If your idea of an entry-level car is one that costs as much as a starter home, observe the Flying Spur. Power comes from a spritely 500-hp V-8 or a stonking 616-hp W-12. Both engines are twin-turbocharged and can be had in S form, bumping the V-8’s output to 521 hp and the W-12’s to 626 hp. All-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic are standard. The whole car is swathed in leather and built for effortless speed. If that’s not enough, consider the optional bespoke crystal champagne flutes.
In the rarified air above mainstream luxury-brand flagships from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW exist the ultra-exclusive, hand-built sedans from Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, and Bentley, each offering 12-cylinder power, the choicest material furnishings, and indubitable pedigrees. Given these cars’ unapologetic price tags, a normal person might expect them to surpass any off-the-rack Audi A6, S-class Benz, or 7-series Bimmer in every respect. Or at least most respects. Or at least in terms of the luxury features, right?
Well, people who buy automobiles like the shimmering gold 2017 Bentley Flying Spur V8 S tested here aren’t normal. When they decide to buy a Flying Spur, it’s not to add a new luxury sedan to their stable; it’s to add a Bentley to their stable. They’re probably aware that any of those hypercompetent Teutonic sleds offers more high-tech luxo-wizardry than the Flying Spur, which doesn’t even come with a USB port; indeed, they probably have one of those German cars, too. And few would ever get caught baiting an S63, M760i, or S8—each of which can hit 60 mph in 3.8 seconds or less—into a stoplight duel, so where this car’s performance numbers fall relative to those may be beside the point.
What does matter is that the Flying Spur delivers on its promise as a Bentley with the waft, the warmth, and the eminent gracefulness for which the brand’s cars have been known for decades. Based on the previous-generation Continental GT, the Flying Spur sedan has proved satisfying in that regard since first appearing in 2005—and particularly so since the second-gen model arrived for 2014 with an even prettier, sleeker body and a more powerful, 616-hp W-12 engine.
We were impressed upon our first drive of the lighter, cheaper Flying Spur V8, which lost exactly none of its Bentley-ness with the fitment of the Volkswagen Group’s ubiquitous 4.0-liter eight-cylinder, tuned to produce a stout 500 horsepower. The Flying Spur family doubled in size when V8 S and W12 S models were introduced last year, raising horsepower to 521 and 626 and featuring a unique front-fascia design, a rear diffuser, and black-painted grilles. Having already stated our preference for the Flying Spur V8’s relative agility and throatier sound, we hypothesized that the V8 S would be the most compelling from a driving standpoint.
As trivial as facts and figures may be to the typical Bentley owner, one number of particular consequence is 5509—the pounds this test car carried onto our scales, 55.1 percent of the total resting on the front wheels. On one hand, that makes its 4.3-second zero-to-60-mph and 10.5-second zero-to-100-mph times that much more impressive; same with the 167-foot stop from 70 mph. But at the skidpad, the low-profile 275/35ZR-21 Pirelli P Zeros that wrapped the V8 S’s optional 21-inch six-spoke wheels were overwhelmed after just 0.83 g of lateral acceleration. And despite the standard all-wheel-drive system sending 60 percent of the available torque to the rear wheels, understeer persisted at the limit.
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