Review: The 2022 Bentley Flying Spur Offers 360 Degrees of Blockbuster Opulence
Big Brit's charm offensive covets drivers, coddles passengers, and wins hearts and minds
The battle between the front and rear seats has never been more acutely felt than in the exclusive world of ultra-high-end luxury automobiles, with the question of whether one would prefer to drive or be driven long defining the traditional split between two of the U.K.’s most storied badges: Bentley and Rolls-Royce. Today, owners of the latter are far more likely to bring a chauffeur with them to the dealership, while the builders of the former still recall a sporting heritage inextricably linked to models like the classic Blowers wheeled by James Bond in Ian Fleming’s original spy novels.
It’s safe to say that the current price split between Rolls and the bearers of the Flying B prevents their respective four-door offerings from being cross-shopped all that often, but the slice of the super-luxe sedan space occupied by the flagship Bentley Flying Spur has become much more crowded. With players like Mercedes-Maybach, Porsche and Maserati all hovering around the $200,000 mark with a set of sedans that run the gamut between sporty and refined, the 2022 edition of the Flying Spur is tasked with facing down the new money crowd with old world charm and grace.
Let’s be clear, Bentley as a brand sits well above even the Silver Star when it comes to staking out exclusivity in the minds of those in the market to drop a few hundred thousand dollars on a daily driver. Narrowing price gap or not, the Flying Spur occupies a different stretch of mental real estate than something more staid like the Maybach-trim S-Class, or ripsnorting like a Panamera Turbo S, neither of which even register when parked alongside the big Brit.
This has to do with more than just tradition. Bentley has never let up on its quest to marry prestige, comfort and an engaging driving experience. Rather than coast on its well-deserved reputation, it has turned to the deep pockets of its Teutonic overlords at the Volkswagen Group to keep its cupboard well stocked with exactly the level of gear and design required to maintain first position.
That the Flying Spur should be at all interesting to drive is surprising given its seemingly ponderous dimensions. This is a four-door car that measures nearly eight inches longer than Bentley’s own Bentayga SUV, and the massive luxury liner’s curb weight checks in at well over 5,000 lbs. It’s a tale of the tape that would seem to indicate a hyper-insulated comportment more likely to complain through a corner than salivate at the prospect of changing direction.
Out on the road, however, the Flying Spur’s proportional metrics are belied by its remarkably composed chassis and the obscene amount of thrust on offer from its twin-turbocharged V8 engine. The middle child in a drivetrain lineup that begins with a hybrid V6 and ends with a monstrous 12-cylinder, this 4.0-liter V8 produces 542 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque which, thanks to the traction-adding talents of standard all-wheel drive (and launch control), propels the rig to 60 mph in a mere 3.5 seconds.
That’s just as quick as the 626 horsepower range-topping W12, which requires nearly a full quarter mile of exertion before it can wedge any light between its back bumper and the V8’s prominent grille. It’s also enough output to hustle the gargantuan Flying Spur to a 198 mph top speed, a phenomenal number that no doubt requires Autobahnian asphalt acreage to achieve.
The Bentley’s prodigious muscle is available any time, anywhere, thanks to the unsung efforts of its eight-speed automatic transmission. Despite its dual-clutch design, it’s remarkably capable when it comes to balancing the requirements of Miami-smooth cruising with sudden demands from the riding crop. Pop the sunroof and you’ll best hear the exhortations of the Sport driving mode’s hoarser exhaust tune, blipping the beats-per-minute to a rave-friendly rate as the Flying Spur bends local space and time to pass slowpokes.
The turbocharged V8’s grace and charm are matched by an air suspension setup that is not quite as athletic as what one would find behind the wheel of the equally portly Porsche Panamera (with which it shares some of its platform DNA), but instead better balanced at delivering bursts of road-holding without breaking a sweat on either the driver’s brow or the stability control system’s circuit board. This is a car that prizes its ability to protect driver and passengers from any intrusion from the outside environment, yet it still welcomes the occasional foray into aggressive steering inputs at less-than-law-abiding speeds. Its commitment to civility is enhanced by an optional four-wheel steering system that both slices the mammoth machine’s turning circle while smoothing out highway lane changes.
Any Way You Like It
Regardless of whether one chooses to ride or drive in the 2022 Bentley Flying Spur, there will be no disappointment with either decision. All are treated to a cabin that has been hand-assembled by a team of no less than 200 craftspeople who take every single detail of its presentation as seriously as the company’s original team did over one hundred years ago. Dozens of hours go into simply assembling the seats and stitching the leatherwork throughout the interior alone, to say nothing of positioning and polishing the car’s gorgeous wooden dashboard and door panels. Almost every aspect of the Flying Spur’s passenger compartment, too, can be customized to the nth degree with nary a complaint at order time.
Opulence is augmented by the presence of multi-program massage seats at all four corners of the Flying Spur, with rear seat riders enjoying absurd amounts of room to stretch out and relax thanks to a wheelbase that pushes past what you’d find in a Cadillac Escalade. Each throne in my tester was further upfitted with the Mulliner Driving Specification option’s recursive diamond stitching, a process that requires a mind-boggling 712 stitches per geometric leather inlay. Wrapped around all occupants is a cocoon of high-strength metals and multi-paned glass that reduces the hustle and bustle of the outside world to a nearly forgotten whisper.
With front and rear in equal balance, pilots and passengers enjoy an unusual equilibrium within the Bentley’s environs. Those seated in the first two positions will get a few more gadgets to play with, such as the vehicle’s rotating center stack that swaps from gorgeous wood veneer to a trio of inset analog gauges to a full LCD infotainment screen at the touch of a button, and the car’s available mood lighting and retractable (also illuminated) hood ornament. There’s also a recommended Naim audio system, which hammers your body with low end thanks to seat-installed thumpers that translate the bass drop into a spinal tap should you choose to dial up the audio drama.
The 2022 Bentley Flying Spur is a rare example of a modern vehicle that effortlessly expresses the core values of both the company behind it and the customers who keep lining up to make one their own. With its oversized road presence and instant recognition even from those for whom automotive branding is typically a tabula rasa, driving the Flying Spur is an event for everyone within visual range. The same remains true when guiding the agile leviathan along a stretch of enticingly twisted blacktop far from admiring eyes, or even when simply enjoying a relaxed commute from the car’s rear quarters.
In Hollywood-speak, Bentley’s big sedan is what’s known as a “four-quadrant” winner, a model that justifies its big budget (swollen even further by the options sheet) by appealing to every important member of its intended audience. Doing everything it’s asked to do as well as it does is a rarity in the automotive world, but at the Crewe factories where the Flying Spur is assembled, it’s simply another day in the series of 24-hour increments that together add up to a century-plus of building blockbusters.
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