Hugely fast, hugely sumptuous and, yes, huge, the last Spur was easy to like…
By Tony Middlehurst / Sunday, October 18, 2020
- Available for £45,000
- 4.0-litre V8 or 6.0-litre W12 petrol twin turbo, all-wheel drive
- Easily out-drags a Porsche Cayman
- Infotainment much improved over gen-one model
- Good rep for reliability and build
- VW connection should help keep costs under control
Search for a used Bentley Flying Spur here
If you were given the job of coming up with a name for a car, and the suggestion you came up with was to base it on your family's coat of arms, how do you suppose that might go down in 2020? We're not sure if the head of the H J Mulliner bodywork design shop, Arthur Talbot Johnstone, made that suggestion to the Bentley board in the mid 1950s or if someone else at Bentley thought it would be a good idea to call the new four-door version of the Continental after the Clan Johnstone's spur mascot. Whichever way it came about, the Continental Flying Spur of 1957 was real enough. It brought family practicality to the six-cylinder R1 and S1 (and two years later, to the V8 S2) versions of the raffish coupe whose main claim to fame was the ability to cruise all day at 100mph, or if not all day then between monster fill-ups at least.
That 1959 S2 Continental Flying Spur was the fastest four-door car in the world at the time, so it wasn't a massive surprise when the name was resuscitated in 2005 for the modern-era equivalent. The buying demographic had changed somewhat in the meantime. Although Bentley was still clinging on to the old-world notion of their vehicles being Rolls-Royces for drivers rather than passengers, the reality was that the Chinese buyers who were now making up 60 percent of the market rarely if ever drove themselves and were voting with the chequebooks to make the Flying Spur the most popular four-door Bentley ever.
The £133,000 gen-one Continental Flying Spur (125 of which were sold to UK buyers, compared to 1,100 in China) was powered by the 560hp/479lb ft 6.0 litre W12 engine first seen in the 2002 Volkswagen Phaeton. As engines went, it didn't set the world alight, but the diffident reception was at least partly coloured by unrealistic expectations. If you forgot about the exotic cylinder layout and the large displacement and just took things on trust you couldn't help but be impressed by the twin-turbo W12's ability to shove nearly two and a half tons of steel, glass, wood and leather up the road at a most unseemly rate. It did the 0-62mph in 5.5sec and hit a border-busting top end of 194mph.
Whatever your own views on the big W, it was still deemed to be a worthy propellant for the second-generation Flying Spur of 2013. The 'Continental' bit had been dropped from the name, either reflecting the fact that despite appearances the new body was completely different to the old one, or perhaps in anticipation of political changes on the horizon. The W12 became one of two power sources rather than the 'W12 or nothing' scenario of the gen one. In its gen-two form the W12's output was hiked to 616hp at 6,000rpm and, more usefully, 590lb ft at 2,000rpm, allowing this enormous beast to bash through the 0-62mph run in around four and a half seconds and top out at a double-take 200mph.
The under bonnet alternative was an Audi-derived twin-turbo 4.0 V8 that produced 500hp and 487lb ft at 1,750rpm, enough for a 0-62 time of 4.9sec and a top speed of 183mph in a car that, despite being 50kg lighter than the W12, still weighed over 2.4 tonnes. All gen-two Spurs (Bentley, not Tottenham) had an 8-speed ZF dual clutch transmission and Torsen-style permanent all-wheel drive.
In 2016 the power gap between the 'straight' W12 and the V8 was addressed by the 521hp V8 S, a version that had already proved very popular among buyers of the regular Continental coupe. That power gap was immediately and pretty much entirely re-established by the 626hp W12 S that came out in the same year.
For truly affordable Flying Spurs however we need only browse through PH's classified ads where we will find fully-historied, sub-50,000-mile gen-two W12s for as little as £45,000, and plenty of choice between that point and £60k. Considering the level of luxury, the unlikely performance, the sheer volume of equipment and the when-new price of between £140,000 and £150,000 (depending on who you believed), these prices would appear to represent incredible value.
Are they, though? Could you really be wafting down to the Hotel de Paris in kingly comfort for the price of a used BMW 520d Touring – or is it all too good to be true? Let's don our smoking jackets, adjust our monocles, and take a de luxe dip into the pleasures and pitfalls of Bentley ownership.
SPECIFICATION – BENTLEY FLYING SPUR (2013-on gen-two)
Engine: 5,998cc W12 48v or 3,993cc V8 32v, both twin turbo
Transmission: 8-speed ZF automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],000rpm (W12), [email protected],000rpm (V8)
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],000rpm (W12), [email protected],750rpm (V8)
0-62mph: 4.3 secs (W12), 5.2 secs (V8)
Top speed: 200mph (W12), 183mph (V8)
Weight: 2,475kg (W12), 2,425kg (V8)
MPG (official combined): 19.2 (W12), 25.9mpg (V8)
CO2: 343g/km (W12), 254g/km (V8)
On sale: 2013 – 2019
Price new: £140,000
Price now: from £45,000
Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it's wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Any car that will do 0-100mph in ten seconds or less must be classified as quick. When the car in question is marching along at that sort of rate (9.5sec claimed for the W12) while two folk are calmly chatting and quaffing fizzy wine in the back, you're in a wholly different, unquantifiable but also mightily impressive new dimension of motoring.
Whichever of the two engines you pick for your gen-two Spur, this is one of those cars where you really do have to check the tacho to make sure that it's on. Such refinement combined with ocean liner torque is irresistibly appealing if you're of the right mindset.
Electronic management mods altered the turbo behaviour on both gen-two engines, reducing emissions on the W12 by 13 percent without compromising the battering-ram performance. Top speeds beyond 150mph will be irrelevant for most Spur owners, but the V8's 183mph maximum might be useful on the autobahn, while the W12's 200mph should be enough to deal with all but the most aggressive Brabus drivers. There's a price to pay of course. When even the official claimed fuel consumption for the W12 is below 20mpg you know that single-figure mpg returns are on the cards.
Gears are almost a side issue in the Spur. Suffice to say that the ZF 8-speeder has a cog for every occasion and knows exactly when to pick them. The fixed-position (and to be honest rather cheap looking) paddles are not brilliantly located for manual twiddling, and there's a noticeable delay between twiddle and response. You can't hold onto intermediate gears in any case so the best plan is to let the trans sort everything out for you.
Faulty coil packs will give themselves away through poor idling and misfires, and the W12s do suffer from leaky vacuum lines. Bentley dealers may tell you that sorting these is an engine-out job but specialists have come up with alternative ways of changing the lines with the engine in situ. Good engine cooling is critical and these engines are not immune from head gasket failure so keep an eye out for coolant crud in the usual places. Change the oil at least once a year to avoid potential sludging problems.
Normally in these buying guides we're telling you how each new model of whatever car we're talking about always gets firmer suspension than the one before. That's not how it works in Flying Spur country. The China market likes its limos to be softly suspended, so compared to the gen-one Spur the gen-two had softer air springing by 10 percent at the front and 13 percent at the rear, with a 13/15 percent front/rear slackening of the anti-roll bars and 25 percent softer bushes all round. Damper settings on the Continuous Damper Control system are adjustable to give you extra firmness as and when you need it.
Standard Spur wheels were 19in, but 20s with softer tyre sidewalls were available and Mulliner pack cars had 21in two-piece wheels. The ride is extremely good on any of these wheels almost all of the time, but even quite small ridges and potholes will knock some of the sheen off if they're sharp-edged enough. That's not unheard of in the world of air suspension, but other cars like the Range Rover do a better job of suppressing sudden tarmac dropoffs.
Suspension components will always take a hiding in cars this heavy and the Spur is no exception. If the one you're looking at seems to be a bit lopsided after it's been sitting for a while there's a good chance of a leak from one or more of the struts. Left unattended this will stress out the bushes and ball joints, causing knocking and discernible movement when you tap the brake at low speed. These struts can be rebuilt at around half the price of replacing the entire piece, which is just as well as they are mad money.
Standard braking is safe enough without being class-leading in terms of the amount of room you'll need to stop from the speeds of which this car is capable. Carbon ceramics were an option, and indeed still are for the used buyer, but don't expect Caterham levels of delicacy through the pedal. The electronic parking brake used to be known for thinking it was on when it actually wasn't, triggering limp-home mode and a hard look at the brake motors.
Steering is hydraulic, which even in 2013 was something of a retro choice. Barring a touch of deadness on the straight-ahead, which for many would be preferable to over-sensitivity in a big-roads car like this, it worked well enough as long as you drove within the Spur's design limits and didn't expect it to do a seven-minute Ring lap. Wallow is surprisingly well contained and the all-wheel drive will bring things nicely under control when power is eased off, but as you might have guessed the body will lean when pushed.
It wasn't just the LED-lit front end that was new on the second generation Flying Spur. All the exterior panels were new. The styling changes were much more marked on the new Spur than the revisions that had been carried out a year earlier on the 2012 Conti GT and GTC. That was in response to a feeling among owners that the Conti changes were too conservative.
Look at the Flying Spur on a panel by panel basis from a range of different angles and you might start to think that maybe Bentley should have reined themselves in a little. Curves butt up rudely against straight edges and it can all seem a bit disjointed. Look at it in a more holistic way however and you begin to get the Spur thing. There's an authority bordering on arrogance about it, a single-minded, almost cussed look that, especially around the back end, might put you in mind of later, non-curvy Bristols or Skoda Superbs, but in a good way.
An effort was made to reduce weight in the gen-two, and the monocoque was supposedly 50kg lighter, but budget limitations played a part in determining some of the measures taken. We're not sure how warm a welcome the new GRP bootlid would have received in Boodle's or the Carlton Club, but when you could tick a box for a jewelled fuel filler cap you might think it was all a bit tokenistic anyway. The boot is huge by the way.
Keep the scuttle drain clear if, like most intelligent people, you don't want water in your car's fuse box and/or the comfort ECU in the footwell. Headlinings used to come adrift on dark-painted gen-one cars kept in warmer climes.
Ambience is hugely significant in any luxury car, and Bentley owners in particular might well put that single element ahead of any other factor. The Flying Spur delivers great globs of the stuff. Ten square metres of hand-worked wood veneer and fourteen cow hides combine with glittering instrumentation and heavily chromed switchgear to create the sort of atmos that would be recognised and approved by Agatha Christie's snootiest Orient Express suspects.
It's all well bolted together too. Rattles are rare. Not everyone will approve of every aspect of the cabin design – is diamond-stitched leather in any car really that classy? – and considering the car's near-5.3 metre length there's not a vast amount of space for the driver, but in one sense that's historically correct because shortness of stature was more or less essential if you fancied a life as a Bentley chauffeur in the old days.
You could configure a Spur as a softly-leathered four- or five-seater, all of them a little lacking in side support but with the compensation of heating and cooling and 14-way adjustability up front. There was a between-the-seats veneered stowage case in the four-seater which could house a fridge. The steering wheel feels substantial enough to turn a train turntable, the studded metal pedals evoke the days of Brunel, and the body's military creases enhance the sensation of piloting rather than something as proletarian as driving.
There is an analogue Breitling clock but even though the gen-two's new acoustic underbody shielding gave the Spur even better noise insulation than before you still won't hear it ticking. The remarkable peace of the cabin does draw your attention to the W12's lack of aural personality, but again this wouldn't be an issue for those owners who would be using their Spurs for working on the road or who simply wanted rest rather than racket.
With that in mind, cars with the Connectivity pack had 10in headrest screens and web connection. The satnav, voice control and Bluetooth functions of the 8in dash touchscreen (with hard drive nav and audio) were much improved on the gen-two, reflecting the demands of the very young 25-35 age demographic of the target market in China. This, along with most of the other comfort features, could be controlled from the back of the car via an extremely cool iPad Mini-style remote.
Make sure the EML (engine management light) is working because bulb removal is a lot easier and cheaper than fixing a problem. Have a look at the key fobs too because they are susceptible to button wear and fiercely expensive to replace.
Cars like the Flying Spur have to be judged by different rules. They're not about Elise-like balance through a sweeping bend, laser steering, hummingbird turn-in or surgical throttle sensitivity. They're about much less definable but no less worthy stuff like presence and opulence. The Bentley name traditionally added a layer of performance to that mix, along with a certain detached classiness.
By these parameters you have to say that the Flying Spur fully meets its brief. Unlike some Bentley and Rolls-Royce models, Spurs don't seem to have suffered overmuch from the effects of poor first-buyer trim choices. There's no shortage of sober examples for sale that will take older buyers back to a time when Bentley speccing was a lot more constrained and bursting through the taste barrier was more difficult.
It's not perfect. The chassis's occasional propensity to allow sharp road shocks through into the cabin will encourage you to learn distraction techniques for your passengers. On the plus side from an ownership point of view, you'll find a lot of VW and Audi-badged parts in a Spur, so not only will that keep a lid on part prices it will also mean that you don't necessarily need Bentley dealers to carry out routine servicing if you want to run it on a shedly budget. If you're prepared to honour your role as custodian, main dealers like H R Owen will do you fixed price servicing packages from £1,620. Flying Spares is a dedicated supplier of bits, both new and recon, that will help you keep your running costs under control.
As mentioned at the beginning, prices for the new gen-three Flying Spur start at around £170,000 but heavily-optioned used examples will often be over £200k. With that in mind, under £50,000 for a six- or seven-year old gen-two Spur that is unlikely to have had a hard life looks like excellent value.
Which one to buy? The V8 S has a more sporty feel than the W12 and is potentially cheaper to run and maintain, but the lure of the big dog is strong. Looking for Flying Spurs in PH Classifieds we found a Mulliner spec 2014 W12 with the comms pack, plenty of other desirable options and just 20,000 miles on the clock for £56,950. For about the same money you could get this understated silver 2015 V8 with black leather and 41,000 miles. At the top of the PH selection (barring a 2019 626hp W12 that's a hefty £90,000 dearer) we have this 2017 W12 in graphite with four-seat configuration, 13,000 miles and the jewelled fuel cap we know you all want, a snip at £84,950.
Search for a used Bentley Flying Spur here
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