First class luxury: Bentley's new Flying Spur tested in Monaco
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Bentley Flying Spur
A $1.4 billion motor yacht by the name of Dilbar is moored in the marina and a $15 million Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder is parked, calm as you like, by the curb outside my hotel. Welcome to Monaco.
You can’t argue that the good people of this principality know nice cars. And, based on all the selfies being taken in front of it, they certainly know the Bentley Flying Spur I’m driving is the brand’s latest offering and something special.
The nameplate’s been in the family since the 50s and is given to the brand’s sportiest sedan. In fact, the second generation (2005) Flying Spur was the fastest four-door sedan in the world.
But sitting between the popular Continental and the flagship Mulsanne and stretching the Continental’s styling awkwardly over a Volkswagen Phaeton platform, it’s fair to say the shorter wheelbase model was the better Bentley in the day.
This new iteration takes cues from the latest Continental GT as well, but implements them more convincingly. The wheelbase is a full 130mm longer and at over 5.3m long and 2.2m wide, it’s dimensionally impressive.
But the designers haven’t tried to pull the coupe’s surface language over the bigger body like a shrunken jumper. The mesh grille gives way to a new vertical vane matrix that alleviates the perception of width; the rear quarter panel is the largest aluminium automotive panel produced; and it all sits atop huge 21in wheels. Proportionally it’s striking.
Inside, if there’s a more comfortable, tastefully appointed interior, I’m not familiar with it. The Flying Spur adds a lower, wider centre console to deliver a more relaxed feel. It is the brand’s most technology-filled model by far. In the back seat, large media touchscreens have high end noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones.
Using the screen’s camera, they act as a mirror or you can scroll through an Android-based operating system with whatever apps you need at your fingertips, watch media or check/send important messages.
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A beautifully knurled alloy and glass handheld controller ejects from its central cradle and with this you can control everything. From the media selection and acoustics of the audio system to the multi-function massage, heating or cooling seats, the secrecy window blinds, panoramic glass roof and even the retractable (and optionally illuminated) Flying B hood mascot, the first of its kind for Bentley.
So it’s a limousine? Thankfully, no.
Only about 4 per cent of Bentley owners globally employ the use of a permanent chauffeur. Driver engagement remains a priority as does retaining that “fastest four-door sedan in the world” calling card.
The marque’s familiar 467kW/900Nm W12 engine is mated to a less aggressively calibrated eight-speed dual clutch transmission which propels the Flying Spur to a top speed of 333km/h and a 0-100km/h in 3.8s; safe to say that title is secured again in 2019.
It’s effortlessly fast. On what we hope were the open speed motorways of the south of France we saw 200km/h come and go so easily, so quietly. Some supercars drive like petulant toddlers by comparison.
The party trick is how Bentley’s engineers have disguised the wheelbase and 2437kg weight through the tight and twisty corners of our drive.
This is the first Bentley to employ a four-wheel steering system, which joins the already capable all-wheel drive and dynamic ride air suspension.
In slow, tight turns it offers up to four degrees of assistance. At speed, the adjustment is much finer to deliver surprising stability and agility.
As much a technology and engineering showpiece as it is for luxury and elegance, the Flying Spur is no wafty luxo barge. For those fortunate enough to consider its $395,000 price tag; it’s a tour de force that sets the bar for four-door grand touring.