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3 Jul, 2019 (All day) Adam Towler
The plug-in Bentley Bentaga Hybrid has finally arrived, but is it the pick of the luxury SUV’s range? We find out…
A hybrid Bentley SUV is a sure sign of the times we live in. Effectively a replacement for the now defunct Bentayga diesel that went out of production last year, the Bentayga Hybrid is a mountain of metal, wood and leather weighing over two-and-a-half tons, marketed, as much as anything, for its silent and effortless luxury rather than its eco credentials.
It’s the Crewe-based firm’s first step towards electrification: by 2023 it expects to have an electrified version of every car in its range, but won’t offer a full EV until 2025, because it doesn’t feel current battery technology can do its rather unique products justice.
The Bentayga Hybrid is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine with 335bhp and 450Nm of torque, with a 168-cell lithium ion battery mounted in the boot. This provides an additional 126bhp and 350Nm, giving combined outputs at their peak of 443bhp and 700Nm. That makes it one of the least powerful Bentleys for many a year – though it still manages 0-60mph in 5.2 seconds, and nearly 160mph flat out.
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Bentley says a full charge from a household socket takes 7.5 hours, but that can be reduced to 2.5 hours if using a heavy duty charger. In return, it claims an all-electric range of 16 miles; not massive, but enough for short urban trips, potentially within low emission zones. Given this is where many of Bentley’s high net worth customers may live and work, it makes sense to offer a Bentayga – however unsuitable it may be in a congested city – that can meet this ever more prevalent legislation.
There are three EV settings in addition to the usual Sport, Bentley, Comfort and Custom driving modes. EV mode unsurprisingly forces the Bentayga into all-electric operation.
In Hybrid mode it’s the vehicle’s electronic brain that decides the best use of the powertrain, while Hold conserves the battery. The latter is also automatically selected when in Sport mode, where power is drawn from both the combustion engine and the electric motor.
So what’s it like? The initial impression is of hushed luxury. The Bentayga glides forward, and as long as you don’t stamp on the throttle then the combined rev counter and electric usage meter shows the engine is dormant. OK, 16 miles doesn’t sound like a great deal, but it’s easy to imagine it satisfying wealthy parents on a school run or similar, without the need to ever wake the sleeping V6. Electrical usage and range can be shown on the central infotainment display, and the system interacts with the hybrid set-up if a destination is plumbed into the sat-nav, making decisions on how best to use the powertrain.
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So far, so good, but the Bentayga is less convincing away from this urban crawl. There’s nothing particularly wrong in the way it goes about its business, but the V6 has a strained note typical of this engine configuration – and to extract any real performance it needs to be revved out. It’s just not the effortless, torquey delivery you associate with a big luxury Bentley – ironic when an all-electric Bentayga would be exactly that.
Otherwise it’s business as usual. The Bentayga remains a divisive vehicle for its looks, its interior and in fact, the way it drives. On 22-inch wheels (thanks to Mulliner Driving Specification on our car) the ride quality was reasonable on the very smooth roads of our test route, but may be a little choppy in the UK. There are some wonderful materials and leathers used in the cabin, but the switchgear and ageing infotainment system date the interior – particularly when compared to the firm’s Continental GT.
Bentley hasn’t issued official fuel consumption and emissions figures for the Hybrid yet, but reckon the CO2 figure will be below 99g/km. While fuel economy is unlikely to be spectacular, it’ll be vastly better than a Bentayga with the company's 6.0-litre W12 in the nose.
3.5 The Bentley Bentayga Hybrid is a logical progression from the engineers at Crewe, and in its intended role of luxury urban transport it probably would meet the needs of most of its clientele. Whether it’s a Bentley you’d actually want, however, is much more in question, and it’s appeal has far more to do with the head than the heart.
- Model: Bentley Bentayga Hybrid
- Price: £130,500
- Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo petrol plus electric motor
- Power/torque: 443bhp/700Nm
- 0-60mph: 5.2 seconds
- Top speed: 158mph
- Economy/CO2: TBC/Sub-99g/km (est)
- On sale: Now