IT may be 5.3 metres long and tip the scales at just under 2.5 tonnes but one thing the Bentley Flying Spur is not is unwieldy. Something the size of this Bentley sedan is not usually regarded as agile but even on a narrow country lane, the large limo has always been a revelation.
Now, there is a new Flying Spur and it offers the same surefootedness but with more performance and luxury. The same basic chassis is carried over and the 3,066 mm wheelbase is unchanged but the suspension has been revised with new alloy uprights to improve both comfort and handling.
On the outside, the styling has been sharpened with clearly defined lines. The softer curves of the old car have made way for crisp superformed aluminium front fenders (first seen on the Continental GT coupé) and there is a centre crease on the bonnet to help with driver visibility. Under the long hood is the twin-turbo W12 engine driving all four wheels through a new and smoother eight-speed automatic transmission.
The turbocharging for this 6.0-litre unit has been tweaked, as have its torque management and emissions, and this 12-cylinder unit in a W configuration now churns out 25 extra hp at 625 hp and 50 Nm more torque at 800 Nm. The result is an even more effortless drive.
Cruising in the Flying Spur brings to mind the term "magic carpet ride", especially with the additional two gear ratios. But at the same time, flooring the accelerator will get the big Bentley charging forth like a freight train, with zero to 100 kmh achieved in a brisk 4.6 seconds.
To match the prevailing mood, the air suspension has four settings in the Comfort-to-Sport spectrum. Selected using the centre touchscreen, it is possible to achieve a very nice balance between pillowy and taut. With its ample torque, permanent all-wheel-drive and surprisingly accurate steering, the Flying Spur can be a pretty engaging drive. It has an ability to change direction neatly that allows you to forget its size.
But it is the opulence of the Spur that should impress most. The acres of lovely wood and leather are to be expected, as is the dramatic centre console with its pair of "top roll" leather wings. Looking closer however, it is the attention to detail in the cabin that is truly remarkable. The fit and finish of the walnut veneer is impeccable. Even the diamond stitching on the seats line up perfectly.
At the back, the repackaged interior boasts increased legroom, while the overall cabin ambience is raised a notch with extensive noise reduction through the use of lightweight acoustic underfloor panels to minimise road noise, side glazing, front and rear acoustic glass windscreens, and redesigned doors with extra insulation. The rear muffler's capacity was also expanded to reduce exhaust noise.
The detachable Touch Screen Remote is a new feature. It allows those in the back to adjust everything from the seat's ventilation and massage functions, to the rear seat entertainment system and rear window blind. Alternatively, it can be configured to display a virtual speedometer and trip computer.
While features like these may eventually lose their novelty, there is one aspect of this Bentley sedan that should have a bit more longevity - its "performance luxury" image. Compared with some cars which emphasise only the "luxury" side of their brand, the Flying Spur is a driver's car that is less likely to make you look like the chauffeur when you're behind the wheel. And for some, that has to be best part about this big Bentley.
Bentley Flying Spur W12
Engine 5,998cc W12 turbocharged
Gearbox 8-speed automatic transmission
Max power 625 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Max torque 800 Nm @ 2,000 rpm
0-100 kmh 4.6 secs
Top speed 320 kmh
Price from $850,000 (without COE)
Distributor Wearnes Automotive
Tel 6473 7755