2020 Bentley Flying Spur is new from the ground up, way more luxurious
- The Bentley Flying Spur has received its first from-the-ground-up redesign since 2005.
- The new generation rides on the same MSB platform as the Continental GT and the Porsche Panamera, and it has a 5.1-inch-longer wheelbase than before.
- It’s packed with all kinds of new tech like rear-wheel steering and new luxury details like 3D leather quilting.
While most of the auto industry regards a model reaching its seventh anniversary as being ancient, the lifecycles of luxury sedans are on more leisurely timescales. The Bentley Flying Spur was launched in 2005, predating the iPhone and even most social media platforms. There was a heavy facelift in 2013 that overhauled the bodywork and the interior, but the Spur’s core structure remained unchanged, as did much of its electrical architecture. By our reckoning, that meant it made it to an impressive 98 in dog years. So it seems highly likely that this all-new version, which we’re seeing here for the first time, will still be with us in the 2030s.
As with the original car, the Flying Spur is effectively a sedan sister to the Continental GT coupe and convertible, sharing core mechanicals and sitting on the same Volkswagen Group–developed MSB platform. Exterior dimensions are barely changed: At 212.8 inches long it is 0.2-inch longer than the previous car, the 58.6-inch height is identical, and the 77.3-inch overall width has actually lessened by half an inch. The most important difference is with the wheelbase. At 125.8 inches, it’s 5.1 inches longer than the outgoing Spur, and Bentley says the room is being put to better use in the cabin.
It certainly has a Bentley-appropriate level of visual presence, with a vertically barred chrome radiator grille that must challenge the enormous schnozz of the BMW 7-series for surface area-we’re told that the vanes are playing a respectful homage to the 1957 S1 Continental Flying Spur. The lower grilles can be finished in either black or bright chrome. Another traditional touch is the available “Flying B” mascot on the hood, which is now illuminated at night, electrically deployable, and capable of meeting pedestrian impact requirements. LED matrix headlights similar in style to those of the Continental are standard, while the LED taillights incorporate a B motif.
Bodywork is made from super-formed aluminum with Bentley claiming best-in-class torsional rigidity. The new Spur’s side profile gets far more muscular at the back with what is practically an old-fashioned, crisp fender line from the rear doors to the back of the tailgate, echoing the line above the front fenders. The rear end is very squared-off with a prominent trunklid that no longer incorporates the license plate. 21-inch wheels will be standard while 22-inchers are optional, and 17 standard colors will be offered.
It’s no surprise to find that the cabin is big on both tradition and technology. Bentley has been doing wood and leather for longer than anyone, and we would have been shocked not to find both materials featuring heavily in the cockpit. Much of the core architecture is obviously shared with the Continental, but the design of the center console is new and incorporates horizontal air vents. Available is the Continental’s rotating central dashboard panel that rotates between a wooden panel, the 12.3-inch touchscreen, or a trio of analogue dials. There’s real bronze details on the clock and some of the switches, and more components now have a diamond-knurled finish. Trim options include double-veneer two-tone wood and quilted leather seats with 3D-effect quilted door cards as seen in these official shots.
While the old Flying Spur wasn’t short on rear seat accommodation, this one will be roomier, with Bentley saying that the entire wheelbase extension has translated into extra legroom for those in the back. Although there are only two full-size seats in the rear, there is a central seatbelt and a pop-up headrest to allow an extra passenger to perch in the gap between them in considerably less comfort. The seats are heated, ventilated, can give massages, and have adjustable bolstering, and the rear cabin gets its own touchscreen system. A full-length panoramic sunroof is also available, with retractable Alcantara blinds that match the color of the headliner.
The generational shift to the new platform has allowed for much more technology, including a battery of driver-assist features like blind-spot warning, night vision, and a surround-view camera to make maneuvering easier. Also on the table are three different audio systems including a mega 19-speaker Naim setup, configurable interior mood lighting, and a head-up display. If one would like even more luxury, Bentley’s Mulliner division has a range of unique color, trim, and personalization options such as different wheel designs and open-pore wood door cards.
The Flying Spur is being launched with one familiar powerplant, the twin-turbocharged W-12 that the company has been using since the Continental GT was launched in 2003. In its most recent guise, as already seen in the Bentayga and Continental GT, the W-12 now has both port and direct injection and produces 626 horsepower and a monstrous 664 lb-ft of torque. Bentley claims a zero-to-60-mph time of 3.7 seconds-not bad considering the 5370-pound Euro-spec weight-and a top speed of 207 mph. Although unconfirmed by the company, we can safely predict that the more economical V-8 engine will find its way into the Flying Spur later, and we also believe that the V-6 plug-in hybrid that has recently been launched in the Bentayga will make the transition as well.
As with the Continental GT, the sedan’s W-12 now sends its effort to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission rather than a torque-converter auto as the old car did. This is the same ZF unit fitted to the Porsche Panamera (which is platform buddies with the Spur), and it has been tuned to deliver refinement appropriate for a Bentley. Given the BMW M5 now has a torque converter it seems like an interesting and maybe counter-intuitive move. Top speed is reached in sixth gear; seventh and eighth are both economy-boosting overdrives.
The transmission sends torque to all four corners through a new all-wheel-drive system that uses an electronically controlled clutch pack to divert torque to the front axle as required; in standard driving, the car runs as a pure rear-driver. Torque split is varied according to different driving modes, sending up to 354 lb-ft to the front wheels normally but only 207 lb-ft in Sport mode.
Rear-wheel steering is new and a first for Bentley, with the system being controlled electronically. The suspension uses air springs with 60 percent more volume than the previous model and has four sensors that constantly are controlling the dampers. Like the Bentayga and Continental, there is also an active anti-roll system using a 48-volt actuator to stiffen the sway bars under load. Bentley also claims the 16.5-inch front brake discs are the largest iron rotors ever fitted to a passenger car.
We’re told that the Flying Spur will be available to order later this year with deliveries beginning early in 2020. There’s no word on price yet, but be surprised if it doesn’t command an sizable increase on the outgoing model, which started at just under $230K with the W-12. For the target clientele that is unlikely to be a problem.
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