The pinnacle of the sports limo: The all-new Bentley Flying Spur

There’s no debate that BMW invented the sports limo way back in the 70’s with the seminal 7 Series, and has since polished the genre to near-perfection over the years.

But one, even more venerated automaker has endeavored to elevate the concept of a ground-bound private jet to altogether new heights. New heights of luxury. New heights of style. New heights of performance. 

This is the incomparable Bentley Flying Spur — specifically the all-new third generation of the iconic British brand’s luxury grand tourer. The first two generations have been effortless ultimate grand tourers, but this latest iteration has added a significant amount of sport in the mix — effectively transforming the Flying Spur into a four-wheeled Gulfstream at the top of the asphalt food chain.   

Designed and handcrafted at the Home of Bentley in Crewe, England, the new Flying Spur showcases Bentley’s uncanny mix of cutting-edge technology and old world craftsmanship.

“As with the launch of the Continental GT, the new Flying Spur is a ground up development that pushes the boundaries of both technology and craftsmanship to deliver segment-defining levels of performance and refinement,” comments Adrian Hallmark, chairman and chief executive of Bentley Motors.

The new Flying Spur showcases Bentley’s modern sculptural design language through elegant yet muscular proportions. With a wheelbase lengthened by almost six inches compared to its predecessor, the new Flying Spur now has an increased road presence and stronger, more muscular lines that sweep the full length of the car. Its sculpted surfaces and graceful character lines were created through a cutting-edge process called aluminum superforming, a process that pioneered on the latest Bentley Continental GT.

LED matrix headlights, with advanced anti-dazzle technology, are standard on the Flying Spur, with unique cut-crystal effect for beautifully meticulous detailing — even when the lamps are off. At the rear, wrap-around lamps utilizes the familiar ‘B’ graphic and echoes the diamond knurling of the interior air vents. A choice of new 21-inch and optional 22-inch Mulliner Specifications alloy wheels further enhance the new Flying Spur’s commanding road presence.

A full size, glass-to-glass panoramic sunroof is available. The front panel tilts and slides rearwards over the top of the fixed back panel. Alcantara blinds deploy electrically and are color-matched to the 15 interior headlining colors.

The Flying B mascot that adorns the hood is available for the first time on a modern Flying Spur. This year is Bentley’s Centenary year, so the mascot has been restyled for the next century and is an evolution of previous designs. It’s linked to the keyless entry system so the Flying B emerges from its retracted position as the driver approaches the car.

The new Flying Spur also features a gloss black radiator matrix, with bright chrome surround and vertical vanes that hark back to the iconic 1957 Bentley S1 Continental Flying Spur. The lower matrix can be specified in either bright chrome or black — the latter for an even more aggressive countenance. Standard paint options for the Flying Spur extend to a class-leading palette of 17 Bentley colors.

The cabin of the all-new Flying Spur showcases Bentley’s expertise in creating a modern interior of unrivalled luxury and comfort — and which can be rendered in 15 hide colors. Sweeping horizontal veneer flows across the dashboard and into the doors, emphasizing the spacious width of the cabin. An elegant, floating center console houses a customizable 12.3-inch HD touchscreen and new Bentley sculptural center vents to the front and rear, housing stowage as well as inductive wireless charging and two USB sockets for mobile phones.

The industry-first Bentley Rotating Display is also now available on the new Flying Spur. When the engine start button is pressed, the veneer section in the middle of the dashboard rotates to reveal a 12.3-inch touchscreen, displaying three, customizable digital tiles. The second side of the display reveals three elegant analog dials showing outside temperature, a compass and a chronometer for a vintage feel. A complete digital detox can be selected on the third side, to simply enjoy the seamless wood veneer fascia continuing around the cabin.

The Flying Spur’s unique three-dimensional diamond quilted leather door inserts.

Three-dimensional diamond quilted leather door inserts are used for the first time in a car, inspired by the Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 design concept. Lovely diamond knurling adorns the rotary switches and is also available on the air vents and clock.

The wing-theme graphic continues around the interior of the cabin doors, creating an elegant color split and seamless link between the front and rear seats. Mood Lighting is newly available as an option, with the choice of seven colors and varying intensities.

My Bentley Flying Spur test unit in the very elegant Extreme Silver

The Flying Spur’s all-new seats feature a twin-flute design and includes heating, ventilation, multi-mode massage, adjustable bolsters and top tilt. The rear seats provide a luxurious, cosseting travelling environment, with a folding center armrest and manually deployed center headrest that stows away for maximum rear visibility.

Luxuriating in the back seat on some segments of the drive, I got to play with the new Touch Screen Remote, which is made from beautifully crafted materials. It integrates seamlessly into the console but is easily removed at the touch of a button for remote use. It allows access to a wide range of applications, including control of all blinds, rear seat massage function and rear climate control, and can be used to pre-store configurations such as Mood Lighting.

A choice of three audio systems is offered in the new Flying Spur, with the standard system featuring 10 speakers and 650 Watts. A Bang & Olufsen 1,500-watt, 16-speaker system with illuminated grilles is aimed at lifestyle-orientated customers and benefits from the BeoSonic system — a new way for tone setting with a simple, intuitive one-touch user interface.

But a Flying Spur owner would do well to spring for the unique Naim for Bentley 2,200-watt, 19-speaker system with Active Bass Transducers built into the front seats. You’ve just got to hear it to believe it.

A Bentley Flying Spur in VerdantGreen with blacked out trim (instead of chrome) makes for one mean-looking super luxury sedan.

Under the long hood of the Flying Spur is a hand-built 6.0-liter W12 twin-turbo TSI engine that sets a new benchmark in performance, agility and dynamism. The unique ‘W’ layout makes the engine considerably shorter than an equivalent V12, benefitting weight distribution and maximizing cabin space.

The Flying Spur’s new powertrain produces 635ps and an amazing 900Nm of torque, accelerating the supersedan from 0-100 km/h in 3.8 seconds, and on to a breathtaking top speed of 333 km/h. There are staggeringly few places on earth where one can explore such stratospheric top speeds, but we did manage to experience the scintillating forward thrust provided by the mighty W12 on some lightly traveled roads.

The most amazing thing is that, when you floor the throttle, you never feel hurtled forward wide-eyed like in a roller coaster — you just feel this immense push in the back as close to three tons of steel, aluminum, glass, and leather are urged forward with stunning immediacy.   

The new Flying Spur features active All-Wheel Drive, All-Wheel Steering and Bentley Dynamic Ride. It uses the same 8-speed ZF dual-clutch transmission as the Continental GT, delivering smooth and refined acceleration and quicker gearshifts in our extensive 300-plus-kilometer drive over city and country roads as well as highways spanning the picturesque French Riviera.    

The previous generation Flying Spur employed a permanent all-wheel-drive system with a fixed 60:40 power split to the rear/front axles. The all-new model has a clutched system, which delivers two-wheel drive to the rear axle. Depending on the road conditions and wheel slip, it will then automatically send drive to the front axle as required, as an active all-wheel drive system. Turn-in response is also dramatically improved, especially noticeable during the mountain road portion of our drive. The front end of the all-new Flying Spur feels much lighter and changes direction with the improbable ability of a much lighter and much smaller sports car.

Torque distribution varies according to the selected Drive Dynamics Mode. In Comfort and Bentley modes, the system will send up to 480Nm of torque to the front axle to offer greater grip and driveability. In Sport, the system limits the available torque to the front axle to 280Nm, maintaining a higher torque level at the rear for a more dynamic feel. Torque is also managed across each axle by a torque-vectoring-by-brake system.

Electronic All-Wheel Steering is a new feature, which enhances both stability at highway speeds and maneuverability around town. At low-speed, the system steers the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front wheels, making the big Bentley feel like a compact car. At high-speed, the system steers the rear wheels in the same direction as the front, increasing stability and making overtaking and lane-changes more confidence-inspiring.

The new Flying Spur shares the largest iron brakes in the world with the Continental GT, with 420mm front discs. Both front and rear calipers carry Bentley branding. Standard fit is gloss black, while gloss red is optional.

The new Flying Spur also sounds as good as it looks, thanks to an adaptive tailpipe control valve with variable position settings. The way exhaust gases flow into the rear half of the system has been tuned to provide a more discreet exhaust note inside the cabin for chauffeur-driven occupants. In Sport Mode, you’re greeted by a delectable growl whenever you press on the accelerator. 

A host of new Driver Assistance Systems are fitted to the new Flying Spur, including Traffic Assist, City Assist, Blind Spot Warning. Night Vision and Head Up Display help the driver focus on the road ahead, while Top View Camera gives an eagle-eyed view of the car and its immediate surroundings, complemented by reverse traffic warning and self-parking features.

The new Flying Spur is available to order beginning late this year and customer deliveries will begin in early 2020. Now if you have to ask the price…

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