2015 Bentley Flying Spur V8 First Drive
Wherein the Color Red Means Go
Take a look at the nose of the new Bentley Flying Spur V8. See the big "B" badge flanked by twin wings on the radiator shell? Good … but now get even closer. Notice that the letter "B" in the middle of it is floating in a tiny circle of red? Yes, I realize I'm pointing out a very minor detail, but this small, red spot – as opposed to the black one on the present W12 car – perfectly expresses the difference between the existing Bentley Flying Spur and this new, "more affordable" V8 alternative.
Bear with my little storytelling device for second. The W12 engine's twin-turbo, double V-6 configuration is all about regal speed – though its imposing 616 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque certainly have menace too. It's a complex powerplant crammed with churning inertia that comes into its own mainly while whooshing at blistering velocities – the speedo needle wound way 'round as the commoners blur past in the side windows and the paparazzi shrink in the rear-view mirror. "Regal" and "menace" – they're the color black.
Now here's the meaning of Bentley Red in the language of machinery -- the new Flying Spur's turbocharged V-8, a tweaked version of the four-liter eight-pot that also resides in the engine bay of the Audi RS 7. Conservatively tuned to 500 hp and 488 lb-ft of torque, it is two liters smaller than its W12 engine-bay buddy, and predictably makes 19 percent less power. Yet its pace (estimated at 4.9 seconds to 60 mph compared to the W12's 4.3) remains plenty swift, its throttle response noticeably more alert, and its thirst for premium petrol reduced by about 13 percent. Subtly abetting this is cylinder deactivation during light-load cruising – at steady throttle four cylinders often drop out and then return, hardly noticed.
Frankly, even if I hadn't known that the V8 costs $20,700 less than the W12, after a day of motoring the V8 Spur out of London and tooling around the English countryside I like this engine better. A tape measure might find the two of them similar in length, but the V8's 110 fewer pounds and consequently better weight distribution clearly pays off in more fleetness of foot. Twitch the steering wheel and the car's "there" with you just that fraction of a second sooner. The V8 Spur is still a big, heavy car of course, at an estimated 5350 pounds. And what with both versions of the Flying Spur resting on softer springs, squishier bushings, and thinner anti-roll bars than its preceding model – they're your proverbial steeplechase racehorses lapping the living room coffee table. However, the V8 Spur has a subtle grab-it-by-the-nap-of-the-neck character that's never been there in the W12. Topping things off, its V-8 note is more pleasurable, a curious mid-Atlantic blend of American burble and English (via Deutschland) purr. Dare I admit to cracking a few goofy smiles behind the wheel? Maybe it was the excellent post-lunch cup of tea talking, but yeah, I did.
The rest of the car is pretty much the familiar W12 with an eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, plus all the same hyper-cosseted opulence inside. Lovely, lovely car. And visually, the V8 can be identified by that red badging (including on all four wheel centers) and twin tailpipes stylistically blurred into a wavy infinity symbol.
Bentley is positioning this version of the Flying Spur as a tempting lure for S-Class owners – ones who don't think they've spent enough money yet -- to switch allegiances to the Crewe crowd. Bentley has used different badge colors before -- black, red, green, and even yellow – to signal various engines and special editions. But in the case of the new Flying Spur V8, its red shouldn't be seen as a signal to stop, but a green light to go get this version instead.
For 250 additional photos of the 2015 Bentley Flying Spur V8, head to the second page of this review.
|2015 Bentley Flying Spur V8|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINES||4.0L/500-hp/488-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 32-valve V8|
|CURB WEIGHT||5350 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||208.6 x 77.8 x 58.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.9 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||14 / 24 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||241 / 140 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||1.13 lb/mile|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Currently|