What Car? says...
The Bentley Flying Spur is one of the exceptions to the rule that saloon versions of cars are sensible, worthy and about as exciting as a bowl of rice.
It’s essentially a Bentley Continental GT coupé but with two extra doors, and in theory that's a pretty good starting point for a luxury car. The Flying Spur isn’t for shy and retiring types, though – it’s almost five and a half metres long and has a front grille big enough to eat a Citroën Ami.
Then again, you don't buy a Bentley to blend in, and a big part of the allure of a car like this is that you can turn it into a personal statement. Picking the colour is just the start of the almost infinite number of options – if you have lots of money, the only real limitation is your imagination.
When it comes to picking an engine, there are three to choose from: a 6.0-litre W12 with 626bhp, a 4.0-litre V8 with 542bhp and a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) that marries a 2.9-litre V6 engine with an electric motor for a total of 536bhp. Astonishingly, the quickest version of this big, heavy luxury saloon has of 0-60mph time of 3.7sec. In other words, it's sports car quick despite it's size and weight.
So, is the Bentley Flying Spur any good, or are you paying lots for the mascot on the bonnet and the British brand's history? That's what we’ll explore over the next few pages of this review, along with which engine is best, and whether it's a better luxury car than the main rival – the Rolls-Royce Ghost – or high-end versions of the Audi A8, the BMW 7 Series and the Mercedes S-Class.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The range-topping Bentley Flying Spur has a 626bhp 6.0-litre W12 engine that drives all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. That combination makes the car ferociously fast in a straight line, and if you really plant your right foot, 0-60mph can be taken care of in just 3.7sec.
Given that most Bentley buyers are not exactly strapped for cash, we wouldn't try to talk you out of the W12 if you have your heart set on it. The 542bhp V8-powered version is cheaper and still indecently quick, though – 0-60mph takes 4.0sec. What's more, it also sounds sweeter than the W12 engine (to our ears, anyway), so it's the engine we'd go for.
The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version, called the Hybrid, has a 2.9-litre V6 engine plus an electric motor to produce a combined 536bhp. While it's not much less powerful than the V8 and is only a fraction slower, the petrol engine sounds a bit strained when worked hard and the gearbox can be jerky as it struggles to manage power coming from two sources.
Officially, the Hybrid can do 25 miles of electric driving with a fully charged battery, but in reality you'll do well to see 20 miles.
Air suspension is standard on all versions, providing a relatively wafty ride in its softest Comfort setting. On most roads, the default Bentley driving mode strikes the best balance between comfort and control, taking the sting out of the majority of lumps and bumps without letting the car become too 'floaty'.
However, if we're being picky – which we should be with a car costing as much as a small house – the Flying Spur isn't as serenely comfortable as the BMW 7 Series or Mercedes S-Class. Both those luxury cars are better at dealing with potholes and other sharp-edged depressions, and fidget less over smaller imperfections. For maximum comfort in the Flying Spur, we'd select smaller 20in wheels rather than 22in rims – and avoid the heaviest Hybrid version.
When it comes to handling, there’s huge traction and grip, but don’t expect the Flying Spur to feel especially nimble. If you ask the car to change direction in a hurry, it has a tendency to lean like a large SUV.
When you drive down a twisty road in a more gentle manner, the Flying Spur feels less flustered. You can still cover ground at a reasonable pace, but the level of body lean is far more controlled. The steering's weighty and consistent response builds a strong sense of connection to the front wheels, helping you place the car precisely where you want to go.
The engine runs at just above tick-over at motorway speeds, while the double-glazed side windows block wind noise fairly effectively. Unfortunately, the wide tyres generate quite a bit of road noise over grainier surfaces, and the 7 Series and the S-Class are quieter overall.
The interior layout, fit and finish
While the Bentley Flying Spur is a little disappointing to drive for such an expensive car, its interior is nothing short of breathtaking. Fixtures and fittings are of superb quality throughout and almost everything is trimmed with polished wood, real metal or soft leather.
All versions have a 12.3in touchscreen infotainment system, and if you pay extra it can rotate back into the dashboard when not in use, leaving a clean fascia or old-school analogue instrument dials, depending on your mood. This is arguably a bit of a gimmick, but does add to the Flying Spur's wow factor.
Either way, the touchscreen is reasonably user-friendly and comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring. It's a pity there's no rotary controller interface as there is in a 7 Series, and the definition of the screen could be better.
The standard 10-speaker, 650-watt audio system is powerful enough, but if you pay the eye-watering cost of upgrading to the optional 19-speaker Naim set-up, you'll have one of the best sound systems fitted to any car on sale.
The driving seat has a wide range of electric adjustments to help the owner – or chauffeur – get comfy whatever size and shape they are.
The high window-line creates a cocooned feel, but one major disappointment is visibility. The thick, steeply angled windscreen pillars create large blind-spots at roundabouts and junctions. Your view to the rear is similarly limited, so you find yourself relying on the reversing camera for parking and the blind-spot monitoring system for overtaking.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The Bentley Flying Spur comes with five seats (three in the back) as standard. A four-seater version with a full-length centre console that fences off the right side of the car from the left is available as an option.
Whichever set-up you choose, four occupants will enjoy lots of head, leg and shoulder room. A fifth person sitting in the middle rear seat (if specified) will have to straddle a big hump on the floor, which isn't very luxurious at all.
Roomier alternatives include long-wheelbase versions of the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class. And while the Rolls-Royce Ghost has unconventional rear-hinged back doors to improve access, the Flying Spur comes with no such novelties.
The 420-litre boot of the non-PHEV versions is big enough to carry armfuls of designer shopping bags or a couple of big suitcases, but it’s not overly generous considering the car's size. There's no option of folding down the rear seats.
The PHEV Flying Spur loses some space to cater for the electrical hardware: its 351-litre capacity is a little less than you get in the VW Golf hatchback. PHEV versions of the 7 Series and S-Class can carry more luggage.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
It’s a Bentley. That alone should leave you with no illusions that buying and running a Flying Spur will be anything other than hugely expensive. The purchase price is suitably massive, and this luxury limo is expensive to service and fuel. Those large tyres – ranging from 20 to 22in – won’t be cheap to replace either.
Put simply, more mainstream alternatives – notably the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class – make more financial sense. Still, if you’re shopping for a Bentley that's likely to be a minor consideration compared with knowing that your pride and joy has been painstakingly handcrafted just for you.
If you're a company car driver set on a Flying Spur, the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version (the Hybrid) is the most sensible choice by far. It offers massively cheaper benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax bills than the V8 or W12, although bear in mind that the PHEV S-Class or the fully electric BMW i7 will work out way cheaper than any Flying Spur.
Standard equipment is hardly stingy, although you don't get quite as many standard luxuries as you might hope for given the astronomical price. Adaptive cruise control costs extra, for example.
Safety equipment includes six airbags, Isofix child-seat points on the outer two back seats, and blind-spot monitoring. The optional Touring specification pack adds lane-keeping assistance and a night-vision camera.
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No – the Flying Spur is still on sale and available to order. You can check the latest prices on our New Car Deals pages.
The fastest Flying Spur is the Speed W12, which can do 0-60mph in 3.7sec and hit a top speed of 207mph.
As a luxury car it's very impressive, with a stunning interior and bracing performance. However, we've given it three stars out of five overall because, objectively, rivals make more financial sense.
|RRP price range
|£177,760 - £254,460
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|petrol parallel phev, petrol
|MPG range across all versions
|18.8 - 85.6
|Available doors options
|3 years / No mileage cap
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£4,690 / £18,633
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£9,381 / £37,266