In this year’s Best of the Best 2020 awards, we recognise the brands that have pushed boundaries in design and innovation, and those that have made significant contributions to alleviate the pandemic. This year’s best sedan award goes to the Bentley Flying Spur
Quick, capable luxury sedans are not as rare as you might think: Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have offered fleet four-doors since ‘chauffeur’ became a job description. The real challenge in this arena is offering a sense of glamour. Elevated performance and whispery solation are quantifiable, but creating presence and a sense of occasion requires an alchemy of intangibles.
Bentley’s new Flying Spur (price upon request) excels on all fronts. A new, larger body expands its footprint and cabin volume, while a four-wheel steering system seems to shrink that bulk by enhancing low-speed agility. The multimedia system also finally joins the 21st century (the late, not-so-great interface it replaces seemed Pleistocene in comparison). The 635hp 12-cylinder never wants for thrust or smoothness, and the car’s sophisticated air suspension is supple and controlled.
Beyond its empirical abilities are the toniest of trappings, from three-dimensional leather quilting to Bentley’s revolving display, which alternates between a digital touchscreen, analogue gauges and a wood veneer that blends into its surroundings. This Flying Spur leapfrogs into next-level luxury, nudging closer to its painstakingly hand-built sibling, the Mulsanne. No wonder, since the range-topping Mulsanne was recently discontinued, leaving a spot at the top for the heir apparent.
We quiz Bentley’s newly installed regional director Bernd Pichler about the new Flying Spur and how customers around the region have reacted to the carmaker’s latest (and greatest) four-door
Bernd Pichler’s appointment at the newly created post of regional director Asia-Pacific for Bentley Motors probably couldn’t have come at a worse time. The ongoing coronavirus has put a large damper on the industry and the British carmaker has had to shed nearly a quarter of its workforce in the UK.
However, the affable German seems to be taking it all in his stride, and revealed that the Asia-Pacific region under his care has seen an expansion this year, having recently brought on a new head of aftersales and marketing.
He remains upbeat about the brand’s prospects in the region, and having a redesigned Bentayga, a new-generation Flying Spur saloon, along with the stalwart Continental GT and GTC models in the offerings, Pichler is, in the modern idiom, good to go.
Where does the Flying Spur sit now that the Mulsanne has been discontinued?
The Flying Spur is now stepping up to become our flagship four-door saloon and redefining the luxury limousine for the 21st century. In the last 100 years, there’s been no other Bentley that has the refinement, the design and the craftsmanship on the level of the Flying Spur. It’s just unbelievable from a technical point of view – the rotating central display, the comfort and the interior craftsmanship are the highest level you can get. I would say the Flying Spur is a very worthy successor. It encompasses everything we want, from sportiness to luxury.
What has the reaction around the region been to the new car?
We’ve had positive feedback so far from the media and customers. I think we’re in a very good position because we have about 50 per cent returning and new customers respectively, and that’s an ideal combination. The feedback we’re getting is mainly how versatile the car is. Depending on your mood, you can take it for a spin yourself with its absolutely exhilarating performance from its W12 engine and it will do 333km/hr on the motorway. At the same time, you can sit in the rear and be chauffeured if you want to. This versatility is unprecedented in any car in its segment. I’m very, very confident that this car is going to sell well.
It seems that versatility is a big new thing at Bentley, what with the Flying Spur and also the Bentayga. Is that Bentley’s new direction?
It goes to the core of the brand, who do we want to target and for whom we make these cars. In the wider industry, especially at the entry level, there’s a big move away from ownership. The other is comfort, and that’s where a brand like Bentley has a high chance of being one of the few survivors because many brands will lose their edge. In the very long term, Bentley will still be around because we know how to make comfortable interiors.
Moreover, we also know that the Volkswagen Group will always ensure that connectivity is there. You are connected, but at the same time, have supercar performance, dynamic handling and limousine ride comfort. As for the new kinds of customers, we see that with a Bentayga, it’s driven daily. In the past, a Bentley was a collector’s item, maybe taken out on weekends once a month, but that’s changing dramatically, especially with the Bentayga.
What is your model split looking like this year?
The Bentayga last year accounted for about half our sales, but this year it’s been reduced artificially due to the run-out of the previous model and the run-in of the new one. At the same time, we introduced the Flying Spur.
Effectively, we will have a 60 to 70 per cent sales mix with the (Continental) GT and GTC this year, which is not normal. Normally, I would see the Bentayga accounting for 50 or 55 per cent of the region’s sales, especially since we completely redesigned the exterior and interior of the car. The rest will be split fairly evenly between the Continental models and the Flying Spur.
Our full list of Best of the Best 2020 winners here