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Motoring – Mark Gallivan

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Model: 2021 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

Price: From £130,000/€152,000 approx

Power: 3.0-litre V6, 17.3 kWh Lithium-ion battery

Electric range: 40km/25miles

Performance: 0-100km in 5.2 seconds, 443bhp/700Nm, 158mph top speed

Fuel consumption: 83mpg combined (claimed) expect between 25 and 30mpg in petrol mode only,

CO2: 82g/km

Verdict: Bentley’s super-luxo SUV goes V6 Hybrid. Loses little of the Bentley magic in the process.

Hybrid hyper power

Up to now the only choice offered to the well-healed Bentley Bentayga buyer was a lusty V8, the S or a locomotive thrusting Speed with the W12 engine. Now there is a fourth wheel hitched to the Bentayga wagon. A Hybrid powered V6. It arrived none too soon. The internal combustion engine (ICE, or petrol and diesel to the rest of us) is facing its environmental swansong in less than nine years. Manufacturers are trickling electrified versions into the market to soften us up to the cold turkey reality of going pure electric. Work on a pure electrification transition at Crewe, the home of the company since 1946, is apace under the stewardship of Adrian Hallmark the company’s Chairman and CEO. So much of Bentley takes place here including R&D, engineering development, the full body on white to final car production and global operations. It supports three model lines – the Flying Spur, Continental and Bentayga.

The mission for the company with the logo of irregular flying wings – there are 10 on one side and 11 on the other is only to sell hybrid or fully electric (BEVs) cars by 2026. That’s a bold step for a maker better acquainted with petrol-guzzling luxury cars.

Hallmark has good reason to embrace the new green mile. Boris Johnson, the normally colourful British Prime Minister issued a grey-faced pronouncement in November 2020. New petrol or diesel car sales are banned in the UK from 2030. Other countries are following suit. Think about that for a minute. At the time of writing that’s 99 months away. To be clear, it’s not the car makers that need to ramp up, it’s the charging infrastructure. Tesla aside, in 2021 it is woefully inadequate throughout Europe. Ask any BEV owner travelling home at night and eking out the very last few kilometers of driving charge range while turning blue with stress in the process.

For now the Bentley Bentayga hybrid is the existential curio that both intrigued and concerned me when I tested it last month. It is one thing choosing a smaller V8 but shoehorning a V6 hybrid into a Bentley is an altogether different matter. It’s akin to watering down the Pimms at the summer garden party. Unquestionably an approach which is bad form. Research indicates forty percent of Bentley owners approve of BEVs. That is a market share up a smidge in the last few years. Though, as any politician worth their salt will tell you, having 40 percent of the people cheering is worthless when 60 percent are out there dying to boo.

Stepping up into the Bentayga Hybrid raised a few questions. Has Bentley, and it is best to be honest here, ruffled the luxury recipe? Has the V6 Hybrid drivetrain put some gossamer barrier between the subliminal alchemy that greets a Bentley driver each day. That small, hard to place, I-can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it-magic, that allows every Bentley on sale glide on down the road like a benevolent hand is constantly a few yards ahead dampening the uneven road surfaces, just so. Could the smaller V6 petrol engine do a, figuratively speaking, Nicky Minaj Insta-thingey turn in being a trifle coarse?

Before we disclose all that the claimed range bobs up for air. As this is a Hybrid that can reach 40km of around 25 miles of pure electric range. Let’s pay close attention to the word claimed. In reality you’ll be nudging 18-20 miles in winter weather, possibly even less. Nevertheless this is might not be the problem you first think it is. Bentayga owners often reside in towns or cities. That then leaves the range well suited to urban living. Research suggests up to 90 percent of drivers drive less than 30 miles a day. The possibility of running your Bentayga on electric power becomes a legitimate possibility. Once the electric power is depleted expect 28mpg to 30mpg which is respectable for a huge SUV with a gross vehicle weight of 3,250kg.

The question remains, is this single-turbo V6 hybrid with an 8-speed automatic with a 126bhp motor powered by a 13kWh battery located under the boot’s floorspace almost as wafty as a V8 or W12. No, it’s not. How could it be? But it’s mightily close. To replenish the battery, yes, you’ll have to grapple with leads and plugging the Bentayga into an electric outlet when you arrive home at night. Charging time is claimed to be two and a half hours or so from higher output chargers.

Like all BEVs starting in electric mode the Bentayga is supremely hushed without the typical droning from the batteries that. As every Bentayga is stuffed to the gills with sound deadening materials and it pays off well. Off the line, in electric only mode the Bentayga Hybrid is the most serene model within the SUV range. It’s not the fastest mind and misses the expected, and wholly unnecessary, stomach punching acceleration that a smaller BEVs (that’s you Tesla) can muster. This dilutes the thunderous heft you’ll expect from the V8 or Speed’s W12 motor if you’re an existing Bentayga owner.

If you’re new to the Bentayga you’ll be none the wiser. Oddly that cannonade of gusty noise is what imbues the Bentayga with real personality. The V6 hybrid is slower against the V8 version achieving a 0-100km in 5.2 and a top speed of 158mph. Contrast that with the V8’s 0-100km in 4.4 seconds and 180mph flat out. There is a hint of harsher feedback under gutsy acceleration. But it is a V6 after all.

For the purist this introduction of a V6 hybrid is a bit of shocker. Where the Bentayga claws back kudos is the usability and increased economy in petrol mode only. The prospect of driving in electric mode most of the time in virtual silence is too good to pass up. To dodge the brickbats of super luxury SUV criticism from the pavement then this Hybrid offering from Crewe becomes the thinking person’s Bentley SUV. It loses less than expected refinement and gains a lot in clever ownership. Should we concern ourselves as to how all this hybrid technology power works? We should not. Like electricity, we should be grateful it exists and surely that is good enough.

To think, I haven’t even discussed the glorious materials, craftsmanship, how Bentley manufacture each model or how special it feels to drive. That, right there, shows the true importance of this new addition to the SUV family. The new Hybrid is the most relevant Bentley Bentayga to date.