2021 Bentley Flying Spur V8 First Drive: Opulent Performance Meets the Malibu Hills
This stunning luxobarge will unleash your inner pop star.
When anyone from Bentley rings up to offer a weekend testing out their new third-generation Flying Spur, updated for 2021 with Bentley’s superb twin-turbo V8, you say yes. Immediately.
Never mind if the sleeker Continental GT is your favorite vehicle to sport the Flying B, or that the Bentayga SUV arguably makes the more powerful statement clearing its throat as it rolls over parking dividers at the local Erewhon organic market. Their executive saloon Flying Spur — measuring more than 17-feet in sprawling length — is a Drake-ian experience unto itself.
Little did we realize just how much we’d enjoy the experience. Don’t get us wrong — driving a Bentley, any Bentley, is among the most pleasurable experiences a true gearhead could have. But to the degree we relished our weekend exploring the splendors of Malibu is another thing altogether.
It all began by throwing an overnighter in the walk-in closet-sized trunk of the Flying Spur and aiming the hood due west to the ‘Bu. Our Flying Spur was lathered in a hue aptly dubbed Silver Frost, a shimmering armor that gave the British chariot an almost magical sheen as it rounded corners, its crisp body panels catching the sun’s rays just so.
Now no one’s foolish enough to think of the Flying Spur as a canyon carver, and that bares true in the real world. But the long straights and wide, swooping turns of the PCH from Santa Monica into Malibu are where the Flying Spur takes flight — these are its natural hunting grounds.
The 4.0-liter V8 growls to life when you actually manage to find open road in front of you, no lethargic Sunday Drivers blocking your way. You may sacrifice a smidge of power (84 horses) swapping out the 6.0-liter W12 for the V8, but you’d be hard-pressed to miss it here: the potent engine offers plenty of grunt to get moving quickly, its full torque load (568 lb-ft) arriving at only 2,000-rpms — squatting the sedan from a red light to speed with surprising bounce (0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds).
On the swooping curves following the Pacific the Flying Spur sticks solid, its heft and weight adding to its plantedness. Thank the rear-biased all-wheel-drive system working in tandem with standard adaptive air suspension and optional 48-volt anti-roll system — part of the Dynamic Ride Package ($7,730). There’s simply no roll, even on sharper corners.
But even tech like the rear-wheel steering couldn’t make the Flying Spur feel nimble. It’s just not an agile vehicle no matter what, and its girth was exposed on the noodle S-curves high in the Malibu hills that surrounded our destination, the Calamigos Ranch. It’s hard not to get a bit nauseous negotiating a 5,500-lb barge across switchbacks better aimed at high-revving Italian sportbikes. In all fairness though, it was never intended for these rarefied roads.
On anything less demanding the Flying Spur performs. And here’s where Bentley gives us personally so much more joy over its Rolls-Royce rival. The latter proudly eschews the term sporty — they bristle at the word ever applying to anything with a Spirit of Ecstasy decorating the hood. Instead Rolls-Royce execs prefer terms like waft, as you’d imagine describing a 15th century French monarch carried on pillows from the harem to his sleeping chambers.
Not Bentley, they never forget their Bentley Boys motorsports roots — even in a mammoth potentially chauffeured sedan. The Flying Spur is fun to drive, all the time, especially when dialed up to Sport mode.
As you’d expect inside the Flying Spur is palatial, both in space and appointments. Leather on the seats and door panels is buttery soft and quilted with the care of Savile Row tailor. Every knob and dial is metal and heavy, every touch point significant.
Check out the knurled dials, and chiseled gem look of the turn signal stock (you could get lost staring into the dazzling jeweled cuts of the headlamps). While we never rode in the rear, a friend did enjoy the chauffeured executive throne behind the passenger seat. We could hear him pleasurably sigh, My god, the pulse on the deep tissue massage! as we rolled across the California afternoon.
While the Flying Spur V8 starts at just under $200,000 ($196,000 to be exact), our tester boasted more than $73,000 in options — including the Mulliner Driving package with opulent interior baubles ($18,130) and Touring Spec ($8,555) supplying tech goodies like HUD, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and night vision.
Then there are the more fanciful options like heated windshield ($810), LED puddle lamps ($1,105) and veneered picnic tables ($5,470) to further swell final costs. Other pricey packages are worth every penny, none more than the Naim for Bentley sound-system ($8,880) which is the only way to indulge your ear holes like you’re indulging every other sensory apparatus in the Flying Spur. The 19-speaker, 20-channel, 2,200-watt system’s aptly named Ass Shakers under the seats will tingle your glutes with every bass drop, convincing you Drizzy himself is performing “Best I Ever Had” from the trunk.
And then there’s the illuminated ‘Flying B’ hood ornament ($4,910): while five stacks sounds like a lot for a winged black-gloss mascot that glows from within as it rises from your grille, it’s actually a small price to pay for the amount of joy (and Instagram attention) you’ll receive… even for just a weekend.