Bentley will give the Flying Spur saloon a sporty makeover late next year. A teaser image released by the firm shows shapely sheet metal and significant under-the-skin improvements are aimed at keeping ahead of the upcoming all-new Mercedes S-class.
The new Spur is the result of a clever re-skin and re-engineering of the existing platform. The key styling themes are sportier proportions and more fluid-looking surfaces, which are inspired by elements of the new Continental GT and the imposing Mulsanne flagship.
From the GT comes a toned-down version of the two-door's muscular rear haunch, and the Mulsanne donates its elegant 'catwalk', a flowing belt line that widens over the rear haunch to suggest power and performance flowing from the rear axle.
"It's got much more 'Coke bottle' than before and looks a lot sportier," said one insider.
The new proportions are draped over a carried-over wheelbase, tracks and fixed-design 'hard' points and centre on a more raked rear screen, taller boot line and narrower rear glasshouse, to impart a more upmarket, sportier look.
Because the Spur sells in significant numbers in China, where owners prefer to be chauffeur-driven, Bentley hasn't compromised the interior package in the name of sportiness.
The interior trim mirrors improvements made to the Mk2 Continental GT, including higher-grade mouldings, instruments, minor switchgear, leather and carpets.
Engineering refinement has been another major area of attention — particularly noise paths from the air-sprung suspension, ride quality and isolation of powertrain noise.
The powertrains will follow the pattern set by the Continental GT and GTC, adding a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 to the saloon range for the first time, paired with an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox.
The V8 is given away by the figure-of-eight shape of the tailpipes spotted by our spies on a test prototype. With an output of about 500bhp and 56.2kgm of torque, the Spur V8 is likely to crack 290kph and 0-100kph in just over 5.0sec.
The V8 will shift the Spur into a slightly more affordable — a relative term, of course — price point of closer to Mercedes' S63 AMG.
Given the importance of the V8 badge in the US, sales are likely to get a significant boost in North America.
The Spur W12 will get a refinement and economy boost from the eight-speed ZF auto, and the top speed of the more slippery four-door body should nudge it over 200mph, boosted by the more powerful, 567bhp version of the engine.
The headline-grabbing 616bhp Spur Speed is likely to push its 322kph plus top speed further, helped by the extra 16bhp of its beefier W12.
Bentley is understood to be mulling over a launch date. The Geneva show next March is the current favourite, although Frankfurt next September remains a possibility.