by Jay Traugott
When it came time for Bentley to completely redesign its Flying Spur, the Continental GT coupe's ultra-luxury sedan sibling, several things must have gone through product planners’ heads, but one key thing stood out: don’t mess too much with success and build upon what’s proven to sell. The previous generation Flying Spur was, without question, a winner and a segment leader, thanks in part to its massive W12 engine. Given the new competition from Rolls-Royce and even the likes of Mercedes-Maybach and BMW, Bentley knew it had to achieve new levels of refinement, luxury, and power. Our hopes have been answered.
The all-new 2020 Bentley Flying Spur may at first resemble its immediate, second-generation predecessor, but we can assure you it’s all-new from the ground up. It’s also bigger inside and out and more powerful. Above all, it sets a new standard for big luxury sedans that rivals will now aim to surpass. Of course, all of this world-class luxury, technology, and hand-built craftsmanship comes at a price, and those who plan to buy one would expect nothing less.
Your eyes are not tricking you; the 2020 Flying Spur really is all-new. Bentley opted to stick with a similar design language, but a closer examination reveals many nice changes. Compared to the previous model, the new car’s exterior lines are not only sleeker but are more muscular and generally more refined. It’s instantly recognizable as a Bentley. But to truly appreciate what Bentley’s brilliant designers have done here, the fine details must be known. Those LED matrix headlights, for example, feature a stunning cut-crystal effect with chrome surrounds and "B” motifs.
To further enhance the body, Bentley equipped the sedan with standard 21-inch wheels, though the firm’s Mulliner division offers 22-inch rims for those who desire to have the largest wheels ever fitted to a Bentley. Another first-time feature – and we’re surprised Bentley didn’t do this before – is a retractable "Flying B” mascot statue situated at the front of the hood. No owner wants to have this stolen. Another new feature worth pointing out is the large glass-to-glass panoramic roof. It boasts an electronically tilting front panel that slides rearwards over the top of the fixed back panel. It’s not exactly a full-on convertible open-air experience, but it’s impressive enough. Paint colors? At least 17 options, but customized colors are available, for a price of course.
The Flying Spur is classified as a full-size sedan and it actually shares a platform with its distant corporate cousin, the Porsche Panamera. Compared to its predecessor, the new third-generation Flying Spur is slightly longer, which may not be noticeable to most. However, its wheelbase has been stretched by 5.1 inches for the specific purpose to offer rear seat passengers additional legroom. Overall exterior dimensions are 209 inches in length, 77.8 inches in width, and 58 inches in height. While front seat passengers have never complained about a lack of space, Bentley realized rear seat occupants required additional attention, hence the expanded dimensions. Remember, the Flying Spur is not just a powerful machine to drive, but it’s also a world-class luxury cruiser. It’s the kind of vehicle people hire a chauffeur for as they prefer to rest comfortably in the rear while drinking champagne.
As can be expected for such a large vehicle, the Flying Spur is not exactly light, but Bentley did go to lengths to reduce as much extra heft as possible by replacing steel components with lightweight aluminum alloys. All told the new Flying Spur tips the scales at around 5,370 pounds. To give that some perspective, the also new 2020 Ford Explorer three-row SUV crossover weighs about the same.
Bentley isn’t your typical automaker when it comes to the interior, and we’re not just talking quality. Obviously, build quality is second to none, but Bentley is also a modern-day coachbuilder. For example, there are 15 colors of leather hide to pick from for the seats alone. To further show off its skills and attention to detail, Bentley also offers an industry-first three-dimensional diamond quilted leather on the door cards. Veneer options include both piano black and various types of woods in different shades. If that’s enough then the dual veneer option is quite appealing.
Occupants will benefit from a massive 12.3-inch touchscreen integrated into the dashboard. One very unique feature here is the ability for it to be "hidden” behind a veneer when not in use. As a throwback to its racing heritage, Bentley incorporated three analog dials, a chronometer, compass, and outside temperature gauge. A 10-speaker sound system is standard but most buyers won’t find this to be good enough. Fortunately, Bentley offers them either a 16-speaker, 1,500-watt Bang & Olufsen system or a 19-speaker, 2,200-watt Naim system. The latter includes bass transducers built directly into the front seats.
For now, the sole engine option is the same twin-turbo 6.0-liter W12 found in the Bentayga Speed SUV. Mind you this is no ordinary engine, but one with an incredible 626 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque on tap. Power is distributed to all four wheels through a ZF eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. Like the Bentayga, expect additional powertrains in the near future, such as a plug-in hybrid.
The W12, however, will remain the top dog for the foreseeable future. All of that power translates to incredible acceleration. Drivers will experience a 0-60 mph time of 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 207 mph – both figures are very comparable to many current supercars. For the record, the outgoing Flying Spur blasted from 0-60 mph in 4.3 seconds.
To our delight, Bentley has employed a fixed 60:40 power split to the rear/front axles. In other words, the Flying Spur still has a rear-wheel-drive focus, a preference for many drivers. Depending on road conditions, the active all-wheel-drive system is designed to automatically send power to the front axle when necessary, such as during wintry road conditions.
No one should expect for any of this luxury to come cheap. Bentley says it will announce official pricing in the near future, but based on the previous Flying Spur, a very good guess would be around $200,000. It won’t take long for this price to increase as customers tack on option packages as well as all other customization options.
The Flying Spur’s most direct competitor is the Rolls-Royce Ghost, which comes powered by a twin-turbo 6.6-liter V12 with up to 592 hp and 575 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes has also jumped into this exclusive segment with its revived Maybach brand. The Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, available in two flavors with V8 and V12 power is a formidable opponent for both the Flying Spur and Ghost, with an equally high price tag.
The Bentley Flying Spur does not sell at the same rate as most other cars, which makes perfect sense given its six-figure price. For example, only 257 Flying Spurs were sold in the US in 2017. In 2015 and 2016, however, 791 and 400 examples left dealership lots, respectively. Because the 2020 Flying Spur is all-new, there will likely be a great deal of enthusiasm for the model. The key is to ensure this does not diminish in the years ahead. After all, the all-new Bentley Flying Spur is only at the beginning of what will be a multi-year life cycle.