The Bentley Flying Spur V8 S Is Dapper, But a Hooligan at Heart

C-suite business inside, party under the hood.

I've always liked the idea of the Flying Spur in the Bentley lineup. The Mulsanne is inarguably the ne plus ultra example of Crewe's historic strengths—imposing yet elegant conveyance with the most of the best of everything—but given the outsized saloon proportions, you can sometimes feel like you're reenacting a Grey Poupon commercial.

Enter the Flying Spur, Bentley's more diminutive but no less dramatic sedan, built on the Continental platform. It's still a big car, but somehow it remains stately without seeming showy. Throw in an absolutely rabid 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine with 521 horses and 502 lb-ft, and you're left with a weird mix: a beefy, very heavy luxury sedan with the throaty bark of a hot rod. (The red "B" badges, shared by all V-8 Bentley models, are conspicuous, like a warning.)

On twisty, climbing Southern California roads, it's a bit of a hair-raiser; you can feel the car's massive weight shifting through linked turns, and you have to stay cognizant of how (and when) that's going to rebound as you head into the next stretch. But the Flying Spur V8 S was also remarkably hard to unsettle in any serious way, and in Sport mode, everything sharpens up with a lovely directness. You remember that, despite the angry, muscle car-like snarl of the V-8, British sedans of any size are all about flow and momentum. So you shave a bit off the approach speeds, ease off the brakes, be ever more gentle with the steering inputs ... and suddenly there you are, gliding along the narrow hedgerows in England or Wales, racing toward a green and overgrown horizon.

Also, the combination of a seat cooler and seat massager is really just hard to beat.