A field of its own
It may look pure limo, but there are times when the Bentley saloon feels like a hot hatch.
Our three-year-old daughter understands that long-term test cars come and go, but has never shown an interest in what may arrive on our driveway next, or where the cars go after they leave us. But with a Flying Spur-sized hole outside, and in between mouthfuls of Sundaymorning pancakes, she posed this question: ‘When are we getting another Bentley?’
Like any child she’s shielded from much of the big wide world – like what Covid is and how sausages make it to her plate – but I felt she needed an honest answer. ‘Probably never again,’ I told her.
She pushed another slice of blueberry pancake through her syrup, looked at me and, ever insightful, followed it up with another query: ‘Why aren’t you happy, daddy?’
She doesn’t know the half of it. Six months ago I proposed that the Flying Spur might end up in my pantheon of great long-termers, alongside the E92 BMW M3 and Mk1 Porsche Panamera GTS. Both were big GTs, with equally big V8s, and brilliantly walked the tightrope of doing everything exceptionally well – I never wanted them to be more comfortable or more focused, rather they were just right. And so it proved with the Flying Spur.
At least after the first month or so. We took a little time to gel, because after running the electric Audi e-Tron previously, the big Bentley couldn’t match that car’s eerie silence or instant throttle response. That, and I was rather conscious that ‘free Bentley is great’ was all too easy a trap to fall into.
But as the weeks and months went by, I realised just what the Bentley can do. Which is eat motorway miles about as well as anything ever made. The seats and optional Naim stereo are superb, the big twin-turbo V8 utterly stonking when it comes to surging forward – and there’s no doubt the quad headlamps and blacked-out grille help clear a path.
And then its party piece is to transform into a super-saloon on anything twisty. Four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering and a 48-volt electric active anti-roll control system all play a part in that, when you’ve got used to them, which took me a while. But once it’s duly dialled in, and with a ride that always remains unflustered, you can hustle the Flying Spur like a hot hatch. Sure, a Rolls Phantom and BMW M5 CS might respectively do the cruising or the carving better in isolation, but as a single tool for every eventuality the Flying Spur is hard to beat.
Two other things became apparent after the Bentley
departed. One is the quality: not just the thickness of the leather or the stu ng of the seats, but the impregnable feel. Everything I’ve driven since feels fragile and tinny.
The other realisation is just what a confidence booster it can be. You arrive everywhere feeling better because you’ve travelled in hushed opulence, but you also feel better because you’re in a damn Bentley, and everyone’s seen you’re in a Bentley. Short of arriving with Kate Beckinsale, it’s about as big a mic drop as you can make.
Dislikes? The exhausts (or least their shrouds) protrude too much from the rear bumper, to the extent I branded myself when unpacking the boot one day. Crisper nav graphics wouldn’t go amiss either, and I also think the swoopy chromed vent surrounds below the infotainment screen are a design folly, with a tendency to blind the driver if the sun hits it just so. I’d always like more boot space (because children) but that’s the Bentayga’s job.
So, my conclusion after life with a Bentley? I’ll quote reader David Bateman, who wrote in to share his thoughts: ‘You jammy git.’
Count the cost
Cost new £216,225 Part-exchange £217,000 Cost per mile 25.5p Cost per mile inc depreciation The car actually appreciated 5.5p per mile…
With a ride that always remains unflustered, you can hustle the Flying Spur like a hot hatch