MONTE CARLO, Monaco — The all-new Bentley Flying Spur solves one of the principal dilemmas I faced in the principality of Monaco. Despite the tiny tax haven’s prime location on the Mediterranean, and its reputation as a desirable seasonal seaside resort, the prim government there purportedly outlaws the practice of wandering around town topless, or bottomless. However, chauffeur-driven and ensconced in the right rear throne of the flying-B brand’s second-best four-door sedan, with the power-operated privacy screens covering the gun-slit back windows, the seat coolers set to chill, and the front passenger seat pushed forward for maximum reclinage, I was able to abide my favorite Bentley motto: shades up, pants down. (Remind me never to drive with Berk on a press launch. -Ed)
This is just one of the many seemingly unforeseen problems that this Bentley's latest and most-wonderful Flying Spur remedies in Monte Carlo (and, probably, elsewhere.) Other examples? Do you need to demonstrate to everyone that you are extremely rich, but prefer to do so in a way that does not involve revving your matte cloud-cover Lamborghini Aventador for the clots of cruise-ship-engorged, selfie-stick tourists bunging up Casino Square? Do you prefer to experience the golden seaside sunlight through the filter of a pair of sunroofs rather than through the searing defenselessness granted by the retracted roof of Bentley's Continental GT? When pulling away from toll stops, do you enjoy utilizing launch control, putting 626 hp and 664 lb-ft to the ground and freaking out surrounding BMW douchery with consistent 3.7-second blasts from 0-60?
Again, the Flying Spur being a sedan, all of this can be accomplished from the back seat, where newly expanded legroom, newly ubiquitous knurling, and newly introduced quilted leather — part of the optional $15,000 Mulliner spec — can cosset your every body part. Well, maybe not your feet, but the carpets are quite good for going shoeless. (Geez, he took his shoes off, too? -Ed). Of course, if you’d rather drive than be driven in the third-generation Spur, you can also accomplish all of this from the front seat too.
It is hard to say which is preferable, but I typically lean toward taking the wheel. And this position has many merits. The Flying Spur may be a half-foot longer than a standard Escalade with a wheelbase that outstretches the Cadillac by nearly 10 inches, but thanks to an all-new four-wheel-steering system, premiered by Bentley on the Spur, and a variable front/rear torque split and torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system borrowed from the Continental GT, this car can actually dance.
This, I discovered, navigating the narrow sweepers and hairpins and squiggly bends that climb up to the corniches cresting the principality. I traversed similar terrain in a new Continental GT last year, and found its ability to power in and out of corners to be quite robust, but that was a sports coupe weighing about 250 fewer pounds. The Spur operates in a slightly different way. You have to be a little more deliberate about where you point and plant it, so the rear end doesn’t end up rotating into the next time zone, and you have to get on the brakes a bit more heading in to ensure that the whole mass doesn’t steamroller into or off of a cliff. But the steering is remarkably secure, and, in Sport mode, you can rely quite a bit on the all-wheel drive and all-wheel steering to just, kind of, sort it out. The optional Pirelli 275/35/22s on the front wheels and 315/30/22s on the back certainly help with sticking the landing.
There were no close calls, but don’t go too crazy, obviously, or you’ll get to test out some of the myriad and hidden advanced safety systems. Like we did when a lane-splitting moped shot up behind us during a traffic jam on the Autoroute. The onboard sensors believed we were due for a sudden rear impact, and pre-tensioned the seatbelts, causing everyone in the car to emit audible gasps (Sure it wasn't that whole pants thing? -Ed).
Less shocking, but more impressive is the Bentley Rotating Display, a $6,500 option that revolves the 12.3-inch infotainment screen, a trio of analog gauges, and a blank-but-expensive wood veneer trim bit. It's like one of those old Tri-Vision billboards, and should be standard if only because it’s so delightful. It's also worth mentioning the $8,800 Naim stereo, which brought tears to my eyes when played at just half-volume. Not sure if it was Aretha’s rendition of “Amazing Grace” or some physiological effect on the human eye due to a combination of Alpine elevation and 2,200 watts of audiophillic wavelength. One thing better not to mention is the nearly $8,000 rear seat entertainment system, which consists solely of a pair of iPads magnetically attached to the front seatbacks. Doesn’t everyone who buys a Bentley, and wants an iPad, already have one? And, if they do, wouldn’t they rather use their own?
Maybe this is too abstract or existential a question for someone shelling out $214,600 for a base Flying Spur and most certainly vastly more when the inevitable options are piled on. Also, the iPad thingy does double as a good place to hang your blazer, even though there is also a nice metal coat hook on the inside of the B-pillar. Maybe it’s about redundancy? After all, the Flying Spur is very solution-oriented, and I suppose you can never have too many solutions.