Under peerless azure skies, we’re flying down a nearly empty stretch of Texas 288, pushing 90 in Bentley’s newest luxe machine, the appropriately named Flying Spur V8.
Distinguished by its stylized figure-eight chrome exhaust tips and red Bentley logo it can easily pin the speedo at 183 mph, just a hair under its older, more expensive sibling, the W12-powered Flying Spur.
Born to be wild, we’re pointing the Flying Spur V8 to a coastal and marshland gem that’s off the beaten path, the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. And while we’re ready to take whatever comes our way—the 69-square-mile preserve is the permanent or migratory home of several hundred species of birds, reptiles, insects and amphibians—that doesn’t include a needless speeding ticket. So we ease off the accelerator and the impeccably mannered Bentley settles into cruise mode as we feast our eyes on the beauty outside and in. The scrumptious cabin’s ecosystem exudes old-world charm and attention to detail with designer bling ranging from gleaming, textured switchgear to polished wood veneers and matching eyeglass case for a worthy pair of shades.
This beauty takes the concept of “entry model” to a whole new level—one where oxygen masks may not be required but are advised. Starting at $195,100, the largely hand-built car is the lowest-priced model in the “flying B” portfolio. Swapping out the Flying Spur’s 616-horsepower, 6.0-liter 12-cylinder engine for the 500-horse 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 sheds more than 100 pounds where it helps most, up front. The V8 rewards drivers every day with better balance. And they’ll conserve fuel. It’s rated at 14 mpg city and 24 highway. While the Flying Spur is a half-second quicker to 60 and maxes out at 199 mph, it shows at the gas pump getting 12 mpg in the city and 20 out on the highway.
A paddle-shift eight-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive, air suspension, BiXenon/LED headlights and 19-inch wheels are standard fare. But this is a Bentley and the crew from Crewe is ready to build each Flying Spur V8 to the owner’s specifications. Popping for the $18,000 Mulliner treatment, for instance, opens the doors to contrast stitching, special 21-inch wheels and a choice of more than 100 exterior colors. Our Rubino red tester’s sticker came to $240,915, thanks to 42 grand in options, including the Mulliner specification, special paint, Naim audio, veneered picnic tables in the front seatbacks, carpeting, adaptive cruise control contrast stitching and three-spoke steering wheel.
Surprisingly, the styling has proven to be a bit polarizing. Some haters have even gone so far as to complain this Bentley is whale-like—the 96-year-old purveyor of fine motor cars didn’t exactly help when it named its newest Flying Spur V8 package the Beluga specification.
Name aside, we think the Beluga’s blacked out grille, wheels and piano black interior trim will win over enthusiasts with its semisinister “Men in Black” look. Our verdict is that the Flying Spur V8’s bouncer-in-a-tux stance strikes a perfect balance of power and understated, classic elegance.