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2013 Bentley Flying Spur review

  • All-new Bentley saloon driven
  • More efficient and more refined
  • On sale now, priced from 140,900
Words ByChas Hallett

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This is the 2013 Bentley Flying Spur luxury saloon. It's been given a host of changes to enable it to compete with top-end versions of the Audi A8 and BMW 7 Series, as well as the forthcoming 2013 Mercedes S-Class.

Like the outgoing model, it's closely related to the Continental Coupe, but this time around Bentley has given the Flying Spur more of its own identity. For starters, 'Continental' has been dropped from the name. There are also greater visual differences, particularly at the rear end.

Some of these changes have already been previewed by the alterations made to the new Continental GT and GTC models. So, like the Coupe and Convertible, the new Flying Spur is lighter and more efficient than the outgoing model, while the 6.0-litre W12 engine has been given a power boost and now goes through a new eight-speed automatic gearbox.

There have also been substantial changes to the four-wheel-drive system and the air suspension, the latter of which should help give the Flying Spur a softer gait.

What's the 2013 Bentley Flying Spur like to drive?
The previous Flying Spur wasn't a great luxury saloon, neither riding smoothly nor smothering wind- and exhaust noise effectively especially if you were sitting in the back.

In this new model, engineers have paid particular attention to improving ride comfort and suppressing unwanted noise. There's now even a 19-inch 'Comfort' wheel and tyre option.

The changes have worked. By any measure this is a refined and supple-riding luxury saloon. Yes, it can still feel a little spikey at low speeds on optional 21-inch wheels, but the test car we drove on 20-inch rims was impressive at smothering even savage road surfaces. We'd anticipate a car wearing 19-inch wheels would ride even better.

Thankfully, this improved comfort hasn't come at the expense of agility, which is as good as you could reasonably expect from a 2.5-tonne saloon.

The precise steering, taut body control and prodigious amounts of traction make you feel like you're commanding a much smaller car.

The reality is, though, that the Flying Spur feels happiest when the adaptive chassis control is switched to 'Comfort' and you're spearing down straight, multi-lane roads.

As in the GT, the W12 engine is an excellent ally for any job, especially now that it has even more power and is mated to an excellent eight-speed auto 'box.

The Flying Spur is almost indecently quick when you want it to be, but you only really need to tickle the throttle to pile on speed

What's the 2013 Bentley Flying Spur like inside?
Bentley knows that plenty of Flying Spur buyers will be travelling in the back especially in Asia so that's where they've put in plenty of effort.

The rear windows are a fine way to survey the outside world, too whether you're sitting on the standard three-seat bench or optional two-seat layout, which has a central console dividing the rear cabin.

Shoulder- and legroom are especially impressive, and although the swoopier roofline means headroom is slightly restricted, you'd have to be exceptionally rangy for this to be an issue.

There are options to improve the experience further, including a fancy multimedia system with twin 10-inch screens and the ability to control everything from a downloadable Smartphone app. You can also specify on-board Wi-Fi, which can link up to six devices to the web.

If you are going to be driving, sitting behind the wheel feels exactly the same as it does in the latest GT; no bad thing because it means the controls, quality and infotainment have all taken a huge step forward over the outgoing Spur.

The quality of craftsmanship, fit and finish and materials are virtually peerless, too exactly as we've come to expect from modern Bentleys.

Should I buy one?
The new Flying Spur is much better than the model it replaces to drive and be driven in. If you buy one you'll have made a great choice, because it's better than the poshest versions of more mainstream luxury saloons, such as the Audi A8 and BMW 7 Series. It also remains substantially cheaper than Rolls-Royce's 'small' saloon, the Ghost.

However, there are two things to consider. Firstly, a V8 version will arrive within months and this is likely to be a more sensible choice. Secondly, an all-new Mercedes S-Class is due to arrive before the end of the year, meaning the Flying Spur might not remain peerless for long.

What Car? says...

Rivals:
Audi A8 W12
Mercedes-Benz S65

Read the full Bentley Continental review >>

Specification
Engine size 6.0-litre W12
Price from 149,900
Power 616bhp
Torque 590lb ft
0-62mph 4.3 seconds
Top speed 200mph
Fuel economy 19.2mpg
CO2 343g/km

By Chas Hallett

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