Bentley Flying Spur | Country Life

If there exists a recipe for the perfect drive in the country, it’s fair to suggest Bentley probably wrote it with the Flying Spur.

Words Steve Vermeulen Photos Simeon Patience

There are two ways you can enjoy yourself driving through bucolic country scenery. You can lope along at a relaxed pace, absorbing the scenery, and relishing the plush cabin. Or you can progress at pace, allowing nature’s beauty to blur by the window while you feel connected to the car as you explore its potential on a quiet backroad.

That is the beauty of Bentley’s Flying Spur: it remains sublime in either scenario.

Yes, for the most part it’s a large, graceful limousine, lavished generously with artisan handiwork and sumptuous materials. But when you want to be it can also transform into a brutally efficient muscle car, unbelievably more spirited than its indulgent dimensions would ever let on. Let’s not forget, the Flying Spur is the fastest production saloon car on sale.

And on this day, exploring the flowing roads of the Auckland region’s equestrian-capital, Karaka, perhaps the newly released V8 variant would be my preferred choice of Flying Spur.

I’ve been fortunate enough to put in substantial miles behind the wheel of the range-topping 6.0-litre W12 in the past, and without question it’s a deeply impressive vehicle that delivers waves of torque and smoothness that embrace the driver like a bear hug.

Comparatively, the 404kW/770Nm V8 feels quite different, with less weight over the front of the car: it’s lither and more alert. The performance isn’t quite as brisk – reaching 100km/h in 4.1 seconds rather than 3.8 seconds in the W12 and topping out at 318km/h instead of 333km/h – but all that is hardly a concern on public roads anyway.

If I really wanted to split hairs, the V8’s engine harmonics are slightly gruffer, but with the pay-off being as a driver you feel more engaged. Simplified, the two cars create pace differently. The beefier W12 will accelerate and pull you out of corners more assuredly, but the V8 is marginally easier to position and pitch into corners in the first place.

This car has been specified by Bentley Auckland to showcase what’s possible with some additional flourishes from Bentley’s inhouse bespoke division, Mulliner – and they have made some excellent choices.

The taught bodywork comes alive in the sun with this ravishing combination of ‘Dragon Red’ exterior paint and black accents, as well as Mulliner’s carbon fibre aerodynamic accoutrements. Inside, Mulliner diamond-in-diamond stitched upholstery makes for a beautifully intricate statement, while the handmade dashboard veneers and leather accents are colour matched to the body. The entire fit and finish is, as one would expect, impeccable.

To help refresh behind the wheel you can activate the massaging seats which do genuinely relax. In fact, it’s a shame I wasn’t heading further afield as this comfort feature would be a blessing on a longer haul across the country. Suffice to say, the Flying Spur is an eminently comfortable car to drive or be driven in for long periods.

We do have time for a fleeting visit to some of Karaka’s most respected equine operations though, which seem a befitting backdrop for the Flying Spur. Navigating a network of stables and sheds is also a great opportunity to showcase the Flying Spur’s party trick – Bentley’s first four-wheel-steering system.

This advent affords the Flying Spur a practical turning circle akin to a mid-size hatchback. The vehicle pivots around its central axis at low speeds with ease – the Flying Spur’s dimensions might seem formidable, but it is extremely manoeuvrable, and these characteristics serve it well in an urban setting also.

It’s certainly a qualified companion to a thoroughly enjoyable day in the country. But it’s exactly that environment that helps you realise the Flying Spur is something more than that. Graceful yet vivacious all at once, with an ability to defy logic and feel smaller and nimbler than its size suggests, the Bentley Flying Spur V8 really is one of the all-time greats. For both town and country alike.

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