New Bentley Flying Spur V8 S 2024 review: a luxury rocket ship
While lacking the drama of the W12-powered Speed, the new Bentley Flying Spur V8 S still hits hard
Few modern cars have the presence of the Bentley Flying Spur S, a long and languid saloon that focuses more on its dramatic styling and high performance than outright luxury. Defined by its V8 engine and more overtly dynamic overtones, there’s lots to like with the S – but also a few compromises to consider.
This is the Bentley Flying Spur V8 S, the most driver-focused interpretation of the maker’s extra-large luxury saloon. It might not have the on-paper punch of the soon to be defunct W12-powered Speed model, but in its place comes a more nuanced and interactive driving experience, claims Bentley.
But first some context. The current Flying Spur is a very different car to flagship Bentley saloons that came before. Previously, models like the Arnage and Mulsanne were hand-built on bespoke platforms, to a more stately set of metrics. They found their engineering basis not in a modern notion of motoring, but one that stretched back to a time when chauffeurs were still on the options list.
Perhaps inevitable in the current climate of spreading development costs, the new Flying Spur is much more of a cog in the Volkswagen Group machine, so finds its basis in a platform co-developed with Porsche. Not that you can tell, as the Panamera on which this car shares its underpinnings bears no resemblance to it at all.
In fact, the Flying Spur’s hyper-exaggerated form is perhaps its most defining feature, with a traditional three-box silhouette stretched over a vast 5.3m-long frame. Yet while a long bonnet and tail might be traditional Bentley, the shallow windows and extreme angles to both the front and rear screens are a much more recent phenomenon, creating an impression of ‘speed’ even standing still. This might sound like a corny line found in Bentley’s marketing material, but amongst a sea of mundane and upright SUVs, the Flying Spur’s road presence is little short of sensational.
Overlaid on this canvas is plenty of opulent detailing, but thanks to the unique elements found on the S, they are a touch more restrained. The standard Flying Spur’s extensive brightwork is darkened, including the strip of trim that runs up the bonnet towards the illuminated ‘Flying B’ that sits at the crest of the upright grille. Together with the Brodgar-coloured wheels and denim blue paintwork of our particular example, this is a more gentle entry into the aesthetic world of Bentley.
This opulence isn’t turned down inside, either. Even if the sheer amount of polished metal – real or fake – can’t help but disguise elements also derived from the VW mothership. The steering wheel and its controls are from Audi, and the centre-stack is not a million miles away from the layout you’ll find in the aforementioned Panamera. But so well disguised are they, we’d doubt many potential owners would likely know, or care.
They’d be more interested, as we were, in the stunning quality of the open-pore walnut dash and exceptional leather, that together personify a totally distinct experience that only British car manufacturers seem able to create.
The tech is derived largely from its German counterparts, too, with Bentley’s central user interface being generally easy to navigate, and in this case accessible on the show-stopping rotating screen that spins round to reveal either a plain veneer panel or three analogue dials.
Underneath the screen, and a set of ornate air vents that look like an Edwardian heating grate, sits a central console covered with buttons for everything from the climate control to the driver modes. But none of it is bewildering; it’s certainly preferable to hunting through digitised menu screens.
The underlying quality is hard to ignore, though, and it continues in the second row with continued use of those top-notch materials. Space in the back is excellent in terms of leg and knee room, but very tall passengers might find the low roofline restrictive – in terms of outright rear space, a long-wheelbase Mercedes S-Class or the massive new BMW 7 Series feel more spacious.
And if the Bentley’s use case focuses on those in the rear, this is where the Flying Spur’s driving experience reveals a few compromises. In the quest for a more engaging driving experience, the Flying Spur’s ride quality isn’t quite as refined as you might expect. Overall comfort is very good, and at low speeds even the large 22-inch wheels don’t seem to trouble the standard-fit three-chamber air-suspension.
But as your speed rises, so does the car's propensity to transmit smaller bumps into the cabin, coming with a small but noticeable resonance running through the air springs. It’s not an issue specific to the Flying Spur – as many large vehicles on air springs have a similar shimmy – it’s just a shame that in this case Bentley’s engineers haven’t been able to dial it out.
The rest of the driving experience is exceptional for such a massive car, though, with accurate and well weighted steering and a firm handle on body roll helped further by the Flying Spur’s active anti-roll system. This isn’t an agile car though, and despite the rear-wheel steering system helping to ‘virtually’ shrink the wheelbase, the V8 S never feels anything other than absolutely huge.
With 542bhp, it would be preposterous to suggest that the Flying Spur feels underpowered, but it does lack the monumental shove of the previous W12-powered Speed. Which brings us to the reality of the Flying Spur S, as this car is just too big and too heavy to drive too quickly anyway.
As an object to desire, Bentley has the Flying Spur absolutely nailed. The traditional saloon shape might feel like its in its twilight age – at least here in the UK – but this car is proof that when executed well an epic luxury four-door still has every right to rule the road in a sea of faceless SUVs.
|Bentley Flying Spur S
|Price as tested:
|4.0-litre V8, turbocharged petrol
|Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, four-wheel drive
|5,316/2,220/1,483 (width inc mirrors)