Third time’s the charm. The 2020 Bentley Flying Spur banishes forever the visual awkwardness of its two Phaeton-platformed predecessors. It’s long and low, expressively elegant, and glitteringly powerful, with just a soupcon of the jaunty exuberance that’s at the heart of the brand. It’s exactly how a modern Bentley sedan should be.
The enabling technology, of course, is VW Group’s versatile MSB vehicle architecture. Designed to accommodate longitudinally mounted engines all the way up to the 6.0-liter W-12, with all- or rear-wheel drive, MSB has allowed the team under Bentley design chief Stefan Sielaff to give the new Flying Spur classic British luxury car proportions. The 2020 model is a mere 0.6 inches longer than the outgoing car, but its front axle centerline is 5.1 inches further forward, allowing a long hood without a pronounced front overhang. It’s the singular dimensional change that, visually, changes everything.
The MSB architecture debuted on the Porsche Panamera and now also underpins the current Continental GT. In Flying Spur configuration—the largest vehicle yet built on MSB—it shares all the structure ahead of the firewall with the Panamera and Continental GT, and its center section with the long-wheelbase Panamera Executive. The rear section of the platform, however, from the base of the rear seatback, is unique to the Bentley. It allows for a more comfort-oriented suspension setup and a roomy, conventional trunk instead of the Porsche hatchback.
ll exterior panels are aluminum—Bentley claims the new multi-metal body structure is 84 pounds lighter than the outgoing Flying Spur’s. Key design elements include a broad grille with classic vertical slats, crisply defined haunches over the rear wheels, and a C-pillar that sweeps down into the trunk, which falls away slightly to give a hint of the graceful tail-down stance characteristic of the original H.J. Mulliner-bodied Flying Spur of the late 1950s. Standard wheels are 21 inches, with two different 22s available as an option.
Under the hood is the latest iteration of the 6.0-liter W-12, first seen in the Continental GT Coupe and Convertible. That means 626 horsepower, and a herculean 664 lb-ft of torque that arrives in less than one-third the time it took in the previous car. As in the Contis, the engine drives all four wheels through an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. And despite lugging around extra doors and larger rear seats, Bentley claims the Flying Spur will be just as quick as the Continental GT Convertible, hitting 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds with a top speed of 207 mph. To cope with its prodigious turn of speed, the Flying Spur uses the same 16.5-inch front brakes—the largest iron brake rotors in the world—as the Continental GTs.
The new Flying Spur promises to be a much sportier drive than previous models, with sharper turn-in response, less understeer, and better chassis balance. The three-chamber air springs—similar to those fitted to the Continental GTs—have 60 percent more capacity, allowing for finer degrees of adjustment, and the 48-voly anti-roll system uses electric motors to twist the rollbars against the cornering loads keeping the car flat through turns.
Although the Flying Spur is all-wheel drive, the torque split is resolutely biased to the rear: Comfort and Normal modes allow a maximum of 38 percent of the torque to be sent to the front wheels, but selecting Sport mode caps that at 17 percent. Finally, the Flying Spur will come standard with rear-wheel steering—the first ever Bentley to be so equipped—to improve agility in tight corners and enhance stability through high-speed sweepers.
Modern Bentley interiors have become a byword for extraordinarily rich combinations of color and materials, and the 2020 Flying Spur’s interior is arguably the best yet. Bentley offers no fewer than 15 different standard leather colors, and these can be mixed and matched via a number of dramatic color splits. In addition, buyers can choose from eight different wood veneers, including a new crown-cut walnut, and all can be ordered in the dual veneer specification to give the cabin an even more bespoke feel. The Flying Spur interior’s showstoppers are an optional three-dimensional diamond quilting effect—in leather or wood—on the door trims, and an optional etched finish on the center console made up of 5,331 individual diamond shapes, each different from the others.
The MSB hardware includes a new electrical architecture, so the 2020 Flying Spur comes equipped with a host of driver assistance systems, including traffic and blind-spot warning, as well as night vision, a head-up display, a 360-degree overhead view camera system, and parking assist. When you press the engine start button, the veneered section in the middle of the dashboard rotates to reveal the 12.3-inch HD touchscreen shared with the Conti twins. The second side of the display reveals three analog dials showing outside temperature, a compass, and a chronometer. Those wanting what Bentley calls a ‘digital detox’ can select a third side, which is simply finished in plain veneer matching the rest of the cabin.
Rear-seat passengers can control a number of functions—including window blinds, rear seat massage, rear climate control, and mood lighting—via a 5.1-inch touchscreen remote that unclips from the rear of the center console.
Flying Spur buyers can choose from three audio systems. The standard system has 10 speakers and 650 watts. Next up is a 1,500-watt, 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen system with illuminated grilles and the intuitive one-touch BeoSonic user interface. Top of the range is a monster 2,200-watt Naim for Bentley system with 19 speakers and active bass transducers built into the front seats.
The 2020 Bentley Flying Spur will be available for order this fall, with first deliveries expected early next year. No word on pricing yet, but if Bentley follows past form and prices and the new Flying Spur rings in below a comparably equipped Continental GT Coupe, this impressively fast, imposingly glamorous four-door could well be the pick of the Bentley lineup.
By: Angus MacKenzie, June 11, 2019