by Gerhard Horn
Since the Mulsanne's demise last year, the Bentley Flying Spur has had to represent the manufacturer in the ultra-luxury sedan market. This is a segment it occupies alone, since the baby Roller, the Rolls Royce Ghost, has an MSRP more than $100k over the starting price of the Flying Spur. The Mercedes-Maybach S makes a good case for itself, but it still has the faint whiff of nouveau riche. It's a car to be driven in, not a car you want to drive. Bentley's research shows that there has been a significant shift to owners driving their own vehicles, and more than 40% have passengers with them at least once a week. For that reason, Bentley is now adding a new driver-centric model to the range, with a more engaging driving experience and a visceral V8 growl. While the standard W12 motor offers up 626 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque, the V8 has 542 hp and 658 lb-ft on tap, which is good enough for a four-second sprint to 60 mph - not as quick as the W12 version, but with a more engaging drive to win you over.
The big news is the addition of a V8 model to the line-up. According to Bentley, this is the most engaging Flying Spur, even though it's slower to 60 than the W12 model. The V8's secret is that it's 220 pounds lighter than the W12, and the suspension has been tuned to provide increased agility. A new four-seat configuration is now available, and it comes with power-deploying picnic tables. The option of cross-stitching and semi-aniline leather is also available for the rear seats. The exterior can be further customized thanks to three new exterior hues, new wheel designs, and matric grille options. Finally, there's a new steering wheel that works better with the driver assistance systems.
See trim levels and configurations:
The new Flying Spur is a fine example of an imposing car that somehow manages to be charming. The large slatted grille lets slowpokes know that something large and in charge is coming up from the rear, but if they don't notice that, you can always rely on the LED headlights. The V8 variant gets a black gloss matrix grille with chrome surrounds and bright Bentley wing badges, while the W12 features bright vertical vanes with a black matrix-style grille and black 'B' badging. 21-inch ten-spoke alloys fill the W12's arches, but the V8 comes with 20-inch ten-spoke alloys. The W12 has two large oval exhausts at the rear, while the V8 gets quad pipes.
In terms of dimensions, the Flying Spur's figures are impressive. With an overall length of 209.3 inches, and a wheelbase of 125.7 inches, there's bound to be oodles of space inside. It's 58.4 inches tall and has a maximum width of 79.3 inches, excluding mirrors. As you'd expect, both models are hefty beasts. According to Bentley, the V8 model weighs 5,137 pounds, while the W12 tips the scales at 5,373 lbs. It's improbable you'll ever end up with a car that weighs precisely that, though, considering the number of customization options available.
There are two kinds of customers when it comes to choosing an exterior color: Those who couldn't be bothered, and will simply select from the existing colors, and those who will go above and beyond to get the right color. Bentley offers various suggestions, including Deep Flame, Cool Air, Center Stage, and Rolling Hills for those who couldn't be bothered. For those who value customization, the options are endless. Bentley's color palette consists of seven categories, and under those categories, you'll find even more options. The categories include blacks, blues, golds, oranges and browns, greens, reds and purples, silvers, and whites and beiges. There are no quoted prices on the configurator, because, if you have to ask...
Despite being a hefty sedan, both Bentley Flying Spur models will sprint to 60 mph in four seconds or less. The W12 produces 626 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque, and the V8 is good for 542 hp and 658 lb-ft. Both models come with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed dual-clutch as standard, which means they fly from a standing start. Bentley claims a 0 to 60 mph sprint of just 3.7 seconds for the W12 and four seconds dead for the V8. And, while the W12 has a claimed top speed of 207 mph, the V8 can do 198 mph. Until BMW stops producing its V12 engine later this year, the Bentley must be content with being the second-fastest large sedan in the USA.
The twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter W12 engine packs a serious 626-hp performance punch, but it's the 664 lb-ft of torque that impresses. This engine develops most of its power low down in the range, so the slightest press on the throttle will result in breathtaking forward momentum. The eight-speed dual-clutch is sourced from ZF. Bentley spent a lot of time tweaking it to ensure that it's as good as possible. It doesn't judder at low speeds, nor does it snap your neck when it shifts up a gear. It just fades into the background, and you soon forget that it even exists. There's only one criticism you can level against this unique powerhouse of an engine. It may be 24% smaller than a V12, but it lacks character. It doesn't provide a decent soundtrack. It just turns gallons of gas into insane forward momentum in eerie silence.
That's where the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 comes in. It may 'only' have 542 hp and 658 lb-ft of torque, but it has character in spades. It makes a distinct, raspy, and intoxicating sound that you'll love hearing as you chase through the gears. In terms of outright speed, it's hard to tell the difference between the two at legal speeds. You wouldn't be able to tell the difference when it comes to sprinting to 60 mph, but you will notice the W12's massive 664 lb-ft of torque when it comes to overtaking slower traffic.
The Flying Spur uses the same platform as the Porsche Panamera, but to give it Bentley characteristics, they made some changes to the suspension setup - the Flying Spur has an air suspension with continuous damping control. On the W12, you also get four driving modes to choose from, including Comfort, Bentley, Sport, and Custom. The all-wheel-drive system is also rear-biased, only sending power to the front wheels when it detects slip. It has all the hallmarks of a tremendous sporty sedan, and it can most certainly deliver. The W12 Bentley Flying Spur is the type of car that can cover vast distances at incredible speeds. As the driver, you merely point it where you want it to go, and you press the throttle as deep as you dare.
The new V8 aims to be more engaging than that. Bentley makes a big deal about it being 220 lbs lighter than the W12, but with both models weighing over 5,000 lbs, you're hardly going to notice it. What matters is where the weight was saved, and, in this case, it comes straight off the front axle. The suspension and steering also receive minor tweaks, but it's the exhaust note that makes the most significant difference. You can hear the trademark cross-plane crank V8 burble, which Bentley admits was intentional. All of these minor changes come together to provide a more engaging driving experience. It's still no Panamera, but thanks to the weight saving over the front axle, it's more eager to turn in. And it's more rewarding to drive enthusiastically thanks to the V8 soundtrack, which Bentley, believe it or not, allows to filter through to the cabin.
Yet another of those categories where if you have to ask, it means you probably can't afford one. It is interesting to compare the consumption of the twin-turbo 6.0-liter W12 against the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8. According to the EPA estimates, the W12 should do 12/19/15 mpg city/highway/combined. The V8 is slightly more frugal, with figures of 15/20/17 mpg.
The W12 can manage 357 miles from the 23.8-gallon fuel tank, while the V8 should be able to do roughly 50 miles extra. Worth considering if you regularly take long trips.
When it comes to interiors, Bentley and Rolls Royce reign supreme in their little segment. You could include Mercedes's Maybach offering in that list, but in our opinion, the Germans used the wrong definition of luxury. Luxury is not the number of gadgets, touchscreens, and buttons on the dash, though these things play a minor role. Luxury is about space and light. It's how something feels when you touch it. It's about being confined from the hustle and bustle going on outside the car. In summary, it's about providing a space that has a calming effect.
The Flying Spur has a stunning, hand-crafted interior. It has a 12.3-inch display, navigation, four-zone climate control, and power-adjustable everything, but that's what you expect on cars that cost as much as the Bentley Flying Spur. What sets the Bentley apart is the quality of the interior and how well insulated it is. At the end of a long day, you'll look down at the hand-stitched leather, Alcantara headlining, the glossy wood inserts, and the majestic Flying B emblem on the steering wheel, all the while wrapped in an eerily silent cabin. Then you'll realize that your life is pretty epic. That's what luxury is.
The Flying Spur is technically a five-seater, but the rear middle seat is narrower and less comfortable than the other seats. Bentley does give you the option of swapping the five seats for four, at an additional cost, naturally. You also have access to electrically operated picnic tables mounted in the back of the front seats.
You have to try hard not to get comfortable in the Bentley. It has 41.9 inches of legroom in the front and 42.9 inches in the rear. The headroom in the front is 37.4 inches, while the rear headroom is just 0.4 inches less. As you'd expect, the front seats are power-adjustable, as is the steering column. Finding the correct seating position has never been easier, and you'll stay comfortable thanks to standard seat massaging for the front seats. Rear seats get Alcantara headrest cushions, which is a particularly nice touch, especially if you still want to get driven around occasionally.
For the 2021 model year, hand cross-stitching and semi-aniline leather form part of the package for the rear of the Flying Spur. And, as with the exterior color palette, Bentley caters to customers who just want something standard and customers who want to be part of the customization experience. You can choose between three standard color-split interior options on both the W12 and V8, which allows for further customization, as it lets you choose between the main hide and a secondary hide. There are 11 leather options to choose from if you're opting for a one-color theme, but if you want to mix it up, you can choose from up to 14 colors for the main hide, and opt for a secondary hue from the original palette of 11.
There are even more options to choose from in terms of veneers, from single finish to dual finish veneers by Mulliner. The former has options like Piano Black, High Gloss Carbon Fibre (new for 2021) and Bright Engine Turned Aluminum, or a variety of wood trim that include Crown Cut Walnut, Open Pore Koa, and Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus, to name a few. Dual finish options mix Grand Black with one of six wood trims. Also added for this year is the Côtes de Genève finish on the center console, featuring ultra-thin, linear-patterned aluminum. To really complete your desired look, you can also add contrast seatbelts, change the stitching and piping colors, and select whether you want contrast or blind emblems on the seats. These are just a few highlights; to build a Bentley to your taste, you need to set aside a couple of hours to play with the online configurator.
Bentley uses much of the available space to create an opulent interior. The result is a rather unspectacular 14.8 cubic feet of trunk space. While it is on the small side, 14.8 cubic feet is enough to work with daily - the Mercedes-Maybach S offers less, at 12.5 cubic feet of space. It might get tricky if you want to take a family of four away for the weekend, but luckily there's a solution: take the money you saved by not having to pay a chauffeur, and spend it on a van, and then you simply send the packed van ahead.
Front passengers get bottle holders in the doors and two cupholders situated in front of the armrest. Rear passengers are treated to two cup holders and charging points. Go for the four-seater option, and you can add a fridge between the two rear seats or benefit from the extra stowage in the long-through console that extends from the front through to the back.
You might not believe this, but there is such a thing as a "standard" Flying Spur. The spec sheet of standard features includes the Comfort Specification, which translates to power-adjustable thigh bolsters and side bolsters on the front seats, as well as heating and ventilation on the front and rear outboard seats. All perches also have a massage function. The armrests in the center and door-sides are also heated. Added to this is standard four-zone climate control, cruise control, soft-closing doors, push-button start, rear window blinds, and a refrigerated glovebox. The trunk is hands-free, and all mirrors automatically dim themselves. The City Specification is standard on the W12 and V8. It includes city assist, pedestrian warning, traffic sign recognition, blind-spot warning, reverse traffic warning.
Bentley's luxury approach is decidedly old-school, especially if you opt for any of the wood veneers instead of the carbon fiber option. Still, even a luxury barge needs some sort of infotainment system, and the Bentley has a rather nice one. It doesn't have Android Auto, but the rest of the connectivity features are present and accounted for. Over and above the typical infotainment gadgets, the Bentley also has a 60GB hard drive and two SD card slots. A ten-speaker Bentley audio system is standard, but most owners will likely upgrade to the 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen system or the 21-speaker Naim for Bentley audio systems. You can also order a separate entertainment system for the rear seats, consisting of 10.2-inch tablets and Bluetooth headphones.
The best thing about the central infotainment system is the fact that you can hide it. The screen flips around and can either display three dials or a veneered panel.
The Flying Spur has only been recalled twice in recent years, the most recent of which pertains to a single 2020 Flying Spur vehicle and an incorrectly welded fuel tank. The second was for certain 2020 models and moisture reducing the quality of the video feed from the rearview camera. 2021 models are recall-free at the time of writing, and reliability seems guaranteed.
Bentley has a three-year/unlimited mileage warranty, but you can extend it for an additional two years.
A car in this price range is unlikely to be crash-tested for a safety review by the NHTSA and IIHS. Given the attention to detail and standard safety specification, it's highly likely the Bentley will fare exceptionally well in an accident, despite there being no official rating from either authority.
The standard safety kit on the 2021 Flying Spur includes dual front airbags, side airbags for front and rear passengers, as well as curtain bags front and rear. The driver assistance features include park assist, traffic sign recognition, front and rear park distance control, blind-spot warning, pedestrian detection, and rear cross-traffic alert. The Touring Specification package can be added for a head-up display, night vision, Bentley's Safeguard Plus, adaptive cruise control, and lane assist.
Oddly, Bentley's most opulent sedan did not survive the SUV onslaught, yet the Flying Spur managed to survive. Perhaps it's because the Flying Spur is a better representation of what a modern sedan should be. What we do know is that the Flying Spur is the perfect blend of old and new. A cabin trimmed in leather and wood, with acres of space for every passenger to stretch out. Bentley then combines its hand-crafted luxury with technology borrowed from its German overlords. A chassis from a Porsche, engines from Volkswagen and Audi, and modern technology that works, from the mass-manufacturing of vehicles. You can find the modern touches all over the Bentley, from the air suspension underneath to the rear seats' touch-sensitive controls. It follows the same sort of method as the Mercedes-Maybach S, but it manages to still feel like nothing else. It could have gone incredibly wrong with so many shared parts, yet the Flying Spur remains intrinsically Bentley. Delicate, luxurious, tasteful, but with a brutal amount of power.
There are many menus and sub-menus on Bentley's website, but the one thing you won't find on there is the price. The configurator won't even give you a price at the end of a build but rather the option to enquire about your purchase. It's not a secret, but just a bit rude to ask. Also, there's very little chance of a customer buying a "standard" model, but, in case you were wondering, the V8 has an MSRP of $198,725, while the W12 retails for $219,425. These prices exclude taxes, licensing, registration, and a destination fee of $2,725.
This is roughly $100,000 less than the Mulsanne retailed for and in excess of 100,000 less than the Rolls Royce Ghost. The Mercedes-Maybach S is cheaper, but its badge simply doesn't have the same allure as the Flying B.
The Bentley range now consists of two models: the V8 and the W12, and can also be ordered with a Blackline Specification package. Still, the W12 and V8 are essentially the same car but aimed at different buyers. The W12 is the ultimate in luxury and power. It's a sensory deprivation tank that hurls you at the horizon in sheer comfort and eerie silence.
With the V8, Bentley adds a bit of sportiness to the mix, but not enough to ruin the comfort. There's just enough V8 burble to let you know that you chose the driver's Flying Spur. The V8 looks the part, with a black grille, 20-inch alloys, and quad exhausts. The W12 has a shinier grille, 21-inch alloys, and dual oval exhausts. Or you could just look for the V8 or W12 fender badges.
The standard specification on both models includes a host of exterior and interior trimmings, power adjustment for everything that moves on the inside, heated and ventilated seats for all passengers, four-zone climate control, and a 12.3-inch infotainment display with a ten-speaker audio system. On the safety side, it comes with park assist, traffic sign recognition, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Bentley prefers to use the word "specification" rather than a package, and there are a few things one could add on. The Blackline Specification is one such package, which replaces all the exterior chrome bits with gloss-black bits. This includes the wing vents, rear bumper inserts, and exhaust tips.
The Touring Specification consists of a head-up display, night vision, and lane assist, among other features designed to enhance long-distance driving. As the name suggests, the Diamond Knurling Specification adds diamond knurling to the bulls-eye vents, front and rear console vents, organ stop controls, and clock bezels.
Of the numerous other packages and add-ons available, there's a variety of Mulliner upgrades, the Mood Lighting Specification, which does precisely what it says on the box, and the Smoker's Specification adds ashtrays and lighters front and rear. The configurator specifically mentions cigars, so no cheap cigarette smoking in here, sir. The prices for these individual specifications are not quoted by Bentley.
The V8 is nearly as fast as the W12, and it has more character. Thanks to the subtle changes Bentley made to make it a more engaging experience, it's also better suited to enthusiasts. The V8 also sounds a lot better, and it retails for less, which you can then spend on specifications. There will likely be as many combinations as there will be owners, but we like the one-hide interior option on the V8. In addition to that, we'd add the Touring Specification to make it even better on longer trips, the rotating display, and the Naim for Bentley sound system when we're not in the mood for the V8 soundtrack.
Rolls Royce has always claimed that it makes the best car globally, but, to be honest, it kind of should, considering the Ghost costs $100,000 more. And the Phantom costs another $100,000 on top of that. It is difficult to choose between them because they are essentially the exact same vehicle - luxury barges that borrow parts from other cars in their makers' portfolio. The Bentley is a bit quicker, but the Rolls is perhaps slightly more comfortable. You are getting the best at this price level, so whichever one you prefer is the right car. It's worth mentioning that we're slightly put off by the way Rolls is marketed these days. Bentley's website is pure class, offering marketing videos that make sense. Rolls Royce simply gives you a video of people having a wild champagne party in the back of a Roller. Have the nouveau riche migrated from the Mercedes-Maybach to the Rolls Royce?
Yes, we know the Conti GT is a coupe, but these two models are priced so close together that one can't help but make a comparison. The Continental and the Flying Spur are very similar. You might think the Continental is sportier, but it has that same balance of comfort and continent-crushing speed. But, the Flying Spur has more space for the rear passengers and is more practical all around. To our eyes, the Flying Spur looks even better. The Continental GT is a striking car, but a Flying Spur in a dark burgundy with black alloy wheels is sensational. If it were up to us, we'd go for practicality. If it's up to you, you probably have enough money to get both.
The most popular competitors of 2021 Bentley Flying Spur: