2015 Bentley Flying Spur V8 First Drive Page 2

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Small sacrifices, bigger upsides
Either Spur generates the kind of luxuriant horsepower and torque that used to be the sole province of supercars. With the W-12, it's 616 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque, coupled to an eight-speed automatic and rear-biased all-wheel drive. Bentley's quoted this version at a 0-60 mph time of 4.3 seconds, and a top speed of 200 mph--astonishing numbers for a car that weighs nearly 5,500 pounds.

The new model shares the same 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 that's found in the two-door Continental GT V8. And as it does in the GT, the V-8 rolls out 500 horsepower and 487 pound-feet of torque, teamed to the same eight-speed automatic, with the same plastic paddles that seem equally out of touch in the twelve-cylinder car. As with the W-12, the all-wheel-drive system is set to a nominal 40:60 torque split, but it's able to move up to 65 percent of the torque to the front wheels, or up to 85 percent to the rear wheels.

The V-8's almost as willing. It pushes the Spur to 60 mph from a standstill in 4.9 seconds, and reaches a top speed of 183 mph. Arguably, the noises it makes are more pleasant than the offset rap of the twelve--though neither make any vocal presence that would drown out a quiet conversation.

The Bentley also claims a 520-mile cruising range, thanks to the V-8's smaller displacement and efficiency-improving technologies like cylinder deactivation. It's EPA-rated at 14 miles per gallon city, 24 mpg highway, and 17 mpg combined--a usable increment over the W-12's 12/20/15 mpg.

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The current Spur's ride and handling have been tailored with a more global outlook. Read that as a more comfortable, plush ride and a wider range of adaptive behavior from its dampers, all to please British and Chinese and American and Russian drivers from a uniform spec. More vertically aligned shocks couple with standard 19-inch and optional 20-inch wheels and tires with taller sidewalls for better ride compliance and control at speed.

The impression given across England's more open spaces is stable, and the steering boost avoids any wandering, though the tires and all-wheel drive limit any feedback. The Spur is massive when it's squeezing through village alleys, or encountering oncoming cars on classic lane-and-a-half British roads--but it's never the car's dynamics getting in the way, just its sheer size. The V-8 actually cuts about 300 pounds from the W-12 car, almost all of it coming off the front end in the form of engine, which makes it feel more lively--a little more youthful than its roofline implies.

It's happy to dive into corners, especially when the dampers are set to Sport, though that isn't the appropriate setting when very important passengers ride in back.

A posh spice

The Flying Spur V8 tunes out the outside world with business-class space and technology, whether it's the front or rear seats. The driver has full control over the phone, navigation, audio, and climate controls--except when they don't. The rear-seat infotainment setup includes iPad-like twin 10-inch flat screens embedded in the front-seat headrests for those rear passengers--offering them in-car Internet and wireless connectivity and entertainment. Tellingly, it also comes with a remote control embedded in the rear console; the smartphone-sized device is fitted as a convenience to passengers who may not be allowed to converse with their chauffeurs.

The front seats have more than a dozen adjustments in front; in back a three-seat configuration can be fitted, as well as a supple two-seat configuration with heating and ventilation. Some 17 interior leather colors and seven wood trims are offered, and 17 stitching colors--a palette that runs from sober grey to opulent damson.

A Mulliner Driving Specification adds the best flourishes: diamond-quilted seats, drilled alloy foot pedals, a knurled sports shift lever, jeweled filler cap, and 20 alloy wheels wrap up the package. An optional Naim 1,100-watt audio system is available.

Of course, the sky’s really the limit, in terms of customization. Bentley offers hundreds of color combinations—and for a fee, you can bring your own hues and finishes to the party.

Posh and plush, the Flying Spur V8 is just a bit less quick than the flagship W-12 car—at a price about $20,000 less. The V8 bears a base price of $195,100 before destination and gas-guzzler tax, and before any fab custom touches are figured in.

The Flying Spur V8 pushes Bentley deeper into a future where W-12s are still its hallmark, but an array of more efficient powertrains are also on the menu. By the time the next-generation car rolls into sight, plug-in hybrid and diesel versions of the Spur will be de riguer--though their potential in America has yet to be sussed out. The V8 is a gentle turn in that direction.

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