Luxury firing on all cylinders
A car as muscular and striking as Bentley's Flying Spur V8 is not one to go unnoticed on Irish roads, writes Geraldine Herbert as she drives one of the world's most coveted rides
For those looking for the supreme blend of luxury and performance there are only a couple of cars in the world seriously worth considering - and one of them is Bentley's Flying Spur, the four-door version of their Continental GT coupe.
Bentley may now belong to the Germans at Volkswagen, but the marque remains distinctly British, and with the Flying Spur, it has been winning over wealthy buyers in both the US and China, its two biggest markets.
There's a choice of two petrol engines with either a 6.0 litre W12 or the smaller 4.0 litre V8 that promises power with fuel efficiency.
When Bentley cut the number of cylinders from 12 to eight the idea was to create a new more economical version that allowed them to price it slightly lower.
The Flying Spur V8 costs about 10pc less to buy and to run than its more powerful sibling.
But while the V8 may be the more affordable one, with a price tag in excess of €300,000 you are unlikely to see too many of them on Irish roads.
The traditional Bentley shape with a square front end is dominated by the distinctive and purposeful grille, and overall the Flying Spur is a unique blend of sculpted, sleek and elegant coachwork.
Inside, the sumptuous interior is rich and cossets you like a cashmere scarf. The dashboard has stately elegance, and the immaculate materials and handcrafted workmanship that define the car's character are evident throughout.
There are some exquisite details, including the veneered picnic tables, refrigerated bottle cooler and the luxurious boot carpet.
The hand stitched steering wheel apparently takes 16 hours to complete at the Bentley factory, that is two working days on just one steering wheel. In terms of space, it is practically residential inside. Back seat passengers are treated to generous leg room - even passengers in excess of 6ft will have no trouble stretching out.
There is also Touch Screen Remote which allows you to control the car's climate and infotainment systems from the comfort of the rear seat. With the optional Multimedia Specification, this includes DVD players, wireless headphones and LCD screens.
Press the start button and the Spur's engine emits a very satisfying growl from the 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8 engine.
Put your foot down, and you'll feel the reassuring grunt of 507bhp and 660Nm of torque, all of which combine to move this chariot from 0 to 100km/h in a mere 5.2 seconds with a top speed of 295 km/h.
In terms of fuel consumption Bentley says this Flying Spur will do 25.9mpg in the EU Combined cycle or 10.9 litres per 100km and with CO2 emissions of 254g/km, it will cost €2,350 a year for motor tax.
This Flying Spur may not be designed as a sports car - if you want sport, opt for the GT - but it drives well. Through corners you feel its 2.5-tonne mass but with permanent four-wheel drive, it sticks beautifully to the road, the steering is nicely weighted and the eight-speed gearbox works seamlessly.
On the road it is superbly hushed and incredibly comfortable, particularly over some of the rough Kildare back roads we drove on.
The air suspension offers a choice of four levels of damping, from Comfort right up to Sport, but disappointingly there is only a slight difference between them.
The Flying Spur V8 is the most efficient and affordable version of the opulent saloon but there is no compromise - it retains Bentley's signature mark of luxury.
Despite the lower price tag, it is awash with all the lavish trimmings you would expect and the smaller engine does nothing to lessen the appeal.
While I would still rather drive the rangetopping W12, sometimes we women just have to compromise and the Flying Spur V8 is a greener shade of sumptuousness.