Bentley completes 100 years of automotive existence and marks the year with the launch of its most luxurious Flying Spur yet – By Anand Mohan
Sometimes, I wonder what life would be like back then in the early 1900s, when cars were equal parts commute and drama. When it came to the Rolls Royce and Bentleys, drama and craftsmanship took centerstage, though. The commute was all about transferring the luxury of the mansion to your car and arriving in style. Bentley was also a brand synonymous with racing and that’s what makes me drawn to the brand.
The story goes like this – W.O. Bentley loved racing and constantly thought about improving cars mechanically. He realized that by adding a little copper to aluminum, the pistons could be more reliable and powerful. Aluminum till then was thought to be a weak metal. When World War 1 broke out, he used his invention in fighter aircrafts and for the British Royal Naval Air service. Once the war was over, Bentley realized that he could use his invention to revolutionize the automotive industry, and Bentley Motors was born on 10 July, 1919.
The century hasn’t been smooth at all times for Bentley. It has been through several takeovers, first by Rolls Royce, followed by Vickers and finally to its present owners, the Volkswagen group. Under the VW group, Bentley has seen an excellent turnaround, in which funds were infused to improve its manufacturing capabilities in Crewe, and it was allowed to maintain its British-‘ness’ while forming product development synergies with the group. The Flying Spur is Bentley’s luxury barge under the VW group and the car you see in these pictures is the latest iteration. Three generations have taught Bentley a lot to come up with such a complete package that you’d want to pack your quilted leather bags and rush to the boot of this Bentley.
The problem with Volkswagen’s ownership in the past for the Flying Spur was that it shared VW’s flagship – the Phaeton’s platform and that made the Spur’s proportions a little awkward. At first glance, the FP felt like it’s missing that flair a car of this class should have. The group and the development team at Bentley has rectified it with this new ground up car and this time, thankfully, there’s a brand-new Panamera chassis available. Called MSB, the Panamera chassis is also shared with the Continental GT, where you get the nice long front end that is capable of housing massive longitudinally mounted engines like this 6-litre W12 engine. With the front axle pushed forward, the FP doesn’t have that ugly long front overhang anymore and beyond the firewall, the centre section comes from a Panamera Executive. The rear is all Bentley to give it the space and comfort that you shouldn’t be able to associate with any group car.
The classic British luxury car proportions given to this car by Bentley’s design chief Stefan Sielaff are indeed impressive. The Continental GT’s familiar styling, a stretched limousine with four doors, the FP hasn’t grown much in size – a mere 0.6 inches to be exact, however with the axles pushed outward, there’s more space on the inside. From the rear, the C-pillar dropping neatly into the boot of the Bentley gives it a graceful stance despite all the bulk. Bentley has even shaved off 38 kilos of kerb weight with the aluminum body and a new multi-metal structure.
When it’s time to flex some muscles, there’s the 6-litre W12 to fall back on. While its tuned to deliver creamy smooth torquefilled performance, there’s a sporty side to this behemoth. With 626 bhp on tap and a colossal 900Nm of twist, the big B can hustle up to 100kmph in 3.8 seconds. All this is possible courtesy the all-wheel drive and a quick shifting 8-speed dual clutch transmission. It will top out at 333kmph, which is a great headliner. However, good luck finding a road to send 2.4 tonnes of British luxury at that speed. Since it can kill bugs at such speeds, Bentley has equipped the Flying Spur with some of the biggest front brakes in the business at a 16.5 inch diameter. As for corner carving, it’s not what one would expect of a Bentley 4-door sedan, however, this one will charm you there too. For the first time in any Bentley, there’s rear wheel steering too that tightens turn-ins and gives it further stability at high speeds. A 48V anti-roll system ensures body roll is curtailed and that means you will be going faster around corners than you think this car could go. What’s more interesting is that the AWD system is rear biased with just 38 percent of the torque sent to the front wheels, and when in Sport Mode, it is restricted to just 17 percent. The Spur will have all the characteristics of an RWD sedan with the safety net of an AWD car.
But what’s a Bentley without talking about its interiors, right? Now, picture choosing between 15 color options for just the leather trim inside the cabin, and a palette of combinations such that you won’t find two customized Bentleys that look exactly the same. Then, there are eight different wood veneers, 3D diamond quilting effect in leather or wood on the door trims, massage seats, mood lighting, state-of-the-art entertainment systems like the top-spec 2200 Watt Naim sound system specifically designed for Bentley, and so much more that it’s a story to be written all for itself.
Bentley’s Flying Spur comes just in time for the brand’s Mille Miglia run with two Bentley Blowers. In 1930, the original Bentley Boys wanted to participate in the race with Bentley Blowers, however, they pulled out for lack of preparedness. It’s a wish that Bentley has decided to fulfill now with two original Bentley Blowers from 1930 followed by the Bentayga luxury SUV. This FP should be watching the event unfold from the sidelines as it ushers, hopefully, another 100 years of automotive brilliance.