April 16, 2024


Automotive pure lust

2020 Bentley Flying Spur Coddles Passengers, Rewards Drivers

If you could see me riding in the rear seat of the Bentley Flying Spur, which I’m doing right now, you’d have every reason to assume I’m rich. You’d be half right. Yes, I have a chauffeur by the name of Dave. But despite appearances, I’m not actually rich—just Rich, the regular person. And Dave isn’t really a chauffeur; he’s our testing director. We’re driving Rich and driving rich to learn whether this sportiest of Bentley sedans is a car you’d rather pilot yourself or be chauffeured in. Drive on, Dave, to someplace where people can see me, please.

HIGHS: Silken driving experience, excellent performance, leather aroma from heaven.

The name Bentley has historically been a natural fit with the notion of opulent, chauffeur-driven sedans. In recent years, the company has been trying to reconnect with its sporty side. It won the 24 hours of LeMans four times between 1927 and 1930, and for the past several years has been fielding racing versions of its Continental GT coupe in international sports-car events. Bentley says the Flying Spur was “uniquely designed to satisfy both driver and passengers alike in a manner that no other car can do.”

But does it? To ascertain whether the Flying Spur most delights the person in the back seat or the one behind the wheel, we’re checking in with both of its current occupants. We’ll call on Dave later. He’s just the chauffeur, after all.

Marc UrbanoCar and Driver

Palace Life

Flying Spurs come standard with a 626-hp twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter W-12, an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, rear-wheel steering, and electronically controlled anti-roll bars—and a base price of $219,425. The mechanical bits, however, are Dave’s department. I’m concerned with the things that pamper you. Good news: Our test car was luxed up with the $44,735 First Edition Specification package, which bundles a host of options such as quilted leather on the seats and doors, your choice of veneer interior trim, and Bentley’s three-sided rotating center-stack display. It also has a brilliant $8800 Naim audio system, a $6090 diamond-white paint job, plus an inductive phone charger and cabin-air ionizer, bringing the as-tested sticker to $279,770.

LOWS: Short a pair of rear-seat ottomans, too easy to get used to this lifestyle, why isn’t everyone staring?

But it’s so gauche to talk about money. What you need to know is that riding in a Flying Spur is special from the moment the rear door is pulled open for you. The leathery aroma that wafts through the air as you slide into the rear seat is so intoxicating that it could be on the DEA’s list of controlled substances. Our car’s cream-and-oxblood leather interior is gorgeous, exquisitely stitched, and painstakingly assembled—and just try to find a surface not covered by the supple hides. The pair of rear power-operated buckets recline and dole out calming massages. An iPhone-like device housed in the rear center console controls audio, navigation, seat heating and ventilation, rear-seat massage, the power side-window shades, and the moonroof close-outs.

Michael SimariCar and Driver

As Dave eases the Spur down the road, the atmosphere from the rear seat is serene. The Bentley moves with grace. The wind whispers. The engine is virtually silent. About the only sound is the thump-thump of the big 22-inch wheels and tires over tar strips, something you hear more than feel. But as well equipped as the rear compartment is, it doesn’t evoke the over-the-top sumptuousness of a Mercedes-Maybach S650, let alone a Rolls-Royce Phantom. You sit low rather than upright and regal. And where are the flip-out rear-seat ottomans? Or the airline-style fold-down tray tables? Bentley charges you extra for a rear-seat mini fridge and a pair of 10.2-inch iPad-type infotainment tablets. No doubt Bentley’s Mulliner department, which handles bespoke builds, can meet your every whim. But it seems like this car’s aft quarters are intended more for passengers than the masters of the universe who would own it.

We also expected more heads to spin when we passed through downtown Ann Arbor one busy summer evening. It could be this car’s white paint job; something darker would have given it more gravitas. It’s also lower and sleeker than Bentley’s own Mulsanne sedan or the upright, imposing Rolls Phantom. Few sidewalk diners noticed. Maybe they thought it was a Mercedes or an Audi.

Michael SimariCar and Driver

At my direction, Dave rips off a launch-control start, and the Bentley charges like an enraged rhino. He flings it through a couple of roundabouts, and I’m pasted against the door. I’m beginning to feel jealous of Dave and all the shiny buttons and knurled knobs and cool screens he has to play with. Not to mention all that power underfoot, and the surprising cornering acumen. He seems very happy up there. Pretending to be rich has been fun, but the real Rich thinks he’d rather drive. —Rich Ceppos

Word from the Helm

What you notice first about the Flying Spur is that it makes you feel underdressed. The paint gleams and glows, and the interior is special. The top of the instrument panel is covered in a single piece of leather, the center timepiece—it’d be gauche to call it a clock, right?—is nearly worthy of one of the company’s regular collaborations with Breitling. And the knurling—oh, the knurling. Those fine ridges are on nearly everything fingers manipulate: the tabs on the vents to move them, the back of the sturdy metal shift paddles, the temperature-control knobs, the back of the door handles. They’re even carved into the ends of the turn-signal and wiper stalks. There’s just a single letdown. The gas cap, which looks like an ingot, is in fact plastic.

Michael SimariCar and Driver

With Rich Ceppos settled into the rear seat, there is less to be intimidated about, at least from a control-layout perspective. Those with extensive driving gigs will quickly spot the familiarities. The steering-wheel controls are straight from Audi, as are the trip computer displays, while the adjustment switch for the steering column on its underside is borrowed from Porsche, as is much of the center infotainment interface.

Pulling away from a stop is done with grace, which is an accomplishment for a dual-clutch automatic. On glassy roads, the Flying Spur rolls—er, Bentleys—so smoothly that there’s almost no vibratory indication that it’s moving. Only the occasional thump of the 22-inch tires over broken pavement returns you to reality.

Ceppos was feeling adventurous, so I popped it into Sport mode and stomped both pedals, which activates launch control. Porsche’s engines tend to smoothly hold their elevated speed in this scenario, whereas the Bentley’s W-12 flaps away uncouthly at 4000 rpm. The surge it creates when it drops the clutch is very productive, though, and the top half of the tach brings immense thrust. The run to 60 mph is over in 3.5 seconds, and Ceppos barely has time to fire off an “SOS” text to his wife before the Flying Spur hits 160 mph in 23.6 seconds.

Michael SimariCar and Driver

Thankfully, the giant brake rotors measuring 16.5 inches in the front are clamped by massive 10-piston front calipers and are shared with the Spur’s platform-mate, the Panamera, are easy to modulate and shed big speed swiftly. Despite weighing nearly 2000 pounds more than a Corvette, the Flying Spur takes just 10 more feet to stop from 70 mph.

It turns well, too, with pure and tactile steering, and the cornering limits are on the cusp of 1.0 g, which are extraordinary for anything this big. And if you were wondering, the twin-turbo 12-cylinder and rear-biased all-wheel-drive system allow the Spur to drift around corners.

Drifting a $279,770 Bentley will give the driver sweats and rear-seat passengers nausea. Fearing for the car—and the rear-seat occupant—and wanting to ensure the Bentley didn’t gain any marks or stomach contents, we slowed down. We’d say without a doubt: The driver’s seat is the place to be in a Bentley Flying Spur. —Dave VanderWerp



2020 Bentley Flying Spur


front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan


$279,770 (base price $219,425)


twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 48-valve W-12, aluminum block and heads, port and direct fuel injection

363 in3, 5952 cm3

626 hp @ 6000 rpm

664 lb-ft @ 1350 rpm


8-speed dual-clutch automatic


Suspension (F/R): control arms/multilink

Brakes (F/R): 16.5-in vented disc/15.0-in vented disc

Tires: Pirelli P Zero PZ4, F:275/35R-22 (104Y) B, R: 315/30R-22 (107Y) B


Wheelbase: 125.7 in

Length: 209.3 in

Width: 77.9 in

Height: 58.4 in

Passenger volume: 104 ft3

Trunk volume: 15 ft3

Curb weight: 5560 lb


60 mph: 3.5 sec

100 mph: 8.2 sec

130 mph: 13.8 sec

Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 4.5 sec

Top gear, 30–50 mph: 2.2 sec

Top gear, 50–70 mph: 2.9 sec

1/4 mile: 11.7 sec @ 121 mph

Top speed (mfr’s claim): 207 mph

Braking, 70–0 mph: 159 ft

Braking, 100–0 mph: 324 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.98 g
Standing-start accel times omit 1-ft rollout of 0.2 sec.


Observed: 11 mpg

75-mph highway driving: 24 mpg

Highway range: 570 miles


Combined/city/highway: 15/12/19 mpg

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