Bentley Bentayga Hybrid successfully swaps out cylinders for a battery pack
Bentley reveals the new Bentayga Hybrid, its ‘true-luxury SUV’ plug-in hybrid
Bentley believes it is first to build a ‘true-luxury SUV’ plug-in hybrid with its new Bentayga Hybrid. The only real rivals in this upper echelon of monolithic 4x4s are the Rolls-Royce Cullinan (currently entirely unelectrified), the Aston Martin DBX (a plug-in version is on the horizon), and maybe Maybach, which will be launching the EQS full-electric SUV in the next couple of years. Another obvious rival – and first to the hybrid stage – is Range Rover, which has just revealed its fifth generation model; the 2022 Range Rover offers engine options from diesel all the way through to plug-in hybrid, and promises a full EV in 2024.
In this company, Bentley’s persistence with hybrid tech is starting to seem a little old-fashioned. The first all-electric Bentley isn’t due until 2025 at the earliest, by which point we can expect the big W12 and V8 engines that have defined the brand for generations to be both terminally unfashionable and legislatively prohibited.
As part of the VW Group, Bentley has access to some of the world’s best automotive engineering, but in practice, it tends to lag just slightly behind sister companies like Audi and Porsche. In luxury terms, this doesn’t matter much, because so much of what goes into making a Bentley is richness of materials, details, and craftsmanship. The other ingredient is lashings of power.
On the market since 2015 (and given a major overhaul and successful facelift in 2019), the Bentayga is getting a little bit long in the tooth. The hybrid model can’t even be described as the most advanced model in Bentley’s range – that honour probably goes to the latest version of the Flying Spur, which is due in Europe soon.
Both cars weigh practically the same, both have a hybrid drive system and a V6, but the Bentayga gets only 31 miles of pure electric range. Figures haven’t been released yet for the Flying Spur, but it should be more in line with the Porsche Panamera Hybrid, which gets a (very slightly) more respectable 35 miles of electric only travel. Neither is especially impressive.
Ultimately, the chief benefactor of the Bentayga Hybrid is Bentley itself, thanks to the reduction in overall fleet CO2 emissions the car delivers to help the company pass stringent regulations. We also assume that no one buys a Bentayga Hybrid to reduce their monthly outgoings; the battery pack is essentially billed as a performance booster that’ll bump a V6 up to V8 status without any smoggy side effects.
The upside is a vast improvement in range. Driven with care, you can eke over 500 miles out of a Bentayga Hybrid, making it more of ‘grand tourer’ than most GTs. There’s even a special ‘Efficiency Accelerator Pedal’ that provides feedback to your right foot, encouraging a lighter touch to stop the V6 kicking in unnecessarily.
The Bentayga Hybrid sits at the bottom of Bentley’s performance league table, although that’s still quite far above everyone else’s. Unless you’re very familiar with the V8 or W12 models, you won’t really miss the difference. There’s a slight lack of sound and drama in comparison to traditional models, but that is all offset by the absence of any guilt associated with deploying the accelerator.
This is something the most ardent EV and hybrid drivers are probably familiar with; bursts of speed that be conjured up without shattering eardrums or eliciting side-eyed glances. The Bentayga is richly refined and a very pleasant machine to drive, as well as being surprisingly easy to live with once you’ve mastered its dimensions.
The combination of ICE and EV gives the big Bentayga less of a clinical feel than other large electric SUVs, like the Audi e-tron and the Mercedes EQC. Part of the wonder of silent-running luxury cars is the engineering integrity required to dampen down the ardour of a complex lump of machinery that transforms fuel into motion through a meticulously choreographed process.
Bentley is unbelievably good at this, as it should be, but out of the acknowledged experts in disguising the existence of a traditional engine, so far only Mercedes has taken the plunge and introduced an EV at the upper echelon of its range, the EQS.
Otherwise, it’s very much Bentley business as usual behind the wheel. Fixtures, fittings, and trimmings are top class. If you want to go above and beyond the already exceptional base-level trim, Bentley’s specialist Mulliner division will provide you with limitless options. The dark Viridian green car shown here was built as a one-off for The Macallan Estate in Speyside, Scotland, part of the ongoing partnership between the two brands.
So is the Bentayga Hybrid the first true green Bentley? That term is still a trifle oxymoronic, given its palatial scale, colossal power, and the unfettered opulence this car still represents. It is certainly a step in the right direction. §