For a brand like Bentley, a master in luxury, it's almost as if we need a new word to describe it. Luckily, actions speak louder.
"A lot of people might think luxury is just more stuff," says Peter Guest, Product Line Director at Bentley, whom we're meeting in Monte Carlo (where else?), to drive the new 2020 Bentley Flying Spur.
"But it isn't. Luxury is about what you've got, how you execute it, how intuitive, easy and delightful it is to use and how it's made."
Using this rule, one could de-tag many so-called L-word items due to lack of ease and emotion, too many bells and whistles, or glorified but middle-of-the-road craftmanship. Boars in mass-made Chanel lipstick, so to speak.
Class not mass
Despite a lack of love in the global marketplace, the three-box sedan remains a cornerstone of prestige for many brands – remember, SUVs may sell numbers, but important people sit in the back of luxo-barges.
Look at the recent facelifts of the Lexus LS, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Genesis G90 – cars equally made to drive and to be driven-in. However, ask the Brits from Crewe with a B on their bonnet and 100 years of experience, they'll argue that none nail both sides of the coin as sharply as the new Flying Spur. They might just be right.
"We know our customers," says Guest.
"We've built a picture of their desires over time." The Bentley customer, he says, wants technology, simplicity and beauty – which comes in spades on approach to the Flying Spur, particularly as the elegant new cut-glass 'Flying B' rises out of the nose (and twinkles like a Christmas light at night, thanks to light-sensing tech).
"There are some cars you get in now that are bewildering, where you need to read a manual just to start them or move your seat," says Guest.
"That might be clever, it might be technology, but it's not luxury."
The Flying Spur's controls are modest, but not old-fashioned.
The cockpit is beautifully presented; its analogue dials are surrounded by a stunning, diamond bezel (also seen in a different form on the car's headlights – cut like the most exquisite lead crystal decanter).
Even the 12.3-inch digital touchscreen can be flipped away to reveal a wood veneer panel – not only a throwback to the original Flying Spur of 1952 but a direct interpretation of the increasing discussion around digital detoxes, resulting in distraction-free driving.
What money can buy
Here's the thing about driving in the French Riviera: there are long, languorous roads that hug the coastline from Monte Caro to Southern France, smugly passing the spoils of a tax-free life.
Roads where a hand-built, grand tourer with a genre-pushing lightweight aluminium composite chassis, a beastly 6.0-litre, twin-turbocharged W12 engine (the same as the Continental GT) and mind-blowing agility makes sense.
These allow you to move through the dual-clutch, eight-speed transmission around bends and flex the 0-100m/h 3.8-second dash and torque-y feel, while wishing you could hit it that 333km/h top speed. These roads are the cherry on top.
Lost in translation
However, should one go off-piste and say… uh, miss an exit on the motorway… then you are met with those European roads.
You know, the laneways lined with bunged-up and badly-parked Peugeot 208s, Renault Twizzys and the odd Audi A1 – cars almost half the size of the Flying Spur.
It's then, you start to appreciate the electronic all-wheel steering (a Bentley first), precision feel and pillowy suspension.
The in-built WIFI is also helpful when your Australian sim card fails and you have to let Bentley know you'll be late for lunch because you spent 45minutes manoeuvring your limo between a Renault 5 and a tractor.
Being driven in the Bentley is a different emotion – it's quiet, sublimely comfortable and provides more legroom than QANTAS' new A380 first-class suites.
The heated and cooled seats have massage functions and are controlled by a handheld device that slides out of the centre console, the rear can be optioned with a mini cooler and an enormous panoramic sunroof (especially great in these sunny parts of the world), actually, being a Bentley one can option whatever the heart desires.
Whittle the Flying Spur down to the sum of best parts, and, like the magnificent watches, fashion, architecture and yachts seen on our Monacoian jaunt, it's detail to craftmanship that, 100 years on, nails the art of future-leaning and old-world romance.
Take the hand-crafted 3D diamond-moulded leather interior option, for example: a futuristic take on quilted leather that I'm sure many fashion houses are jealous they didn't think of first, or the diamond knurling that appears throughout the car's details – elements Bentley's fiercest competitors haven't even thought of yet.
"That's what makes us different [from the masses]: authenticity. You could not do this in a mass production environment. It enables us to push the boundaries far further than any other premium product out there."
But If there's one thing that defines the Flying Spur, it's the difficulty of having to choose between being a driver or a passenger – and if that isn't a luxury, what is?
The writer flew to Monte Carlo with assistance from Bentley.
The Bentley Flying Spur will arrive in Australia from Q2 2020, from $469,000.