr put the sedan in supercar territory. As before, power is delivered to the road via all-wheel drive with a 40:60 rear-biased torque split.
Another interesting element in the whole development package that while the automotive industry is obsessed with stiffness in order to aid performance, handling besides NVH, it seems that while Bentley’s redesign boasts of increased torsional rigidity, augmented bending stiffness in the car, it has stayed away from offering firmer suspensions. Actually Bentley engineers went the other way and claim that the 2014 Flying Spur’s front and rear air springs are actually 10 and 13 per cent softer, respectively than its predecessor.
Are large sedans recommended to cruise at 190 km/hr plus? That’s a question readily answered with confidence by the new Bentley Flying Spur. Well, owners of the Continental Flying Spur Speed who bought the car as they felt the stock edition’s 552 HP wasn’t enough for their driving aspirations will find comfort in this new car as the engine’s output in base for now equals to that of the earlier Speed variant. This large car makes no bones about its presence or performance for that matter. The sweet spot is that the engine’s peak torque comes as low as 2000 RPM and it is programmed to maintain consistency to about 6000 RPM. The first few kilometers of the drive, we get the feel is the W12 is something that owners want despite drawbacks when compared to the less displacing new twin turbo V8.
The W12 is a less evocative and offers more vibration than its V8 counterpart and hence, there’s an old school feel about it. But when you are cruising above legally prescribed speed limits, say 190 km/hr plus, that’s when you realise the effort that has gone in ensuring that the chassis and softly sprung suspension complement each other perfectly. Even as a large sedan, this car can be thrown about fast corners, punched, push and will respond without complaining. Since the new Bentley Flying Spur carries over its all-wheel-drive system with a power split set at 40:60 (variable to 85 per cent rear or 65 per cent front as demanded) the car’s computers at work ensure for safety purposes that there’s a mild locking effect that moves through the driveline on low-speed acceleration combined with low step-off gearing and torque management. This is essential to keep the car in control, besides the solid support from the tyres, when it comes to grip.
We also liked and appreciated Bentley not being motivated by the new fad of electric steering in the name of efficiency. The speed sensitive hydraulic steering is accurate when pointed around tight corners and it’s very light at low speeds and the weight builds up nicely as speed picks up. Feedback and response earns top scores. Bentley has endowed this luxury car with some driver specific toys. The chassis can be adjusted through the car’s LCD screen. Among the settings is full Sport and the car turns into a performance beast and it is best noted when you notice how cornering flattens out at the cost of supple compliance a big car. End of the day, we preferred to keep the settings to the middle position for most of the day during the drive. Playing with the car’s paddle shift controls is also fun and the ZF 8-speed automatic transmission excels as expected.
A large powerhouse it is with a touch of sophistication and familiar refinement. Bentley has masterfully recreated its large sedan for its second innings using a proven mechanical heritage.
* Styling and attention to detail
* Interior design and comfort
* Performance and dynamics
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