16 October 2019 13:05
Launched in 2005, that second Flying Spur belied its four doors, however; it had something of a reputation within Bentley's engineering circles as better than the coupé to drive. We have a 6.0-litre W12 engine developing 626bhp and 664lb ft, but it's hooked up to a new all-wheel drive system which only powers the rear wheels under normal circumstances. There's a 48-volt active anti-roll bar system - that actually generates more torque than the engine - which we've already seen in the Conti GT, but the rear-steer setup hasn't been used before on any Bentley. Where the Flying Spur really impresses is higher speed stuff, where it'll take a last-minute steering correction and just lap it up, rather than throwing the kind of luxury car fat boy tantrum you'd expect. Once you're done being an idiot on a mountain road, the Flying Spur will transform into a car with world-beating comfort.
Other than the fact the Flying Spur will run away with your wallet and set it on fire every time you put your foot down (a problem which will be countered to an extent by the eventual V8 version), all I can come up with are two little niggles. So good is the Flying Spur, that it can't just be considered a rival to other luxury saloons, including Bentley's own Mulsanne. If Bentley ever made a Flying Spur wagon, it'd surely be the best car in the world. The third-generation Bentley Continental Flying Spur is fast, comfortable and has a wonderful, hand-crafted interior. There's also an assumption that Flying Spur owners might actually drive the car themselves from time to time, so the car has to offer a rewarding driving experience as well as a comfortable back seat.
While the Rolls-Royce Ghost is slightly more refined, keen drivers will find the Flying Spur much more enjoyable to drive, and that also goes for the Mercedes-Maybach S 600. It's a clean-sheet design from the ground up, and Bentley has thrown everything at its latest third-generation Flying Spur – and it shows. Outstanding gearbox Cons Ride comfort is the only chink in the Flying Spur's armour if you choose 22-inch wheels Although, there's no denying the all-new 2020 Bentley Flying Spur is about as on-brand as it gets in such an environment, given the enormous wealth and obsession with exotic automobiles this tax-free haven seems to harbour. The catchcry the company is using for its latest Flying Spur is Drive or be driven, and one look at this thing and you'll find it hard to choose between the front or back seats, which is exactly the reaction the British-based carmaker is hoping for. That said, there's no denying the latest Flying Spur is a spectacularly beautiful car – regal even, but geez it's a big unit.
Get out onto some of Route Napoléon's fast-flowing roads, and that same all-wheel-steer system ensures the big Bentley has more than enough agility and snort to cover the ground at a genuinely alarming pace. While the previous-generation Flying Spur used a permanent all-wheel-drive system with a fixed 60:40 power split to the rear/front axles, the new model delivers two-wheel drive to the rear axle unless slip is detected. In the less-aggressive Comfort and Bentley modes, the system will send up to 480Nm of torque to the front axle for improved grip, but in Sport the active drive system caps that to 280Nm for more dynamic feel. At the risk of sounding like a bit of a larrikin, we found ourselves chasing another fast-moving Flying Spur and resorting to all-out manual mode using the paddle shifters. Ride comfort from either row of seats wasn't great over broken road or potholes, which is odd given the Flying Spur employs three-chamber air springs that contain 60 per cent more air volume than the previous version. As good as they are in the handling department, this is a car that should maintain the standard 21-inch wheels as the best balance between ride and handling – at least, in our view. It's hard to categorise the new Bentley Flying Spur. If such a thing as a money-no-object all-rounder exists, the Bentley Flying Spur is it. The new Bentley Flying Spur is perhaps a rare exception. That's no bad thing though, because this must be one of the finest interiors fitted to any new car on sale today. If there's one minor criticism inside, it's that the customisable digital instrument panel doesn't look as sharp as similar systems from other brands. Ride comfort is controlled via a three-stage air suspension set-up and Bentley Dynamic Ride System – the latter comprising an active anti-roll bar that keeps the body level when cornering. In Comfort mode it means that the Flying Spur smothers almost any road imperfections a broken surface can throw at it. Rotate the drive mode dial to Sport, and the body starts to jiggle about slightly, but it also lets the Flying Spur corner in a way which no two-and-a-half tonne limousine has any right to. The Flying Spur turns in more keenly than the old car thanks in part to the relocated front axle, which means the engine is now mostly behind the front wheels. The new rear-biased four-wheel-drive system helps, too; unlike the old Flying Spur, which had a 60:40 power split front to rear, the new one only sends power forwards when slip is detected. The Rolls Royce Ghost just edges it for outright refinement, but the Bentley is by far the sharper car to drive.