There is something fundamentally right about a British luxury machine dipped in the color green. The shades may change but somehow the historic truth is that it always just works. From the moment I first laid eyes on the 2020 Bentley Flying Spur you see here, clad in a color called Verdant, I felt all was right in the world. (Editors' note: This was months ago, when optimism was still possible.)
But the clean look of this car isn't just about the paint, it's also about the trim. This car features the so-called Blackline Specification, which turns the machine's typical brightwork dark and creates a more muted, modern look.
So it's a blend of the old and the new, then, and that's the moral of the story here with the 2020 Flying Spur: A classic brand putting out a modern sedan into a world increasingly full of SUVs -- machines like the bigger Bentley, the Bentayga.
So how can a car like the new Flying Spur compete? It's a rough road to climb, but it starts off well with an overall design that's striking and dynamic without any cues that shout for your attention. Yes, those infinitely faceted headlights are far from subtle, yet somehow even they seem less lurid when cloaked in darkened trim.
Those lights and that nose are like those seen on the new Continental GT, previewed way back on the 2015 EXP 10 Speed 6, and look at least as good here on a four-door body. Here, it's the stronger, sharper lines that set the Flying Spur apart, particularly the crease that defines the rear fender.
The cues are familiar enough to make the "Bentley" text across the rear unnecessary, yet the Flying Spur has its own, distinct shape on the outside. On the inside, things are a bit more familiar -- traditional, even -- with the usual Bentley quilted leather and knurled switchgear readily found. It's cliche, but while you won't find anything unpleasant to touch on the inside, that isn't to say everything's perfect.
Yes, everything from the weighted metal plungers for adjusting the vents to the lovely 3D leather door cards are sublime, but some of the technology here is troubling. The rear seats feature a trio of tablets, the outer two running Android Lollipop -- now six years and six versions old. Their dated, clunky interfaces are a stark contrast to the modern phone your average rear-seat inhabitant would carry, but they're the only way to access the car's infotainment system from the (otherwise stellar) back seats.
Up front, the Flying Spur's infotainment system is functional and clean, offering most of the modern features you'd expect like passably good voice recognition and Apple CarPlay, but alas, no Android Auto. The best feature of the Bentley system, however, is that when you want to just relax and drive, at a touch of a button the entire 12.3-inch display (called, of course, the Bentley Rotating Display) pivots and hides behind the dash, replaced with three clean, analog gauges.
When flipped like this, you start to realize just how distracting a massive, modern digital display can be. I surprised myself by preferring to drive the car with it tucked away. Likewise, Bentley has done a fine job of making the digital gauge cluster behind the wheel look classy and simple despite still providing all the information you need for your drive.
And what's it like to drive? More sprightly than you might imagine. Built on the same basic platform of the Porsche Panamera, the Flying Spur has some fundamentally good dynamics, aided by a rear-steering system that virtually shortens the wheelbase. The result is far more nimble than you'd expect when you first sink into the plush driver's seat and grip the fat, upright steering wheel.
Far more eager than you might expect, too, thanks to the 6.0-liter W12 under the hood. The latest flavor of this now-venerable motor is up to 626 horsepower in the 2020 Flying Spur, paired with 664 pound-feet of torque. Tack on a smooth yet quick-shifting ZF eight-speed dual-clutch transmission and an 40/60 front/rear-split all-wheel-drive system, and you can get yourself to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds.
Yes, it's legitimately quick, but whenever I actually try to take advantage of that performance, I feel like I'm missing the point. It's good to know that kind of speed is on-tap, but to me the Flying Spur is best enjoyed when left in the default "Bentley" mode, simply labeled with a B. Here, the suspension is compliant, the transmission feels smooth and all the many cares of the world are just that little bit farther away.
Driven like this you'll also have a better chance of hitting the car's EPA-rated 12 miles per gallon city and 19 mpg highway, with a combined figure of just 15. I actually did a bit better, scoring 17 mpg as I mostly wafted my way through my week with the car. But, if you can afford the $214,600 starting price of the Flying Spur, or indeed the $289,850 of the car tested here (including a $2,725 destination charge and $72,525 in options), chances are you won't be too bothered by fuel economy.
Regardless of how you drive it, or how you spec it, the Flying Spur is a wonderful package. It's subtle visual charm is backed by a rewarding drive and all the polish you could want or expect. It is, then, a consummate Bentley, and the kind of sedan that hopefully will make people think twice before bringing yet another SUV to bear.