Raising the Bar

Steve Vermeulen goes to Monaco to gives us an inside look at the new Bentley Flying Spur.

With the Continental GT as its worthy starting point, the new Bentley Flying Spur was always going to be good.

Just how good, though, has to be experienced to be believed.

I’m both literally and figuratively a long way from my rural Counties-Manukau hometown right nowDilbar, a $1.4 billion motor yacht is moored in the Marina. There’s a $15 million Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder parked, calm as you like, by the curb outside my hotel. Welcome to Monaco.  

Now, you can’t argue the good people of this plucky little Principality know nice cars. Based on all the selfies being taken in front of it, they certainly appear to know that the Bentley Flying Spur I’m driving is the brand’s latest offering. And it’s something quite special.  

The nameplate has been in the family since the Fifties and is given to the brand’s sportiest sedan. In fact, the second generation (2005) Flying Spur was the fastest four-door sedan in the world when it was launched, but overall it lacked some the two-door Continental GT’s appealI think it’s fair to say the shorter wheelbase model was the better Bentley back in the day. 

This new iteration takes cues from the latest Continental GT as well but implements them more convincingly. The wheelbase is a full 130mm longer andat over 5.3 metres long and 2.2 metres wide, it’s dimensionally impressive. The mesh grille gives way to a new vertical vane matrix that underlines the perception of width. The rear quarter panel is the largest aluminium automotive panel produced in the world and it all sits atop huge 21” wheels. Proportionally this is one very striking car. 

Inside? Well, if there’s a more comfortable, tastefully appointed interior, I’m not familiar with it. Starting with the Continental GT’s interior, the Flying Spur adds a lower, wider centre control console to deliver a more relaxed feel. It is the brand’s most technology-filled model by far and the tech story is best told from the back seat, where two large media touchscreens are available with high-end noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones, as well as a mini fridge (of course). 

Using the Flying Spur’s camera system, the screens also act as mirrors, or you can scroll through an Android-based operating system with whatever apps you need at your fingertips, watch media or check and send important messages. 

Further to that though, a beautifully knurled alloy and glass handheld controller ejects from its central cradle and with this you can control everything. This functionality includes control of the media selection and acoustics of the audio system (you’ll want the optional Naime audio, trust me), the multi-function massage, heating or cooling seats, the secrecy window blinds, panoramic glass roof and even the retractable (and optionally illuminated) Flying B hood mascot; the first of its kind for Bentley. 

So, with all this focus on the back, is it a limousine? Actually no, not really.  

Only about four percent of Bentley owners globally employ the use of a permanent chauffeur. Driver engagement remains a priority for the Flying Spur, as does retaining that ‘fastest four-door sedan in the world’ calling card.  

The marque’s familiar 466kW/900Nm W12 engine is mated to a less aggressively-calibrated eight-speed dual clutch transmission which propels the Flying Spur to a top speed of 333km/h via a 0-100km/h time of 3.8 seconds. It’s safe to say the fast four-door title is secured again in 2019. 

It’s effortlessly fast. On what I hope were the open speed motorway sections of the South of France I saw 200km/h come and go so easily. And so quietly too; more uncouth supercars might behave like petulant toddlers at those speeds by comparison. 

The real party trick is how Bentley’s engineers have disguised the car’s wheelbase and its 2437kg kerb weight through the tight and twisty corners of the media launch event’s drive route.  

This is the first Bentley to employ a four-wheel steering system, which joins the already capable all-wheel drive and dynamic ride air suspension. In slow, tight turns it offers up to four degrees of assistance, at high-speed the adjustment is much finer to deliver surprising stability and agility. I put the car through its paces on the winding switchbacks around Monte Carlo and I’d go so far as to say that despite the extra size, it’s as competent – if not more so – than the Continental GT it’s based on. 

It’s a convincing example of technology overcoming physics. The adaptive suspension, torque vectoring all-wheel drive and four-wheel steering counter the natural deficit a long wheelbase and the substantial mass a car of this size would ordinarily be impeded by. And they do so with remarkable aptitude; the Flying Spur is an extremely good car to drive. 
 
As much a technological and engineering showpiece as it is the byword for luxury and elegance, those fortunate enough to consider the Flying Spur’s $395,000+ORC starting price will be able to own a tour de force that raises the bar for four-door grand touring. And that point remains indelibly true whether you’re in Monaco or Manukau. 

Words by Steve Vermeulen 

Photos by Mark Fagelson 

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