Motoring review: Bentley Flying Spur

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

China loves these luxury monsters, and I can see why

Price: £140,900

Engine capacity: 6-litre W12

Power output (bhp @ rpm):  616 @ 6,000

Top speed (mph): 200

0-60mph (seconds): 4.3

Fuel economy (mpg): 19.2

CO2 emissions (g/km): 343

There’s a dangerously overloaded ­motorised rickshaw veering towards me from my right, a new Audi with red military plates up my backside and a minibus full of tourists heading to Tiananmen Square squeezing into a tiny spot in front of me. My head is turning like a swivel-eyed motoring hack in hot water as I think to myself that Beijing’s crowded streets are probably not the best place to test the latest £140k luxury saloon from Bentley.

The Flying Spur is a 5.3m-long ­limousine with a monstrous 6L W12 engine (best not to think about its emissions) and, on Beijing’s polluted streets, the potential for scraping its beautiful dark cashmere paint or mangling its five-spoke alloy wheels is high. Thankfully, in China the rules of the road follow the principle that might is right and the Crewe-built Flying Spur isn’t short of might.

Most car launches I attend are in glamorous locations such as Dagen­ham or Castle Bromwich, but I’m in Beijing because it turns out the Chinese love the British-built Bentley. It’s a bit of a corporate vanity exercise, too, as Bentley reminds its shareholders just how well it is doing with 22 per cent growth last year alone, much of that down to China. Last year, for example, it sold just 125 Continental Flying Spurs (the car the new Flying Spur ­replaces) in the UK, but shifted 1,164 of the luxury monsters in China. You have only to look at traffic for five minutes to ­realise that China is the ­automotive ­future – practically every second or third car in central Beijing is a luxury German, American or British model with a well-dressed twentysomething at the wheel. This obvious inequality (the other cars are old lorries and three-wheelers) is one reason the Communist Party is planning to ban luxury car owners from using red military plates on BMWs, Audis, Bentleys and a whole host of other luxury makes. After all, which local official is going to be brave enough to give a ­general’s car a speeding ticket?

It is only outside Beijing, in the Chinese countryside, that I can finally take stock without crippling fear of a prang. From the rear cabin – where most buyers spend most of their time – the Flying Spur is so smooth and quiet that the entire People’s Liberation Army could parade past and you wouldn’t hear their jackboots pounding. It feels genuinely handcrafted, too, with acres of hide and a week’s work of craftsmanship alone in the three football pitches’ worth of thread-cross-stitched leather. There’s even a touch-screen control to alter the temperature and fire up the rear-seat ­entertainment system. I mean, who wants to drive on these roads when you’ve got a touch-screen to play with and a two-bottle champagne cooler?

That said, Chinese roads are an infrastructure engineer’s dream, both smooth and wide, and it’s only the fear of a tuk-tuk coming the wrong way around a blind bend that keeps my speed down when I take the wheel. The Flying Spur is the fastest Bentley saloon ever but can be thrown around with ease despite its vast size and weight. Some will complain that with the focus on the Chinese market, which favours comfort, some of the driver-focused handling experience will have been compromised and there is some truth to this, but the steering is direct without being overly light and you quickly get a feel for how the car’s mass will behave. Realistically this isn’t a car for hooning around in.

Most of these luxury behemoths will end up driven by Chinese chauffeurs rather than owners anyway, which is great for the UK’s trade deficit but I can’t help thinking it’s a shame the Flying Spur won’t truly be driven as it can be. But maybe that’s changing; one Bentley executive told me that full-throttle track days are starting to catch on in China. And, if I were a young Chinese princeling who didn’t care about the paintwork, I think I’d be quite drawn to driving Bentley’s fastest ever saloon round a track. Now, where do I find a red licence plate?

Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk