Product: Flying Spur
Release Date: Spring 2020
Bentley debuted its Flying Spur in 2005 as a four-door version of its vaunted Continental GT coupe. Now entering its third generation, the booming luxury sedan has moved away from being simply a variant of another car; it’s now very much its own thing. For 2020, the Flying Spur has been infused with new tech, an elegant design and the kind of presence that — believe it or not — makes it feel even pricier than its not-insignificant $214,000 entry fee.
What We Like
At its core, the 2020 Flying Spur is a complete modernization of the basic concept behind the car. Its new 48-volt electrical system provides the backbone for the software and hardware performance enhancements that are required to effectively make its weight vanish. It delivers a seemingly faultless ride, along with muffled external acoustics and front-to-back design and build quality that creates a cosseting effect on the occupants. You’re really driving a fortress here. Then there’s the design, which inside and out pushes the car to — arguably — the forefront of practical premium luxury. But we’ll get to that in a minute…
My drive of the new Bentley Flying Spur kicked off on a Sunday in Monaco, on the last day of Yacht Week — which, yes, is a real thing. You couldn’t pick a more perfect cauldron of wealth, glitter and overwhelming extravagance anywhere on Earth. The harbor was filled with billion-dollar boats — sleek, opulent manifestations of their owner’s taste or ego. The yacht crowd cruised the downtown, including our hub, Hôtel de Paris and Casino de Monte-Carlo, both of which were thick with Ferraris, Lamborghinis and other automotive totems.
It was quite a start to a Bentley drive. Yet I was still startled by how many heads turned as we snaked our way past the harbor and up to the hotel in the new Flying Spur.
It’s a highly anticipated car for this year, no doubt, but to the uninitiated, it doesn’t look that much different from its predecessor. And this is Monaco, after all. You’d think that would render any Bentley virtually invisible in the ocean of equally-fantastic sheet metal and carbon fiber. But the folks in this crowd know what’s what, and there was considerable pointing and staring as we drove by.
On an uphill sprint the next day, the commanding capability of the newly enhanced W12 engine delivering 626 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque made itself highly evident. The new mill is 15 percent more efficient than its predecessor and has been repositioned in the engine compartment, which was stretched to improve the front-end proportions. The axle now runs through the engine sump, improving the car’s weight distribution and balance, the engineers claim.
That felt distinctly true as I carved up the tight, winding threads of asphalt north of Monaco. The all-wheel-drive system keeps power coursing in the right direction, and the newly three-chambered air suspension increases the range of settings, feeling tighter during harder driving and cushier when comfort is key. A new all-wheel-steering capability helps the long, potentially ungainly car master turns — and also get it out of trouble while trying to reposition it in front of Monaco landmarks for some photography without scratching nearby Ferraris. That’s some actually-useful tech right there.
Finally, the inclusion of a 48-volt electrical system allows for active control of the car’s anti-roll bars, in which motors work opposite the roll movement at each axle to keep the car level in fast turns. The effect, as we’ve seen on the Porsche Cayenne, is pronounced, and it improves the precision of the handling, as well. The Flying Spur has always been considered a driver’s car — as opposed to the chauffer-car vibe of the bigger Mulsanne — and the new iteration nails that quality. It’s a fun car to power around, and the engineering investment pays dividends when you’re in a hurry.
Equal attention was paid to the exterior design; it’s more controlled and crisper, and the grille is a work of impactful, minimalist art unto itself. The interior experience packs all the technology that people in any socioeconomic bracket expect these days; plus, it seems more substantial on the inside than its predecessor, both to the touch and to the eye.
The pièce de résistance in all this, though, sits on the car’s snout. Bentley revives its Flying B hood ornament with the Flying Spur, gifting it the capability to duck down into a little compartment when the car is off, to prevent theft or people snagging on it as they walk by. It’s a beautiful piece de resistance. The only problem: the gently sloping hood makes it essentially invisible from the front seats. That’s a bummer, but there are worse things you could complain about in a car.
Watch Out For
It’s a big ride. Not so big that you can’t have fun, but if you forget how big it, is the occasional headlong dive into a hairpin will remind you. It rides brilliantly, but it has limits. Respect them.
Also, no matter how wonderful your children are, no kid deserves that back seat. Buy a Mercedes for family hauling, if you must. (I joke: I relish sharing ultra-premium rides with my kids. But still, no kid deserves that nice of a back seat…)
When I first climbed into the Flying Spur, at the airport in Nice, I executed a double-take to confirm that it was indeed the Flying Spur, not the larger Mulsanne. That speaks volumes. It wasn’t just that the interior felt larger, more stylish and cushier than the previous Flying Spur, but that it was also inherently more opulent. There’s a sheen of ultra-premium luxury to the car now, a glitter that sparkles in the Mediterranean sun. The previous model always felt like more of a London car — exuding wealth, but not a great deal of joy. Now, it comes alive under the midday sun, fitting in brilliantly in L.A., Miami — or, yes, Monaco.
Ultimately, the new Flying Spur feels like much more of an achievement than any other recent offering from Bentley, including the Bentayga SUV and the also-redone Continental GT. In the world of ultra-premium luxury sedans, in fact, I’d place it above the slightly pricier Rolls-Royce Ghost, for one simple reason: It hits all the same notes equally brilliantly, but without the over-the-top design. The Roller isn’t a car you can take to buy kitty litter with a straight face, but the Flying Spur is. It’s less ostentatious, yet still commands enough presence to turn heads in Monaco. It’s glossy and fun and lively, oozing fabulousness and crackling with hints of mischief.
Oh, and it rides like a supersonic magic carpet and can outrun most supercars without breaking a sweat. So, yeah, thumbs up.
Bentley hosted us and provided this product for review.
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