Gina Baksa puts the upgraded Bentley Flying Spur V8 S through its paces on a road trip in the Basque Country and Rioja
Embracing the Beluga hand-stitched leather steering wheel in front of me, I look down at the iconic silver-winged logo and smile. Bentley, Bilbao, Basque Country – 48-hours of driving pleasure lie ahead, luxuriously punctuated with lunch at Michelin-starred restaurant Zuberoa and an overnight stay at a castle. Welcome to northern Spain!
The chance to put the Flying Spur V8 S through its paces along the A8 from Bilbao to San Sebastian, then south into the wine lands of Rioja was too good to miss.
Well placed between the standard V8 and throatier W12, the ‘S’ stands for sport and this 4-door, 4-litre luxury saloon sped like a bullet out of Bilbao airport. Only I wasn’t driving it – yet. My co-driver – a quiet German with a need for speed – was testing the acceleration (0-60 in 4.1 seconds) faster than you could say ‘Vorsprung’.
“Oh ja,!” he cried joyfully, foot on metal, and in an attempt to calm my visible duress, explained that the Flying Spur V8 S has a: “40:60 rear-biased torque split” which “means it’s even more agile on the bends as well as the straights”. He was right. I sat back, relaxed my head on the hand-stitched headrests, taking in the warmth from the heated massage seats, and enjoyed the feeling of being cocooned in two tonnes of soft leather and metal.
Our V8 S boasted Mulliner extras in the interior, including the signature small diamond quilting pattern on the dash, door trim, and seat inserts. And superb improved suspension: According to Bentley the front spring rates are 10% softer than the previous model and 13% softer at the rear. I certainly felt I was driving in cushioned comfort. And felt safe and protected. Especially on cornering and overtaking where the V8 engine rockets past everything in sight. The braking capacity is astonishing. And from an eco perspective, the V8 has cylinder deactivation to reduce emissions.
All the controls are within easy reach and the Naim music system provided a great aural accompaniment (bass is superb) to the Spanish vistas of hillsides and forests. The soundproofing in the V8 S is so efficient I had to open the window to remind myself we were cruising along a motorway. Engine noise was barely noticeable. We almost glided along the spectacular scenery along the A8 towards our lunch stop at Zuberoa and for once I enjoyed being a passenger. My turn would come.
And it did… The A8 winds its way 100km from Bilbao to San Sebastian and is a fast, joyous strip of tarmac to test this engineering marvel. The 8-speed automatic transmission was smooth as silk, but I had to rein her in at times. It’s quite a shock to realise you are approaching over 100mph and your foot is still halfway to the floor.