It’s difficult not to enjoy driving the Bentley Flying Spur. Throw in a serious Naim sound system, and it is almost impossible. But, naturally, we want to be sure.
If you’re spending £168,300 on a car, you’d be mad not to add the Naim for Bentley premium audio system, which adds a relatively measly £6595 to the cost of this model. In truth, we would have said that before we’d relaxed back into the leather seat and turned the system on. But that’s just us – and the impeccable pedigree these companies have for creating excellent in-car entertainment. Need any more convincing?
Naim and Bentley have been in partnership since 2008, during which time in-car technology has come a long way. Inside this monster of a motor, there are now 21 speakers, each with its own amplification, making for 2200W of total power. The system gives you complete control over the sound inside the car, from sound modes to adjustment of the sweet spot, not to mention the more rudimentary controls.
Nine balanced mode radiators (BMR) form the heart of the system, with two rear surrounds, one in each door, and three across the front of the dash. Active bass enhanced seats can be enjoyed by those in the front, pumping bass right into your bones, while everyone else benefits from the bass speakers and tweeters dotted carefully around the rest of the interior.
The quality of the design and installation means all those speakers sink seamlessly into the interior rather than stick out unnecessarily. When your eyes do meet the drivers, you’ll be impressed by the intricate attention to detail; from the understated Naim badging, to the contrast stitching and even the patterned holes in the speaker grille.
Bentley offers plenty of ways to personalise your Flying Spur (£168,300), so it’s worth pointing out that our review model features the Extreme Silver paintwork and has both the First Edition (£37,300) and Blackline specifications (£3550), the Naim for Bentley premium audio system (£6595) and rear-seat entertainment with maps (£5775). Yep, it’s not cheap.
There are many other extras with each spec, but most of these concern cosmetic flourishes that will set your car apart from all other Flying Spurs on your street, and range from rather lovely to not entirely necessary. Blackline switches every chrome element to gloss black for a more ‘aggressive aesthetic’, while the First Edition’s cherry on the cake is a retractable, polished steel Flying B mascot, resplendent with illuminated wings, which hides and then emerges as you lock and unlock the car.
The Bentley Rotating Display, as seen on the Continental GT, is one of the many touches to remind you that you’re dealing with a special piece of engineering. It rotates to reveal Naim’s Central Display – a 12.3in Full HD touchscreen that gives you access to your entertainment and the ability to adjust the usual in-car controls. The screen manages that all-important task of feeling as responsive and intuitive as the smartphones with which we’re all familiar.
In fact, the touchscreen is so good it makes us look somewhat disparagingly at the buttons underneath, which are slightly clunky. But experience tells us that not having to rely entirely on a touchscreen makes a lot of sense, not least when you don’t have a passenger with you to make any adjustments.
With access to DAB, FM and AM radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and even a digital TV tuner, the main display is also where you will unlock Naim’s Digital Signal Processor (DSP) modes. This processing tailors the sound not only to this particular model and its speaker layout but also to the people in the car and your own sonic preferences.
There’s a lot to be said for letting the car’s computer take care of things here, such as when the volume and bass are dialled up in line with your acceleration. It helps you to really feel at one with the car, especially if you decide to test out the 3.8 seconds Bentley claims is required to accelerate from 0 to 100kph.
And of course, there are plenty more features in the car. As one passenger noted, “The only thing that’s missing is a fridge”… and then we found a fridge tucked between the rear seats.
Much as we love every minute of being in this car, moving from A to B in what feels like the most comfortable seat you’ve ever sat on (heated massage chairs included), we’re really here to wrap our ears around the sound system. And what a treat it is.
If the Flying Spur is that beyond-comfortable chair, then the Naim for Bentley system is the superb high-end hi-fi system that completely envelops you, even sending low frequencies right through you, thanks to those active bass transducers in the seats.
With a home system, your room plays a significant role in the final sound and that’s no different here. Luckily the Bentley Flying Spur is so well put together that any external noise is a distant memory. The six-litre W12 TSI twin-turbocharged engine rears its head occasionally, even though the inside is acoustically damped. But, of course, Naim has taken all of this into consideration.
Listening to Dr Dre’s Still D.R.E, the famous piano riff cuts through with crisp clarity, while drums are tight and punchy as you’d want. There is plenty of bass depth – whether you opt to dial things up with the Active Bass units or not, you get serious power to low frequencies. But it’s never lazy or obtuse, merely giving you the level of weight and presence that the track possesses.
Naim for Bentley promises “accurate and wide frequency response” and we’re happy to agree with that sentiment. It’s hard to resist a bit of Hans Zimmer, and Time from the Inception soundtrack treats us to a sense of scale that would make any serious hi-fi system proud. Promising to fill a room with music doesn’t always go to plan, most of it comes in stereo after all, but thanks in no small part to Naim’s DSP there’s no loss of precision here, just an extra sense of immersion.
Soon we’re in that fabled position when testing great hi-fi of wanting to play anything and everything we can lay our hands on, just to hear how great it sounds. Dance music is rhythmic and controlled, acoustic tracks have impressive insight and texture, while rock and pop from the radio is kept nicely balanced whether you choose to play it loud or quiet.
Naim and Bentley have perfected their craft to deliver a brilliant sound that befits the Flying Spur. Agile, refined and powerful, the Naim for Bentley premium audio system does its surroundings justice. If you’re fortunate enough to be contemplating buying this car, the audio system is a complete no-brainer.
Read all our British Hi-Fi Week reviews and features