The sun’s been up for mere minutes, and a snaking, deserted canyon road awaits. The gas pedal meets the floor, and a snarling 542-hp V8 rockets me forward, banging near-instant shifts as its guttural tune resonates off the canyon walls. I approach the first set of bends, tug the left paddle for downshift, and the body remains flat and controlled through the turn. With all-wheel drive, I rocket out the other side without a fuss, precisely what you’d expect from a modern sports car, except I’m not in one. I’m in a leather-filled, over two-ton Bentley with massaging seats, five screens, and arguably the world’s best sound system.
Meet the 2023 Bentley Flying Spur S, an ultra-luxury sedan that benchmarks just how sporty an over 5,100-lb opulent machine can be. The S is similar in philosophy to the W12-powered Speed that sits just above it, but with either a 4.0-liter V8 or a 2.9-liter hybrid V6 under its hood. Thankfully, Bentley tossed me the keys to the eight-cylinder variant. And while it may be less powerful than its W12 sibling, the S chooses to ignore the laws of physics with its significant weight reductions to its front end, active anti-roll bars, and responsive powertrain. It’s wonderfully mushy through city streets but tight and composed on a backroad. The S might as well stand for sorcery.
The Flying Spur S moves through city streets like a mobster’s dream with its gloss black exterior trim, 22-in wheels, and massive front grille. You could almost call it intimidating if it weren’t for its stylish Cambrian Grey exterior finish. With a tall, prominent shoulder line and widened rear arches, it has tons of road presence, dominating the lane from edge to edge. Its darkened aesthetic is akin to that of a Black Badge Rolls-Royce and hints at a more aggressive character than that of the standard, often shiny chrome-trimmed Flying Spur.
Inside, the S is anything but subtle. With a two-tone red (Hotspur) and black (Beluga) finish and abundant carbon-fiber trim, it’s showy but not excessively so. Chrome trim breaks up the dark finishes and helps the cabin retain its elegance. The only exterior hint at this interior’s boldness is the Flying Spurs’ red brake calipers. This opulent sedan doesn’t attempt to blend in. It’s expensive, and it wants everyone to know.
The $314,635 Flying Spur S V8 is part of a new generation of sporty ultra-luxury sedans, similar in philosophy to the Black-Badge Ghost. Although the Rolls costs nearly $200,00 more, these larger-than-life sedans employ darkened exterior trim, extensive use of carbon fiber, and sporty tuning designed to fulfill a customer base that doesn’t want to putter around town. They want their six-figure dream machine to hustle.
Back up in the canyons, the Flying Spur S wastes no time flexing its muscles. At its core is a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 developing 542 hp and 568 lb-ft of torque. It may not have the Speed’s W12 and 626 hp output, but what it lacks in power, it makes up for in lightness. Four fewer cylinders translate to 220-lb weight savings, which vanish mainly from its nose thanks to the V8’s smaller footprint.
Like the Speed, however, the S counts on Porsche’s eight-speed PDK transmission for mind-blowingly-quick shifts. It, coupled with all-wheel-drive, allows the heavy Bentley to put all of its power down, resulting in a four-second blast to 60 mph and a 198 mph top speed. For context, that’s about as quick as a base 911 Carrera in a car that weighs more than two Mazda MX-5 Miatas.
Straight-line speed aside, the real head-scratching moment behind the wheel of this Bentley comes when you tackle a corner. You chuck it in and expect to feel its massive weight shift, but nothing happens. It remains flat and composed, almost as if it weighed 1,000 lb less. This is where the real sorcery comes in, and it’s called Bentley Dynamic Ride. It couples a three-chamber adaptive air suspension system with active anti-roll bars, delivering over 958 lb-ft of anti-roll torque in 0.3 seconds via two electric motors. The system practically eliminates body roll without ruining the Spur’s plush ride.
Blend the S’s sublime speed and agility, and you get a large luxury sedan that isn’t just chained to slow-moving city traffic. It’s genuinely exciting on a back road, allowing its driver to carry sports car speed in something with the footprint of a three-row SUV. These capabilities came in handy as a bomb cyclone decided to hit the LA area during my time with the S and filled the canyons with mud, rocks, and even ice, which the Bentley seemed to neither notice nor care about.
Cruising on the highway after a fun mountain blast, the Bentley reverts to its luxury car roots, making road imperfections disappear. Through three main driving modes, Comfort, Sport, and Bentley, the Flying Spur adjusts its steering weight, throttle response, and suspension stiffness. However, only Sport brings forth the most changes as the other two prioritize on-road comfort over responsiveness.
The Flying Spur barks as it bites with a new sports exhaust, which remains nearly silent in most scenarios, only waking up under heavy throttle applications. The quad-tipped system delivers a deep, low, and throaty tune. It’s surprisingly vocal from the outside, but you’ll be hard-pressed to notice it behind the wheel, thanks to extensive sound deadening.
That sound insulation works for the Flying Spur’s benefit in just about every other scenario, though, as it offers one of the quietest cabins in the business. Despite costing nearly $200,000 less than the aforementioned Black Badge Ghost, you’d need a proper sound meter to notice any meaningful difference between the two. From the moment its heavy doors slam shut, the outside world might as well not exist.
Once inside, the Flying Spur greets you with, get this, physical buttons! Unlike the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the latest BMW 7-Series, the opulent Bentley doesn’t force you to interact with screens for everything, although there are five. Despite housing nearly a million of them in its center console alone, it’s easy to map them all out mentally. It took less than a day to get comfortable with where all of its controls are, highlighting that digitizing everything shouldn’t be a go-to move.
Back to the five screens, the largest of which is the central rotating $6,620 12.3-inch display. The flipping screen is made up of 153 components. Its rotating mechanism alone comprises 40. It may seem like a lot of work for such a small detail, but it makes you feel like a gazillionaire when you hit the start button, and it does its dance. These kinds of details make even a boring commute an event.
The following three displays live in the second row, two of which are optional 10.1-in entertainment screens, and the last is a detachable tablet remote. With it, you can control your seating position, entertainment, climate settings, and even the rigorousness of your massage. Regardless of where you’re seated inside the Flying Spur, you just feel special.
Sat behind the steering wheel and facing the final screen, a digital instrument cluster, it’s clear that this cabin’s ergonomics are spot on. This was a surprising contrast to the Continental GT Speed I tested last year, whose seat always seemed a few inches too high. On the other hand, the Flying Spur allows you to sit about as low as you’d ever want in its heated and cooled sports seats. Contrary to what their name might suggest, they’re outrageously comfortable and almost endlessly adjustable.
General opulence aside, my tester featured the $9,150 Naim audio system. It’s an epic 2,200-watt 21-speaker setup that might be the best I’ve ever tested. It’s specifically tuned for the Flying Spur and, coupled with the cabin’s quietness, delivers impressive sound. Sure, it costs nearly five figures, but it’s a must if you’re buying a $300,000 Bentley.
The 2023 Bentley Flying Spur S starts at $241,200 plus a $2,725 destination charge and a $1,000 gas guzzler tax. However, with options such as my tester’s $12,490 Styling Specification, $9,150 Naim sound system, and $6,620 rotating display, to name a few, it comes out to $314,635.
If, at this point, it feels like I have only praise for the Flying Spur S, you’re not wrong. I could nitpick and say it’s too expensive or point out the Audi switchgear, but I’d argue that none of that matters to someone even considering one of these. People buy a $300,000 Bentley because they want to feel special, and that’s a sensation the Flying Spur delivers whether you’re driving, riding in the back, or just staring at it.
It is easily the most well-rounded, capable, and impressive luxury sedan I’ve tested. Something this big and heavy shouldn’t corner, accelerate, or stop as well as it does. How it then instantly snaps back to being a plush cruiser is beyond me. The Flying Spur S is the definition of having your cake and eating it too. The S isn’t just a sporty luxury sedan. It’s pure sorcery.