Of course there are those that will say this is merely a four-door Continental GT and, given that it uses the same VW-sourced twin-turbo 553bhp W12 motor, six-speed ZF ’box, multi-link suspension and record- breaking 405mm brake discs (the biggest in production), there is much in what they say. Yet despite this, the Flying Spur possesses a character of its own, one that leads me to lament the fact that Bentley has not made more of a visual distinction between them.
Indeed, if you see one in the mirror, you’ll not be able to tell whether it’s a Spur or a GT. It’s only when it draws alongside that you’ll spot the extra 300mm in the wheelbase, the B-pillar and the four long doors. And when it sweeps past you, as it surely will, you’ll be able to judge the merits or otherwise of its new boot. To me, it works markedly less well than the GT’s considerably more pert rear end and helps create the entirely false impression that the Spur was an afterthought, a GT stretched like warm toffee into a family-friendly shape. In fact, although the GT has been on the market for well over a year, in design terms it and the Spur are twins.
But just as they’re not identical in looks nor are they in ability and anyone who presumes that, just because the Spur is heavier, longer and softer than the GT, it must be dynamically compromised has reckoned without the talents of Bentley’s engineers in general and those of their boss, Dr Ulrich Eichhorn, in particular.Bentley says it will still hit 60mph in the same 4.9sec we achieved with the Continental GT. Top speed has come down, however, by three whole miles per hour, to a trifling 195mph though Eichhorn says this figure is conservative and that, in optimum conditions, 200mph should not be beyond the Spur’s grasp. So few are going to find its performance lacking; it is, after all, the fastest saloon in the world.
More interesting than such academia, however, is the fact that the W12 is considerably better suited to the Spur than the GT. My time in the coupé has always been tinged by a slight regret that its engine doesn’t howl and rev as we have come to expect from modern supercars. It may be very Bentley, but it’s not very exciting. But its low-rev, high-torque approach suits a luxury limousine to perfection. You don’t want to have to thrash such cars before they’ll perform – you’d rather roll along on an ocean of torque and, with 479lb ft of the stuff available at a frankly comical 1600rpm, that’s just what the Spur allows.Then, of course, there is the not insignificant fact that you can pile a family of five into the Spur. It is roomy enough for four six-foot adults to sit in extravagant comfort with none of their extremities even close to coming into contact with a seat, a headlining or another occupant. The boot’s reasonably big, too, but has a small aperture.
Looked at in isolation, this appears not to make sense: how can a vast four-door saloon with all the weight of extra doors, the boot, huge seats, interior trim, two B-pillars and a stretched wheelbase give performance barely blunted from that of the GT which is over half a metre shorter? In fact the answer is simple: for all its extra size, the Spur is just 90kg heavier than the GT. Put another way, a GT with me on board weighs the same as an unoccupied Spur. While waiting to go into production, the Spur has been dieting furiously, even being fitted with an all-aluminium subframe at the back, where the GT’s is steel.But the big difference that extra space between the wheels makes, as well as new dampers with fresh software to control them, is in the ride quality. No, it’s not Mercedes S-class good, but it retains the exemplary primary control you’d expect of any Bentley, and supplements it with a secondary suppleness that, with the best will in the world, you would not.