Even in the inner sanctum of the Church of Wealth and Privilege that is Casino Square in Monte Carlo, the 2020 Bentley Flying Spur gets its due adoration.
Sure, Bentley stacked the deck by holding its press launch there and clogging the streets with the new sedan. Still, that's no small feat considering the nonstop procession of idols from Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Rolls-Royce in the square, vying for worship.
It's clear that the stately Flying Spur has passed its first trial on the trail to deification: It looks like money. This third iteration of the lesser Bentley sedan appears more imposing than earlier versions. Its massive upright grille telegraphs grand English luxury in a way the earlier examples did not. Look at the original Continental Flying Spur from 2005 and marvel at how its little grille looks almost apologetic compared to the lock-jawed arrogance of the new model. The nose now gets that other archaic signifier of old-world class, a gleaming hood ornament. The nose candy reflects Bentley's redesigned "Flying B" logo, which looks a bit like the flying skull logo of the Hells Angels. We're guessing that resemblance is strictly coincidental.
Rolls-Royce has, of course, made a business out of blunt, bugger-off front ends. But the Flying Spur's face looks much more like that of Bentley's own massive Mulsanne sedan. And the rest of the Flying Spur continues this traditional styling bent. You would be hard-pressed to tell that the Spur is based on the same basic platform as the Porsche Panamera, another member of the vast Volkswagen Group. The Flying Spur is upright and blockish, where the Panamera is swoopy and taut. The Spur is a handsome top hat of a vehicle. And the new version rides on a 125.7-inch wheelbase, roughly five inches longer than the outgoing model. Most of that extra space has been given over to what Bentley calls the "prestige mass." That would be the area between the leading edge of the front doors and front wheel wells, which pretty much everyone else in the industry would call "dash to axle." Point is, this longer prestige mass combined with a shorter front overhang makes the Spur look more like a traditional rear-drive sedan, although all Flying Spurs power all four wheels.
All previous Flying Spurs were all-wheel-drive cars, too, splitting nominal torque delivery nearly evenly between front and rear axles. The new car is effectively rear-wheel drive in most circumstances, with the front wheels receiving torque when rear slip is predicted or detected. The amount of juice sent forward is dependent on which drive mode the driver has chosen. The aim is to give the new Spur a more sporting demeanor with crisper turn-in. And on the narrow mountain paths outside of Monaco, the Spur, while comically large for this venue, does indeed feel surprisingly willing to pivot and play.
It's not just the all-wheel-drive system, though. Two other standard systems aid in the Spur's improved handiness. The 48-volt adaptive anti-roll bars keep body roll in check. And rear-wheel steering makes this massive ingot of leather-bedecked aluminum surprisingly maneuverable at low speeds and nimble and stable at higher velocities. Air springs and adaptive dampers deliver the hushed, unperturbed ride quality you should expect of a Bentley sedan, even while riding on the big 21- and 22-inch wheel options. The Spur glides.
Like its Continental GT coupe sibling, the Flying Spur is fitted with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. If ever there was a car suited to a conventional automatic transmission, the Spur would be it. But the dual clutch does a surprisingly good job of playing the unobtrusive gear-swapper. Particularly impressive is its behavior pulling away from a stop. It is silky smooth and consistent, which isn't always the case with dual-clutch units. This choice of transmission was an unnecessary challenge for the Bentley engineers—a ZF eight-speed auto would have been an easy, smart choice—but it's a challenge they've accepted and surmounted. The transmission only stumbles during quick on/off throttle applications, such as during aggressive passing maneuvers. Otherwise, it's a gem.
Perhaps predictably, Bentley's signature twin-turbo W-12 engine is the only available power source, although the 542-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 will be offered sometime in the future. The W-12 now incorporates a cylinder-deactivation system to improve efficiency by a claimed 15 percent. We don't know yet what that will translate to in EPA fuel-economy testing. In fact, there is much we don't know for sure since the Spur is not yet certified for sale in the United States. Neither is the W-12 version of the Continental GT. For now, we're told to expect that the new W-12, with both direct and port injection, will make 626 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque. Whether those numbers change slightly by the time the car goes on sale here early next year won't much matter, since the Continental will remain a very powerful machine. The sprint to 60 mph should be about 0.3-second slower than the lighter GT, or 3.6 seconds, thanks, in part, to the dual-clutch transmission and a launch-control program. The Spur will power on to a top speed of 207 mph, Bentley says, at which point the multi-ton Spur will have roughly the momentum of the Earth.
The interior is predictably roomy for front and rear occupants. The Spur is, of course, available with a champagne fridge, a wide color range of leather hides (somehow "hides" sounds less morbid in an English accent), and various wood veneers. The Spur's infotainment features, including full control from the rear seats, is fully up to date. And Bentley has gone to some lengths to make sure its necessary digital elements are incorporated into the old-world-style cabin as unobtrusively as possible. As in the Continental GT, the Spur's infotainment screen is mounted to a rotating chunk of dash that can, at the push of a button, conceal the screen in favor of three conventional, although largely superfluous small gauges. Recall the old episodes of Wheel of Fortune in which Vanna White physically turned the letters on the big board and you pretty much have an idea of how this $6365 rotating display works.
Ah yes, price. That is something we should talk about, just in case you're trying to figure out if you can swing the monthly cost. We don't have final pricing on the vehicle since Bentley doesn't yet know what the destination charge will be or if the car will be subject to a gas-guzzler tax. Without those add-ons, the Flying Spur carries a base price of $214,600. The one we drove, however, rang in at a not-insubstantial $261,550. Adoration does not come cheap.
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