FLYING MILE-HIGH

As Bentley celebrates its centenary this year, it is perhaps in one of its finest periods of existence. Since its acquisition by the Volkswagen Group in 1998, the ultra-luxury automobile marque has managed to occupy a very niche space in the market, and each generation of its vehicles simply raises the bar from its predecessor. Lerato Matebese recently travelled to Monaco to drive the latest Bentley Flying Spur to ascertain whether it too has moved the goalposts even further.

For a country that only boasts an area measuring a meagre two square kilometres, the sovereign-city state of Monaco is enchanting at worst and, as the second smallest country in the world after the Vatican, it is rather densely populated with almost 20,000 residents per square kilometre. Yet, 30 % of its inhabitants are said to be millionaires, with the country itself being one of the most expensive and wealthiest in the world. This was the perfect backdrop for Bentley Motors to launch its latest Flying Spur to the automotive media.

WHAT’S DIFFERENT?

Of course, the most prominent features of the third generation Flying Spur is its newfound individualism. Whereas both of its predecessors were modelled upon the two-door Continental GT, things are vastly different this time around. And while the face is reminiscent of the Conti GT, the Flying Spur does, for the most part, take on an identity all its own. The Crewe, a UK-based manufacturer sought to give the model a dynamic, yet regal, design that is squared directly at the Rolls-Royce Ghost. Those blistered rear haunches and LED rear lights with their innards configured in a B-design are but some of the tasteful yet discreet touches of the Flying Spur.

Another aspect, according to the company, was to make the vehicle more of a driver’s car than its predecessor by giving it, among other things, a 48-Volt Electronic Active Roll Control system that first debuted in the Bentayga and, for the first time, rear-wheel steering has been adopted.

DOES IT REMAIN EVER SO LUXURIANT?

Naturally, the cabin of the latest Flying Spur remains a luxuriously well-appointed sanctuary with bespoke and plush materials that have been painstakingly put together by its factory craftsmen. From the wood veneers to the leather materials and stitching, one can glean the meticulous process that has gone into each aspect of the cabin. The digital instrument cluster and dropdown console – with its swivelling touchscreen infotainment system – have a similar architecture to that of the Continental GT, while the rear quarters offer the most sumptuous pews that you can easily slumber in while being serenely chauffeured to your next appointment.

There is also a detachable Touch Screen Remote control unit located between the front chairs, where rear occupants can adjust things such as the climate control, window blinds and even the position of the iconic ‘Flying B’ mascot on the bonnet – to either raise or retract into its nook. There’s such an array of attention to detail that you can’t help but pore over all of it for hours on end. Even the rear-quarter air vents with their quad instead of the traditional turbine design have a metal knurling element that was said to have been a challenge for the designers to muster. However, in the end, the design objective was successfully met.

MECHANICAL MAKEUP

Loosely based on the Porsche Panamera’s underpinnings, the Flying Spur is powered by Bentley’s traditional 6.0-litre, W12 twin-turbocharged engine that thumps out a hefty 467 kW and 900 Nm through a dual-clutch 8-speed automatic gearbox that sends power to all corners of the vehicle. According to Bentley, the Flying Spur will romp to 100km/h from standstill in 3.8 seconds and keep accelerating up to its terminal velocity of 333km/h, making it the fastest saloon currently on sale.

BEHIND THE WHEEL?

Manoeuvring the large 5.3-metre saloon through the narrow streets of Monaco would pose a bit of a challenge for the driver, but thanks to the rear-wheel steering, the Flying Spur manages the many traffic circles and tight corners with ease. However, unshackle it out of the urban confines and the Flying Spur’s grand touring skills truly bristle. It covers vast distances on a whim and hardly requires any coaxing to make haste, thanks to that fat seam of torque available across a wide band. Even with the 21” wheels shod to our launch cars, the Flying Spur simply wafted along the bitumen, soaking up most road imperfections with the utmost aplomb. Thanks to four drive modes: Comfort, Sport, Bentley and Custom – the model can be adapted to suit the driver’s mood. Personally, I found the Bentley mode to be ideal for everyday driving, offering just the right amount of compliancy and body control.

CUSTOMISATION

As is tradition with Bentley, you can customise your Flying Spur in several combinations. There are no less than 30 exterior hues and a number of wheel options up to 22” in size. There will be First Edition models that will be produced for 12 months, essentially making them Limited Editions and will include a Union Jack decal on the dash, embodied on the seats and sport 22” Mulliner turbine wheels. You can also opt for the Blackline Package that features black accents instead of the standard chrome on the grille, headlights, window beadings and exterior light surroundings. It is all tastefully done and would be my choice were I in the enviable position to purchase one.

LAST WORD

Bentley’s latest Flying Spur combines the regal and luxurious elements so typical of the company with a hint of dynamism to make it a satisfyingly capable sporty sedan when the mood arises. Personally, though, I feel that the Flying Spur represents a new dawn for the British marque as it firmly stamps its authority as one of the purveyors of ultra-luxury automobiles.

 

Report by LERATO MATEBESE | Images © BENTLEY MOTORS UK