With new looks, the same wild performance, but a softer chassis for greater comfort the Flying Spur might be a different animal, but it comfortably inhabits its own niche above the big-volume German premium saloons.
In the Metal:
Devoid now of its Continental name the Flying Spur is further distanced from its coupé and convertible siblings by its styling. That's deliberate; the Flying Spur obviously shares its DNA with the other cars, but the relationship is more distant than before. The stylists have lengthened and lowered it, the sharper creases over the rear wings a nice detail, while the pinched, lower rear end adds to its more sporting, less bulky look. The detailing is exquisite outside, but it's inside where the Flying Spur really delivers.
The cabin has been extensively reworked, Bentley adding more luxury, easier functionality and greater connectivity and entertainment options. There's more equipment as standard, while three options packages underline Bentley's push for increased sales volume. It might be looking for more customers, but the interior still feels rarefied. Lashings of fine veneers or turned metal, fine leathers and precision stitching combine to create a very special driving environment indeed.
It might boast a 320km/h top speed (200mph in old money), but Bentley is unashamedly admitting that the Flying Spur is a softer proposition in this, its second incarnation. The spring and damper rates have been dialled back, as have the anti-roll bars; even the suspension bushes are now softer. The result is more compliance on poor road surfaces, the air suspension better managing the car's ride. Set the dampers to even their most focused Sport setting (one of four choices) and the Spur glides over bumps that would have sent shakes and rattles through its predecessor.
The offset is body roll, the Flying Spur moving around on its suspension to a far greater degree than the old car. That's arguably acceptable given the greater comfort on offer, but if you're one of those Bentley drivers that the company oft quotes as wanting to drive their own car you might be a touch disappointed.
Not that the Spur isn't able to carry the huge speed that its twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre W12 engine delivers. With 625hp and 800Nm of torque driving though an eight-speed automatic gearbox and all four wheels, the accelerative ability of the Flying Spur is never in question. It'll cover the 0-100km/h dash in 4.6 seconds, reaching 160km/h in 9.5 seconds. No matter where you're sitting that's impressive in something weighing so much.
Grip levels are high, traction assured, though push too hard into a corner and the front tyres wash out with the muted protest of over-worked rubber. The steering, a variable set up, is curiously weighty at low speeds, lightening up on the move, and the initial off-centre resistance is no doubt a necessity to help keep it tracking straight and true at the huge velocities it's able to achieve, but it feels odd at more sensible speeds. If autobahn-storming is your mission then you might want to opt for the larger carbon-silicon-carbide discs for faster, fade-free stopping power, though even with moderately heavy use the standard cast iron 405mm front and 335mm rear ventilated discs inspired confidence stopping the big saloon.
It's significantly quieter inside, with road, wind and engine noise all extremely well isolated, the W12 engine is only vocal when you push the accelerator to the floor, where it responds with familiar elasticity and mighty pace - after the briefest pause. The new eight-speed automatic gearbox is kept busy, but it shifts without punctuating progress, it all but imperceptible in its operation. That rather makes the paddle-shifters for manual control redundant, too.
What you get for your Money:
It might start at about €280,000 before you've spent a cent on any options, but that's still lower than the Rolls-Royce Ghost's entry point, the only car that comes close to matching the Flying Spur for interior attention to detail and luxury loveliness. Indeed, with premium luxury saloons from Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW now climbing ever higher in the price charts the Bentley actually starts to look like decent value when you consider its craftsman and women lovingly finished interior finery. That and the 320km/h ability, the rarity and prestige associated with the Bentley winged badge.
Bentley has yet to confirm it, but a Speed version of the Flying Spur is inevitable. It should add back some of the sharpness that's been removed from the new car, and should also mean a slight bump in power - even if Bentley bills the Flying Spur as its most powerful saloon. Its power output is greater than the Mulsanne's, though the range-topper adds 200Nm of torque over the Spur upstart...
A different, though no less appealing Flying Spur distances itself from its predecessor with a softer, more luxurious ride. That change might ultimately come at the expense of outright sharpness and focus, but the reality is most customers will appreciate this, and watch this space for the inevitable Speed version in the future for those who don't.