By Keith Buglewicz
The 2016 Bentley Flying Spur is an ultra-luxury sedan that is the exclusivity that comes from driving one of the most storied brands in automotive history. Yet despite such a lofty heritage, the Flying Spur is rooted in reality, offering a choice of 8- or 12-cylinder engines, standard all-wheel drive, and the kind of driving manners you may not expect from such a large and opulent car. The price tag starts -- starts -- at more than $200,000, significantly more than a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but still less than the "starter" Rolls-Royce Ghost. Inside, the Bentley Flying Spur offers old-world craftsmanship, with real wood inlays, aluminum switchgear, and leather so soft and sensuous that it may violate decency laws in more conservative states.
There's the badge appeal, of course, and it's a primary reason for buying the 2016 Bentley Flying Spur. Yet the Flying Spur is also a remarkably good car to drive. Not only is it comfortable and serene, but the powerful engines and well-tuned suspension make it surprisingly maneuverable.
The 2016 Bentley Flying Spur's changes include new 20- and 21-inch wheel options. The instruments also get updated with more modern graphics, there's a new steering wheel, and a Wi-Fi hotspot system. The W12 engine now has variable displacement, saving fuel by deactivating some cylinders at highway speeds.
It's important to understand that cars like the Bentley Flying Spur aren't exactly rational choices. No, when you buy a Bentley, you're buying the exclusivity that comes with...
... a custom-built luxury sedan. You're also buying an all-wheel-drive car offering a choice of engines, both generating more than 500 horsepower, enough to propel this 5,000-plus-pound car to dizzying speeds in an eye blink. The steering is light, true, but with the suspension, powerful engines and all-wheel drive, the Flying Spur is the kind of car that feels smaller the harder you push it, which is saying something since this car is more than 17 feet long. Dial it back, and it's hushed, refined and exceedingly comfortable, even though the 21-inch wheels tend to pound over smaller bumps. Are there better high-performance luxury sedans? Sure. But none of them is called "Bentley."
Never heard of Naim? Don't worry; once you actually hear Naim you'll understand why it's one of Britain's premier audio manufacturers. The 1,100-watt system designed for the Flying Spur is beyond reproach, featuring touches like separately tuned twin subwoofers to enhance bass throughout the sedan's cabin.
If a Bentley is all about indulgence, and a massage is in itself indulgent, then possibly a Bentley with massaging seats is the ultimate indulgence. Massaging front and rear seats are part of the Comfort Specification package, and, of course, the seats can be heated and cooled for further comfort.
You'd expect the interior of a $200,000 luxury sedan to be absurdly opulent, and you'd be pretty much right. There's wood and leather aplenty, and the premium trim come with names like Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus and Tamo Ash. There's available lamb’s-wool carpet as deep as summer grass, just in case the standard carpet won't cut it. The standard "4+1" seating doesn't leave a lot of room for the middle passenger in back, so just skip it and go for the 4-seat version, in which the rear positions are bisected by a full-length console.
The lines on the Bentley Flying Spur reflect the larger and more expensive Mulsanne flagship sedan. There are long, flowing lines that sweep to a wide rear pillar, all of it conveying an impression of strength and solidity. There isn't a lot of ornamentation, at least not extraneous things. The four headlights float in the sheet metal, surrounded by LEDs, and even the grille itself, despite being a chrome mass nearly three feet across, is somehow subdued. It's an elegant, head-turning car that looks good coming and going, or just sitting still.
That big price tag gets you a big sedan, filled with big-ticket items. The interior is awash in wood and leather, the front seats are power-adjustable 14 different ways, and there are multi-zone climate control, bright bi-xenon headlights, a turbocharged V8 and standard all-wheel drive. The infotainment system standard on the Flying Spur features an AM/FM/CD/DVD player that plays through an 8-channel/8-speaker audio system. Navigation is also standard as is the rearview camera. Interestingly, while Bluetooth wireless connectivity and an SD card slot are standard, there's no standard USB connection.
Options include the praiseworthy 14-speaker Naim audio system, and rear-seat passengers can indulge with their own rear-seat entertainment system, complete with tablet-style remote control, wireless headphones and built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. Rear-seat occupants also have access to a built-in bottle cooler for drinks and snacks. The Mulliner models offer even larger wheels and finer interior details. The Bentley Flying Spur offers adaptive cruise control, but curiously, neither blind-spot monitoring nor lane-departure warning -- features common on modern budget compacts -- is available.
Your engine choices boil down to "great" and "greater." The Great engine is a twin-turbocharged V8 that makes an impressive 500 horsepower. The "Greater" is a W12 (yes, the cylinders are arranged in a “W”), that adds a solid 116 horsepower to that total. Both engines come connected to an excellent 8-speed ZF automatic transmission, which can be shifted manually using paddles on the steering wheel. All Bentley Flying Spurs feature all-wheel drive, which enhances traction.
4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8
500 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
486 lb-ft of torque @ 1,700 rpm
EPA city/high fuel economy: 14/24 mpg
6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W12
616 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
590 lb-ft of torque @ 1,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 12/20 mpg
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of a so-called "base" 2016 Bentley Flying Spur comes in at just over $203,000; the more powerful W12 model arrives at nearly $228,000. Of course it's easy to raise that price by tens of thousands of dollars without even trying, and if you fully load up a W12 Flying Spur with the Mulliner package, you can cross the $300,000 mark. Its starting price is less than a Rolls-Royce Ghost, but easily higher than just about everything else, including the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Porsche Panamera, Lexus LS and Maserati GranTurismo. It is in line with that of the Aston Martin Rapide S. To get an idea of specific pricing for your area, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price. As such a niche vehicle, precise resale values are difficult to predict for the 2016 Bentley Flying Spur.