2019 marks the passing of 100 years since the Bentley brothers first began selling French cars in a small suburb of northwest London. The company has come a long way since, solidifying its reputation as makers of some of the most desirable luxury cars in the world.
To mark its centenary, Bentley has revived the Flying Spur badge to create what it believes is "the finest super-luxury sports sedan ever built." It'll serve as a rival to the and of this world and "pushes the boundaries of both technology and craftsmanship to deliver segment-defining levels of performance and refinement," according to a statement released Tuesday. It's so special, Bentley says, that the company even designed a new emblem for it.
Rather than borrowing underpinnings from elsewhere in the family, the new Bentley Flying Spur is built on a brand-new platform. The all-aluminum bodywork is bold and confident in its styling, with numerous cues borrowed from the Continental GT. The giant grille, muscular lines and aforementioned Flying B mascot (electronically deployed and illuminated, naturally) are obvious highlights, but the car is littered with exquisite details that shows a lot of time and energy has been spent making it special.
We suspect it's possible to own this car for many months and still be discovering new trinkets, details and flourishes. Highlights, and there are many, include the cut-crystal effect detailing on the LED matrix headlights, the three-dimensional diamond quilted leather or wood door inserts, and the diamond knurling on the interior air vents. These, we're told, required a new software algorithm to be invented in order to facilitate their layout on the complex curves on the ducts. All of this is, of course, totally unnecessary, but very beautiful all the same.
The new Bentley Flying Spur is a large car, measuring 208.8 inches in length and 77.3 inches in width. It tips the scales at 5,371 pounds, making it as heavy as the company's Bentayga SUV. Thankfully it's blessed with an abundance of power from a twin-turbocharged, 6.0-liter, W12 engine that produces 626 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. That's enough for a sports car-baiting 3.7-second acceleration time to 60 miles per hour. How it also manages a 207-mph top speed -- that's well north of what your average Lamborghini Huracan can manage -- is anyone's guess.
Power is sent to all four wheels via the same eight-speed, ZF-sourced, dual-clutch transmission Bentley uses in the Continental GT. Those of you brave enough to seek the Flying Spur's top speed will find it in sixth gear, with seventh and eighth, the overdrive gears, reserved for obtaining the best economy. That figure is currently unconfirmed, but expect a fuel tank large enough for a 500-mile range.
Unlike the previous Flying Spur, which used a fixed, 40:60 front/rear power split, the new transmission is a clutched system, which sends most of the engine's torque to the rear axle. This, Bentley is keen to point out, gives the front end a much lighter feel, one that is eager to change direction "almost at the speed of thought." Of course, slippery conditions underfoot will cause drive to be sent to the front axle on demand, delivering fully automatic active all-wheel drive when circumstances dictate.
Various drive modes are available. Comfort and Bentley modes send up to 354 pound-feet of torque to the front axle to facilitate greater traction and all-weather drivability, while in Sport, front axle torque is limited to 206 pound-feet. The remainder is sent to the rear wheels in a manner that will allow quite un-Bentley-like angles of slip in what essentially amounts to a drift mode.
At the car's unveiling, Bentley's designers were keen to recount tales of the Flying Spur pulling off Ken Block-spec backward-entry powerslides, tires fully lit through the snow and ice phase of its testing. The system purportedly gives you enough leeway to showboat spectacularly, though not enough rope to hang yourself should you run out of talent.
The Flying Spur should also acquit itself well in driving situations that don't call for tire smoke. This new model features electronic all-wheel steering, which serves the purpose of improving stability at highway speeds, as well as increasing maneuverability in tight spots. Around town, the rear wheels are steered in the opposite direction to the fronts, effectively reducing the wheelbase. At highway speeds, the system steers the rear wheels in the same direction as the fronts, providing more confidence when moving quickly.
We can't tell you about ride comfort at this stage, but this is a Bentley, so the smart money is on it being buttery smooth, particularly in light of the fact it uses continuously regulated three-chamber air springs. A quartet of ride height sensors continuously measure the distance between the axle and the body. If any part of the car is higher or lower than it should be, the air volume in the springs is corrected in order to restore the normal ride height.
This works in conjunction with Bentley Dynamic Ride System -- a 48-volt system that controls an actuator unit, that alters the stiffness of the antiroll bars to help keep the car flat through bends.
Of course, there will be many owners who may never actually get to drive the Flying Spur, preferring instead to be driven. Those who do ride as passengers certainly won't consider themselves to be missing out. The wheelbase is a handy 125.8 inches, so there's plenty of room front and rear.
Inside, you'll find an abundance of the latest technology, all of which is stunningly well-integrated. The main feature is a 12.3-inch display in the center of the dashboard which, like the display in the latest Continental GT, rotates to reveal driver gauges or a blank panel that allows the dashboard to flow uninterrupted across the full length of the cabin. Unlike early versions of the Continental GT, the Flying Spur can now be driven with that blank plate on show -- ideal for those who don't wish to be too distracted by screens.
Those that do want to bask in tech are in for a treat. The highlight is an all-new, 5-inch Touch Screen Remote that lives atop the transmission tunnel in the rear cabin. This can be removed at the touch of a button and allows rear occupants to control a great number of the Flying Spur's systems. Whether it's the rear seat massage function, climate control, mood lighting or remotely deploying the Flying B mascot.
Three audio systems are on offer, including a standard 10-speaker, 650-watt, entry-level model, and a Bang & Olufsen 1,500-watt, 16-speaker setup with illuminated grilles. But if you want to push the boat out, there's also a Naim for Bentley 2,200-watt, 19-speaker setup with active bass transducers built into the front seats, allowing you to literally feel the bass through your backside.
The whole thing feels exceptionally well put together, as you'd expect from Bentley, and we expect it'll be a stunningly effective alternative to the typical GTs and high-performance SUVs of this world. All signs point to Bentley having created a spectacular 100th birthday present to itself, and to anyone else blessed enough to be able to afford one.