Driver’s car, chauffeur special – or both?
It’s easy to make the case for the 2020 Bentley Flying Spur from the back seat. Step inside the luxury land yacht and leather, wood, fluffy carpet, and metal dominate your view. There’s enough legroom to accommodate the average NBA player, and the extra-pillowed headrests are nothing short of blissful. It’s the kind of plush you expect from the Ritz Carlton or the Four Seasons, and it’s why it’s so easy to pitch the Flying Spur as a predominantly chauffeur-driven vehicle.
For this all-new 2020 model – the third-generation Flying Spur – however, Bentley revisited what it means to experience the car from behind the wheel, not just behind the driver. This means the new Flying Spur surpasses the traditional Bentley rubric, and sets itself against a set of driving criteria that isn’t necessarily expected in a car of this class.
Playing Dress Up
Fear not, the new Flying Spur is still a proper Bentley at its core. This time around, though, the brand adds even more visual flair to the mix. Recall the first-gen Flying Spur from the mid-to-late 2000s and you’ll remember an ultra-luxury saloon that resembled a Continental GT with two extra doors glued on. That indistinct DNA lived on through the second-generation car, which debuted in 2013. For act three, Bentley designers worked to truly differentiate the styling of the saloon from that of its sportier, two-door sibling.
These efforts are mostly successful, though some of the Continental’s best looking familial cues remain, such as the strong character line which extends from the headlights to just fore of the rear wheels. The Flying Spur now offers a Blackline Specification appearance package (£3,550) that blacks out the headlight and taillight surrounds, side trim pieces, and front grille. This gives the car a more aggressive overall appearance, especially when paired with colours such as Verdant Green or White Sand (featured in video).
Fear not, the new Flying Spur is still a proper Bentley at its core.
The interior is traditional Bentley in all the right ways. As expected, premium looking and feeling materials cover everything within reach from large sections of leather, to etched metal buttons. Our test car features the optional Mulliner Driving Specification, which adds leather headliner and three-dimensional leather to the door panels. The labour-intensive process results in a diamond-like surface on the leather-lined door inserts that physically pops out from the door panel.
There are 15 standard leather colours to pick from, including a standard two-tone theme. Don’t forget the wood trim, either. There are eight optional dual-tone veneer colours to select from, too (one of which comes standard). And if you’re not satisfied with the standard menu items, the folks at Mulliner (Bentley’s in-house customiser) will be happy to take some additional cash and let you go wild.
The Flying Spur is fairly serious in the tech department, too. A 12.3-inch centre touchscreen display is standard, which for around £5,000 can play hide and seek, just like in the Continental GT. Interacting with the screen is a mostly easygoing process, with quick response times and intuitive menu layouts. However, the screen, like so many others, collects fingerprints faster than a kid collects candy on Halloween. Our advice: keep a cloth handy.
A removable touchscreen remote serves as the main interface for rear passengers. It retracts automatically from the centre console with a tap of the screen and allows users to adjust a vast range of items in the vehicle, including the seats’ massage, ventilation, and heating functions, as well as the climate controls, media, and navigation settings. Hell, you can even retract the Flying B ornament into the bodywork at the touch of a button. Our tester also features the rear-seat entertainment package, which includes two Android tablets affixed to the back of the front headrests. At roughly £6,000, this is a pricey option, with technology that will surely be replaced by newer kit sooner rather than later. Skip it on the options sheet, and put the money somewhere more useful, like the 19-speaker Naim audio system, which has earned a reputation as one of the best in the industry.
The Flying B
Tucked beneath the massive bonnet is a twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre W12 that produces 626 bhp and a monumental 664 pound-feet of torque. The figures it produces are double-take worthy: The Flying Spur sprints to 60 miles per hour in 3.7 seconds and onward to a top speed of 207 miles per hour (and it can go faster). That’s 0.2 seconds quicker to 60 than a Toyota Supra, while its top speed betters that of a and a higher top speed than a Lamborghini Huracan Evo.
While the performance figures are undoubtedly the attention grabber from a dynamic point of view, there are some very clever things going on beneath the sheet metal that make the Flying Spur a better performer on curving tarmac. The car now includes a standard rear-wheel steering system, which turns the rear wheels counter to the front wheels at low speeds, and in the same direction at high speeds to improve agility and stability, respectively. Additionally, there’s an active anti-roll system that relies on a 48-volt electrical system to quickly connect and disconnect the anti-roll bars. This improves lateral performance and limits body motion without disturbing the saloon’s ride quality. Finally, the air suspension now boasts air chambers with 60 percent more volume, giving the suspension a much greater ability to switch from cushy to sporty.
It takes just one torque-filled acceleration run to have us hooked on this brutish Bentley. Unassuming but ferocious, the W12 supplies forward movement at a rate that seems inappropriate, considering the car’s 2,437 kg curb weight. Acceleration runs are a freakishly quiet affair, with the Spur emitting only a faint bark with each upshift.
It takes just one torque-filled acceleration run to have us hooked on this brutish Bentley.
Our first opportunity to pitch the car into a corner comes along the curvaceous Moyenne Corniche motorway in Nice, France. The Bentley exhibits steering feel that befits the car’s character: light at low speeds, well-weighted in the turns, and just communicative enough to keep the driver informed. The aforementioned hardware, namely the rear-wheel steering and active anti-roll bars, work diligently to keep the super-saloon flat through the corners. Though, inevitably, the 5,314-mm long Bentley feels its size as we work to keep the car centred in its lane through the twisty hill climb.
At low speeds, the Flying Spur proves a wonderful dance partner. But carry enough W12-induced speed into a corner, and the car’s overall size and occasional propensity to understeer make it tough to keep things tidy through the bends. Still, a day of mountain carving in the Spur is enough to convince us that Bentley’s focus on the driving experience is not a wasted exercise.
Here’s The Tea With Bentley
With a starting price of £168,300, the new Flying Spur competes with cars like the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class and Rolls-Royce Ghost, though both of those cars are due to be replaced in the not too distant future. This Bentley offers the traditional elegance expected of the brand, with a more vibrant design scheme and a user-friendly tech suite, giving it a clear edge over its older competitors.
As a driver’s car, the Flying Spur impresses with its near-psychotic ability to gather speed and surprisingly engaging steering feel. Excuse the Spur for its inability to hide its size in the corners (perhaps the all-but-confirmed Speed variant will fix that), and what’s left is an undeniably great car to experience from behind the wheel and behind the driver.