The Bentley Flying Spur is four business class seats bolted into a sumptuous marble mausoleum, with suspension pinched from a hovercraft, and an engine billeted from the chests of bodybuilders.
Ever popular with rich Russians and Chinese who’d rather sit in the front than the back, Bentley’s fiddled with the styling, made it faster but less thirsty, and sprinkled in technology to make sure it’s $423,160 super sedan is keeping up with the digital Joneses.
The outside front headlights are now bigger than the inside ones (it was, somewhat clumsily, the other way around before).
At the rear, new LED tail-lights and a longer, lower boot lid make the Spur look more swept and sleek. It looks tough.
The interior is practically all-new, but Spur owners had a sook that there wasn’t enough tech, so now it has all the connectivity you could ever want, or need, including its own WiFi connection.
Bentley, though, asserts that its customers don’t buy its cars for ground-breaking tech like the new S-Class’s ‘magic ride control’, so it doesn’t come with anything like that.
On the plus side, when you first sit inside the Spur, it does feel like something an Ottoman sultan would have driven his concubines around in. You won’t see any milk-crate plastics here.
It’s all buttery leathers, extravagant carpets, piano finishes. The seats don’t cosset you like you’re seated in a cupped hand, but they’re sumptuous – thrones for wealthy hippopotamus-sized buttocks.
Poke the Bentley’s start button and the twin-turbo W12 murmurs politely to life. Drag the chunky, bejewelled shifter from P to D, somewhat inelegantly, aim the luxury behemoth at the horizon, then you’re ready to mush throttle into carpet.
It’s fast. It smashes forward, like a boulder in a giant rubber band. The 6.0-litre W12 suddenly pipes in, but only gently – while it sounds good, it won’t upset the neighbours.
As if picked up and flung forward by a tsunami, the Bentley taps into its hearty 800Nm and flings its 2475kg to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds, swapping up its eight gears quickly and smoothly, if not with the crispness of a twin-clutch gearbox, given it’s still in the Torque Converter Age (something about making peak torque at 2000rpm).
It squats on its rear axle with such aggression that you almost feel like the exhaust is going to scrape on the road. In a car this big, it’s actually mildly terrifying, like riding rodeo on a charging rhinoceros.
Corners, therefore, are frightening as they approach, but hit the brakes, which feel stiff and nurse a feeling of confidence, and the Bentley dives onto its nose, washing off speed.
The brakes are tremendous – eight-pot calipers bite into 405mm front discs, 335mm rear. Helping the squat, dive and body-roll, though, are adjustable dampers which, with a few presses of a button, stiffen like tensed calf muscles. They need to, given that the Spur weighs 300kg more than a Range Rover.
It hides its immense mass very well, though. The steering, though a bit heavy at car park speed for something this luxurious, lightens up and is surprisingly deft, if completely devoid of feedback. The big Spur won’t change direction like a Renault Clio – it’s more for Eau Rouge at Spa than the Swimming Pool at Monaco.
At maximum attack, the Spur will do 320km/h, at which the body, on its self-levelling air suspension, automatically sinks down over the wheels to assume a prone position, to help autobahn stability.
As for the continuous, 40:60 all-wheel-drive system, we pondered if it was worth its weight in a car like this. But then we remembered 460kW and 800Nm. We’ve driven enough cars with disco traction control lights lately.
There was one thing that annoyed us: the shift paddles. In the Spur, they’re more like insect antennae, sprouting from the steering column like huge indicator stalks. They’re not paddles and you might mistake them for the indicators. Please fix this, Bentley.
Fuel thirst? Bentley says it’s improved by 13 per cent. Combined fuel use is now 14.7 litres per 100km. Dithering about the city, you’ll use 22.4 litres. And they’re Bentley’s official claims (with a jockey in the driver’s seat and a strong tailwind). We didn’t look at the fuel use after our fang. We were too scared.
No, the Spur is more at home when you cruise back into the city, buttocks barely registering the road beneath, bumps big and small benumbed by the royal air suspension on its softest setting.
It’s a magnificent car – fast, and while you wouldn’t call it driving bliss, you won’t want to get in the back.
Engine: 5998cc W12, DOHC, 48v, twin-turbo
Power: 460kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 800Nm @ 2000rpm
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 4.6sec (claimed)
Top speed: 320km/h (claimed)