Branding is tricky business, because the market always ends up having the last laugh. A car manufacturer can try its best to pitch itself to its vision of the ‘perfect’ owner, but the reality can sometimes bite.
With the current third generation Continental GT Coupe (and Convertible) that was in our 2018 Cars of the Year, Bentley proved it could reinvent itself. After all, this was a fresh face of Bentley that you didn’t need a face full of wrinkles or a midlife belly to own.
(Click HERE for our first drive of the W12 Continental GT Coupe)
(Click HERE for our first drive of the W12 Continental GT Convertible)
Of course, it was a matter of time before the Flying Spur four-door limo dropped to score a three-model hat-trick for the brand. The essence of luxury is intangible and isn’t something you can tick-off a checklist. Well, you can try to benchmark up to a point, but the little emotional extras are what separates brands like Bentley and Rolls-Royce from the rest.
(Click HERE for our first drive of the W12 Flying Spur)
Of course, this comes naturally if you’ve only been operating in such a rarefied sphere, never mind that your car may share a common platform with other brands in the Volkswagen Group – it’s all about making it your own, as Bentley has done with the Continental GT, and now the Flying Spur.
Starting from S$969k before COE and options, the W12-engined Flying Spur sits at a price point just above the top-shelf S-Class, 7 Series and A8 variants, but below the Ghost, which starts from S$1.1988m before COE and options. It’s a narrow operating band that works well for Bentley, and it’s a great segment in which to showcase the artisanal quality of its cars.
(Click HERE to read our intro to the 2019 Cars of the Year)
The Flying Spur cuts an imposing figure, not least because of the massive front grille, which is all the rage these days. The keen-eyed would have spotted the optional ‘Blackline’ exterior trim on our White Sand car, which effectively de-blings the shiny, chrome brightware and replaces them with blackened bits.
Everything from the lower door trim and rear bumper blades to the window, headlight and taillight bezel surrounds, to the radiator vanes, ‘Flying B’ side vents and even the ‘Flying B’ mascot enjoy the stealthily cool, blackened treatment.
Like the Continental GT Coupe, the Flying Spur’s body is shaped through the ‘Superforming’ process, a hot metal forming technique that allows subtle yet crisp contours to be created on the metal for a sense of stately, understated power.
There’s plenty of striking detail to the Flying Spur’s aesthetics that blend seamlessly into its overall design so it never comes across as kitschy. For instance, the taillights feature a ‘B’ motif and in fact, the ‘Flying B’ mascot has even been resurrected to take pride of place at the tip of the bonnet; also, the multi-faceted design of the headlight reflectors is inspired by Cumbria’s finest crystal-cut glasses.
And then you slide into the cabin only to be hit by an all-pervasive sense of wealth and luxury… of the ‘discreet’ old money variety, that is. Ornate yes, with plenty of detailing and finishing, but there’s nothing gaudy or garish about the cabin accoutrements, which are executed with a hand-worked artisanal air.
We appreciate that there’s no tablet-sized touchscreen taking centrestage up front as is the norm in most modern cars, just a gorgeous, uninterrupted swathe of wood across the length of the dash.
‘Digital Detox’ is the name of Bentley’s game, and the optional Bentley Rotating Display gives one the choice of two ‘mood’ panels: a modern 12.3-inch touchscreen or a trio of analogue gauges, so you can enjoy a nostalgic ambience if you so choose as you seek solace within the plumply padded confines of the cabin.
The twin-turbocharged 12-cylinder awakens with a restrained bellow before settling into a mild thrum, with no clue whatsoever as to its dark side. It’s hard to imagine the big Bentley to be capable of any serious tarmac terrorising until you give in to your dark side.
With 635hp and a massive 900Nm that is rivalled only by its proportions, Bentley’s W12 has to be one of the marvels of the modern motoring world, because the two-over-tonne behemoth will demolish the 100km/h sprint from standstill in under 4secs. Mind you, this isn’t even a harder-edged ‘Speed’ variant, but the ‘regular’ W12, which goes to show there’s really nothing ‘regular’ about it!
Matched to a slick-shifting 8spd dual-clutch gearbox and an active rear-steer system for better agility, it’s possible to chase down sportier cars on the winding roads in the Flying Spur (we did during our drive through the Route de Napoleon at the media launch of the car!), and it’ll effortlessly reel both the big fishes, as well as the horizon in on the derestricted highways as you close in on the Flying Spur’s 333kmh top speed. The huge brakes offer stupendous feel, and give you the confidence to brake deep and hard into the corners.
Left to its devices in the ‘B’ drive mode, the damping and powertrain settings are perfect for all-round fast (or plush) road use, so we never really bothered with Comfort or Sport. There’s no fussing around with multiple sub-menus to arrive at your favourite drive settings, and we feel that this is possibly the biggest luxury of them all, because it lets you get in and drive (or be driven).
It’s hard to imagine relinquishing the keys of the Flying Spur to a chauffeur, because of how much joy it is to drive, and yes, it is possible to fly high even for a car of the Flying Spur’s ‘lux-limo’ credentials.
PHOTOS Vanq / Bentley
Bentley Flying Spur
Engine 5950cc, twin-turbo W12
Power/rpm 635hp/ 6000rpm
Transmission 8spd dual-clutch
Top Speed 333km/h
Fuel Consumption 14.8l/100km