Bentley says the new 2020 Flying Spur is a car to drive as much as it is one to be driven in, thanks to what feels like a full set of smart home systems accessible from a dedicated tablet controller.
To find out if the luxury sedan really is a smart home on wheels, we hitched a ride from Nice airport on the south coast of France to the principality of Monaco.
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The first thing you notice when dropping into the back seats, apart from the soft leather and cushioned headrest, is the touch screen controller.
Located behind and between the two front seats, the tablet lets passengers control everything from music and cabin temperature, to lighting, window blinds, and even the position of the front passenger seat - which can be moved forward to make more room.
Rear seat passengers control the cabin from a detachable tabletBentley
The tablet can be removed from its holder with a tap of an eject icon. In the hand, it feels like a luxury smartphone but there are no clues as to what software it's actually running. The two larger seat-back tablets also fitted to this particular car clearly run Android, but the user interface of the smaller control unit appears to be bespoke. This is amplified by chrome detailing on the back to match the rest of the interior.
A home screen offers up icons for the car's media, lighting, climate, navigation system, seats and window blinds. There is also an icon to see the status of the car - including its speed, average speed and distance covered so far today - and one for controlling the car's redesigned 'Flying B'. That's the hood ornament, which can be raised or lowered depending on the passenger's preference, although its position on the end of the hood means it can't really be seen from the back seats.
More useful is how the tablet can be used to control music and volume, raise or lower blinds over the rear side windows and rear windshield, and open or close the car's sunroof.
Media, climate, lighting and more is controlled by the tabletGearBrain
Climate control extends far beyond merely the temperature. Each rear passenger can pick the right temperature for them, then set the strength and direction of the fan. There is also rear seat heating, if required.
Echoing current smart home trends, the Flying Spur has a broad range of interior lighting options to pick from. Rear passengers can adjust LED light strips which run along the doors, dashboard and center console - known as the 'accent' lighting - then pick a different color for the footwells, or 'ambient' lighting. Passengers (or indeed the driver) can pick from a huge range of colors for each set of lighting, or opt for a color palette like 'muted' to suit their mood.
After this the overall brightness, or brightness of the ambient or accent sections, can be adjusted from zero to 100 percent. Once you have set everything just so, the entire look can be saved to your collection of favorites. That way, you can quickly pick a lighting scene depending on your mood or time of day.
Once the lighting, temperature, music and window blinds have been set, the rear seat passenger of a Flying Spur can use buttons on the door to slide their seat forward or back, recline the backrest, and pick from a range of different massages. Unlike some other cars in this category, the massage system in the Bentley is rather powerful, instead of feeling like a gimmick. You can also move the front passenger seat forward (assuming there's no one in it) for extra legroom, if required.
Two sets of lighting can be adjusted to however you likeGearBrain
If you instead opt to sit up front - or even drive the Flying Spur yourself - you'll find an equally comfortable and adjustable seat, with heating, cooling and massage functions. As for driver technology, the Bentley has an all-digital instrument display behind the steering wheel, a head-up display projected onto the windshield, and a large central touchscreen on the dashboard.
Here, you can control the music and satellite navigation, while other systems are managed by a button-covered center console. Here, Bentley is sticking to tradition instead of overwhelming its buyers with the sort of touch screen-only affair seen in a Tesla or the Porsche Taycan.
What's particularly interesting is how Bentley sells an optional rotating dashboard system. Spinning like James Bond's license plates, the infotainment touch screen can be replaced by three analogue dials (compass, outside temperature and chronograph), or a black panel finished in the same materials of the rest of the dashboard.
The rear seats can be reclined, heated, and have a massage functionBentley
This blending of old and new is commonplace throughout the Flying Spur's interior. For example, while rear seat passengers control their air conditioning with a tablet, the driver and front passenger increases or reduces air flow by pulling or pushing a set of chrome stoppers, like those on a church organ.
Modernity is returned when connecting an iPhone opens Apple CarPlay on the main display, and your playlists can be pumped through an optional 21-channel Naim sound system with 2,200 watts of power.
Finally, an optional pair of Android tablets which connect to the back of the front seats, providing rear passengers with entertainment, can be detached and used away from the car.
The driver has Apple CarPlay, or the display can be rotated out of viewBentley
The 2020 Bentley Flying Spur, which starts at $216,400, mixes old and new to create a luxury limo which offers just the right amount of modern technology - including a set of controls to make any smart home jealous - without alienating its more traditionally-inclined customers.