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Test drive: Mark Gallivan reviews the 2017 Bentley Flying Spur V8 S

Flying Spur V8 S

Leading motoring writer Mark Gallivan takes the 2017 Bentley Flying Spur V8 S out for a test drive. Here is what he thought.

The Sprightliest of Spurs
The Bentley Mulsanne is our favourite ultra-luxury car. There, we said it. We could have considered the Rolls Royce Phantom but it’s a trifle too big for us. We might also have suggested the Rolls Royce Ghost but that’s really a price competitor for the Bentley Flying Spur. Then again we could have picked, given a residency in Vegas and new capped teeth, the Mercedes-Maybach. But no, it is the Mulsanne. The reason we admire the Mulsanne so much is because it understands the subliminal luxury cues of dignified, less showy wealth to a fault. True enormity, bluff front grille and headlights, traditional seating with leather, metal and wood ridiculously wonderful to touch that the price – and a mighty big one at £229,360 – is arguably worth every penny. It’s not our favourite luxury car to drive, though – that’s the V8 S Flying Spur. When we heard there was a V8 version we wanted to find out if the smaller engine transformed the Flying Spur in the same way the V8 engine did when placed into the Continental GT. 

The details
Starting at £132,800 for the standard V8 engine we drove the V8 S version priced at £142,800. By adding the “S” nomenclature it added 21bhp resulting in 521bhp, an additional 7mph top speed of 190mph and a faster 0-60mph of 4.9 seconds. Like most Bentleys purchases someone hovered a mouse icon over the options page for too long and the final price rose to substantial £190,765. Buried within the list of options we spotted one line item: Hand Stitching In Light Blue £155. Ah, attention to detail, that’s good form we say. To make the V8 feel more agile, the car sheds 330 pounds eliminating the de facto nose heaviness of the W12. By using what Bentley calls Variable Displacement, 4 of the 8 cylinders are shut down during normal driving, thus improving fuel consumption to a claimed 25mpg combined. For once, that’s not industry hocus pocus as we achieved 21mpg interspersed with some spirited driving so the claims from Crewe are not far off. Emissions are a hefty 254g/km.

Come on you Spurs
We could tell you about the all-wheel-drive system and its 40/60 bias, the revised suspension and damping or the better throttle response and we’d still never properly convey how surprisingly chuckable the 2,972kg V8 S has become. This is a Spur with a spring in its step. Every input from the steering wheel has the car gamely hounding down any series of bends and while it’s no sports saloon, it’s a genuine improvement over the W12. It’s only when you step out, as we did, and see it parked do you fully appreciate how large a car it is. You won’t be happy though. Removing oneself from the Flying Spur introduces a level of disappointment with the real world. Gone will be the duvet-like leather seats, controls that whirr and rotate with a beautifully damped movement and a fragrance from the interior that tingle the olfactory receptors, spelling 5-star luxury in block capitals. Spoilt for choice? You’re likely to be spoilt forever.

Intangible sensations
There was, though, one sensation we couldn’t quite put our finger on when we drove the W12 last year. It’s one that few motoring journalists speak about: the eerie way the car glides over roads. With the softest setting chosen the V8 S felt like no other with an almost hovercraft flow that was indefinable and soothing, both at the same time. Think of the moment when a commercial aircraft starts its decent for final approach. Your eyes can’t rationalise it but your inner ear balance is telling you the plane is descending. You, though, cannot see it. This is what separates a Bentley Flying Spur and Mulsanne from the rest – you make spectre-like progress by gliding along. You won’t ever experience this extraordinary sensation in a Mercedes S-class. Small, indiscernible sensations, subliminal luxury cues and aromas that conjure messages of the best in living mixed with a fresh dose of athleticism. It’s why the Flying Spur V8 S is the best Spur yet.

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