On paper there seems little point in considering this new 4-litre V8 version of the Bentley Flying Spur over its extant 6-litre, W12 big brother. It costs about £10,000 less, but in Bentley-land you pay that much to equip your car with fancy ceramic brakes. What you lose is not just two litres and four cylinders but a whole 116bhp, once enough to power an entire hot hatchback. Now with a trifling 500bhp, this is the least-powerful Bentley you can buy, yet at 2425kg it is still massively heavy and indeed a mere 50kg lighter than the apparently far better value 12-cylinder car. It does, just, get under the limit for top-rate excise duty, but you’ll still pay £860 in your first year and £485 thereafter for your virtual tax disc.
But the V8 Spur is nothing like the weak link its specification suggests – and this is why. For good or for bad but certainly for sound commercial reasons, the current Flying Spur is a car designed more for those in the back than the front. This is where most Chinese owners will sit and this is where Bentley sells most Spurs, one reason why the largest Bentley dealership in the world is in Beijing rather than Los Angeles or London. It is not a driver’s car and so long as Bentley continues to produce other machinery that is rewarding to drive, I have no problem with that.
What profit, then, is there in having the 12-cylinder engine? To many it will simply be a desire to show you have not had to settle for second-best, for what other reason could there be for choosing the V8? Plenty, as it turns out.
Most importantly the V8 is a far nicer engine than the 12, which has its cylinders arranged in such a way that it’s more illuminating to call it a pair of narrow angle V6s sharing a common crank. That engine is light and notably compact, but it lacks entirely the smooth, rich character of classic V12 configuration. The V8, by contrast, is far more suited to the suave sophistication of the Spur. Its note is far more refined and pleasing on the ear. It does lack the 12’s monster low-end torque, but you’ll not find the V8 Spur in the least deficient.
What you’ll find is a car that will put a further 100 miles between fills, so on any properly long drive it’s a far quicker option than the W12.
The rest of the car is as expected. It’s amazing that a car using a Volkswagen platform and so much hidden, off-the-peg VW content can feel so unlike any other product of the group. I can’t think of any car for remotely similar money that feels anything like this well built. A Mercedes S-class will be yet quieter and more comfortable, but that reckons without the sense of occasion found in the Spur.
In short this is the least sporting Bentley since Volkswagen took over the business at the end of the last century, yet it is effective, rewarding and delightful to occupy, whichever seat you happen to choose.
Engine: 4.0 litres, 8 cylinders, turbocharged
Power: [email protected]
Torque: 486lb [email protected]
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Top speed: 183mph