Bentley sets the wheels of the new Flying Spur in motion
For the third generation of its luxury grand tourer, Bentley has rebuilt the Flying Spur from the ground up around an "enhanced" version of its 6-liter, twin turbo W12 engine. The 2020 model is the first to incorporate rear-wheel steering, making for an ultra-comfortable ride from the front or back seats.
As much of a limo to be driven in as it is a sporty performance GT car, the new model Flying Spur makes the same 626 hp as its predecessor, but gets a healthy bump in torque from 800 to 900 Nm (590 to 664 lb-ft). The 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) sprint now takes 3.8 seconds, which is more than half a second quicker than the old model and a pretty impressive figure for a luxury car this size. Top speed, should you ever need it, is now 207 mph (333 km/h).
Speed and acceleration are one thing, but the key improvements here are in comfort and handling. The new Spur gets the 8-speed ZF dual-clutch auto transmission from the Continental GT, which is quicker and smoother on shifts and a nudge better on fuel economy. Seventh and eighth gears are overdrives in the name of highway efficiency, and you won't be troubling them on top speed runs.
Instead of the permanent AWD in the previous Spur model, the drivetrain is now predominantly RWD, but capable of smoothly adding power to the front axle when the conditions or driver inputs start making the rear wheels slip. Bentley says the result is a sharper steering car when you're driving it hard, and the understeer effect of permanent AWD is totally gone.
Electronic rear-wheel steering is a brand new addition to the Spur, and assists in both slow and fast driving situations. When you're parking, for example, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front ones to reduce your turning circle and simulate the handling of a shorter wheelbase machine. On the highway, it's all about comfort, the rear wheels turning in the same direction as the front ones to make lane changes a graceful dance step to the side with virtually no yaw – finally, a solution to all those horrible twisting lane changes the rest of us have to grit our teeth through.
The three-chamber air springs get 60 percent more air, allowing a wider range of pneumatic tuning between loungey-luxury soft and sporty firm, and the suspension damping is active and continuously changes in response to driver inputs and the road surface. Likewise, there are sensors constantly monitoring both the ride height per wheel and the cornering forces in play, and systems tuning the air suspension and variable-stiffness anti-roll bar to keep the ride smooth and level.
In order to slow this 2,437-kg (5,373-lb) machine in a hurry, there are whopping big 420-mm discs up front – these are the biggest iron brakes currently in production and the same as you'll find on the Continental GT. And the exhaust seems ready to split its sound between quiet comfort when somebody else is driving, and something more enjoyable to listen to when you're behind the wheel.
Interior-wise, the Flying Spur now gets the cute rotating dash display, which spins around to reveal a 12.3-inch touchscreen, a set of analog instruments or ... well, a blank panel, in what the company calls a "digital detox." There's wireless phone charging to get rid of unsightly cables, and the (heated, ventilated, massage-capable) seats look lovely and comfy no matter which of the seven different mood lighting color options you choose.
There are three stereo options, but the one you need to know about is the buttock-shaking Naim for Bentley system, which has 19 separate speakers, a 2,200-watt peak output and a pair of active bass transducers built into the front seats so the low end can literally jiggle your rump. This should be, shall we say, quite an immersive experience.
In addition to night vision, the Flying Spur rocks LED matrix headlights, so you can leave high beam on during country driving and trust the car to spot and track oncoming vehicles, and literally blank out the bit of headlight that's pointing at them – meaning you won't blind other vehicles, and your path will still be brightly lit if they're blinding you. Take a look at these headlights too, with their crystalline detailing around the edges – there's chrome in behind them, so they sparkle even when they're not lit. Very nice.
Orders begin later this year, with deliveries staring in early 2020.