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It was the coverline ‘Bentley’s best-ever saloon’ that caught my eye. A coachbuilt 8 Litre? Or the bargain Turbo R? Er, no.
According to Autocar, the model worthy of the title is the petrol/electric hybrid Flying Spur.
We had to find out for ourselves…
First up, a hybrid? Really? But if the very idea is anathema to you, the first shock is that, paradoxically, it’s in full battery mode that the Spur feels most like a Bentley, wafting along silently on a wave of torque and doing a fine impression of the old 6.75-litre V8.
And you really can use it as a pure EV, for up to 20 miles or so at a time, with petrol power only kicking in if you push the throttle nearer to the floor.
When you do, the 134bhp motor is joined by the 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 from the Audi RS5, for a 536bhp total.
That’s a shade less than the (slightly cheaper) V8 Spur, but enough for some pretty potent performance.
Even when the 18kWh battery is exhausted and you’re relying on petrol power only it’s still genuinely brisk, though the V6 sounds a little undignified for a Bentley (and a bit too much like an Audi).
Not that it looks like an Audi. Slight guppy mouth aside, it’s handsome: ultra-low and sleek, with elegantly sculpted flanks.
It’s even better inside. Up front it’s beautifully built and elegantly detailed (I love the piano-stop controls for the air vents and the rotating dashboard panel that allows you to substitute analogue dials for the ugly sat-nav screen), while the rear is palatial, with spectacularly comfortable seats and pillow-like headrests.
Somehow, though, it manages to avoid the overblown ostentation of some Germanic reinterpretations of British marques.
The vast rear legroom is a hint to the dimensions of this car: it’s truly massive, at 5.3m long, 2.3m wide and weighing in at 2505kg.
Yet on the move it manages to be a driver’s car, the small, fat steering wheel beautifully weighted and precise, the active air suspension giving it an agility at odds with its size.
We even sneaked on to a track and discovered that the rear-biased four-wheel-drive set-up is remarkably playful at its limits, although the protests from the brakes and tyres quickly curtail that kind of behaviour.
Commanding the motorway after a 400-mile day in the Flying Spur, pointing its illuminated ‘Flying B’ towards home, it’s impossible to deny that this is a very special car.
But unlike many predecessors – and indeed its W12 sibling – it has one foot in the real world.
The 85.6mpg official claims might be pie in the sky, but we matched Autocar’s 32.9 average – a remarkable number for an über-luxury car such as this.
But Bentley’s best-ever saloon? Not quite for me.
A classic of the future? Absolutely.
Images: Max Edleston
- Engine 2894cc twin-turbo V6, plus electric motor; 536bhp @ 5000-6800rpm; 553lb ft @ 1050-3500rpm
- Transmission eight-speed auto, 4WD
- 0-60mph 4.4 secs
- Top speed 177mph
- Mpg 32.9
- Price £168,300
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