First drive: Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

First drive: Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

15th August 2019

The big Bentayga has gone hybrid. Jack Evans heads to San Francisco to find out what an electrified Bentley is like to drive

WHAT IS IT?

Though large, luxurious SUVs are proving ever-popular across manufacturers, they aren’t often seen as the most efficient of vehicles. It’s why many are turning to electrification, and Bentley is no different.

The Crewe-based car-maker has recently introduced the Bentayga Hybrid, electrifying its big, opulent four-wheel-drive machine. It’s designed for those who tend to spend a lot of time driving through towns and cities where more stringent emissions controls are making it harder for traditional SUVs to exist. We’ve headed to sunny California to find out what it’s like.

WHAT’S NEW?

Obviously the biggest change here is the powertrain, based around a turbocharged V6 engine (which we’ll look at in a little more detail further on). Elsewhere, it’s business as usual. High-quality materials meet a spacious cabin, while the looks remain in-your-face to say the least.

How to distinguish a hybrid against other Bentaygas? Look to the flanks for Hybrid-specific badges, as well as on the boot. Inside, it now gets specific readouts surrounding the electrified powertrain, displaying charge rates and battery levels. In fact, one of the best things about the Hybrid is that it looks, pretty much, like any other Bentayga.

WHAT’S UNDER THE BONNET?

Under the bonnet is where things get really interesting. The Bentayga features a V6 petrol engine with a single turbocharger, and this is linked to a 94kW electric motor. Combined, the powertrain pushes out an impressive 443bhp and 700Nm of torque. It means that the Bentayga will go from 0-60mph in a respectable 5.2 seconds, before pushing on to a 158mph top speed.

Being a plug-in, the Bentayga Hybrid can be charged via a wallbox, high-speed charger or conventional three-pin to keep the batteries topped up. In fact, Bentley says that the batteries can be charged from zero to100 per cent in three hours via a fast charger.

Running on electric power alone, the Bentayga Hybrid can travel 16 miles while a combined fuel economy of 50mpg and CO2 emissions of 124g/km show that this SUV is greener than most.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

Set off and the Bentayga Hybrid moves away with the serene yet slightly eerie quietness that you get with all hybrids. It makes around-town driving, where Bentley expects most Hybrid drivers to be travelling, extremely relaxing, while a lack of any noise helps to keep the cabin near-silent.

The ride is a touch firm (Bentley took the decision to remove its Dynamic Ride active anti-roll bar instead of reduce boot size after the installation of the batteries) but we’d likely attribute this more to the 22-inch alloys our car was riding on.

Press on and the V6 quietly chirps into life. There’s performance there, for sure; the Bentayga is brisk enough to dispatch almost all traffic, and the eight-speed gearbox serenely sifts through the cogs. There’s the option to take control via the steering wheel-mounted paddles, but we found it best left to its own devices.

HOW DOES IT LOOK?

There’s little to distinguish the Hybrid Bentayga against the rest of the line-up, with just a few badges helping to differentiate it from its conventionally powered stablemates. One thing is for sure, there are few cars with quite as much presence as this SUV.

Is it pretty? That’s for you to decide. But in our eyes the Bentayga isn’t the most delicately-styled, though cars finished in Windsor Blue look quite classy. The huge wheels are part and parcel of the modern SUV too, and they look the part on the Bentayga.

WHAT’S IT LIKE INSIDE?

The Bentayga’s cabin is a sumptuously made place to be, with plenty of high-end materials used throughout. The metal air vents dominate the forward area of the interior, and the whole front end feels spacious and airy. There are storage areas aplenty (Bentley, thankfully, hasn’t forgotten that practicality is key when it comes to the SUV) with big door pockets and a large central cubby helping to keep the place tidy.

Bentley has managed to keep the boot space the same, despite the inclusion of the batteries. It means there’s still 431 litres to play with, extendable by folding down the back seats.

WHAT’S THE SPEC LIKE?

The main infotainment offering is centred around an eight-inch colour touchscreen, which is the key access point for features such as satellite navigation and media functions. It’s not a bad system to operate, but against other screens in the segment it lags behind a touch.

We had driven the all-new Continental GT prior to the Bentayga, and the widescreen setup in that car looks sensational; we just wish that you could get it in the Bentayga.

As mentioned, there is also a variety of screen displays unique to the Hybrid. They show information such as charge levels, as well as the amount of energy being regenerated by the brakes.

The standard-fit audio system in the Bentayga comprises a six-speaker system; however, the upgraded Naim for Bentley set-up in our test car features 18 speakers and a huge 1800W of power – it’s properly impressive.

VERDICT

The Bentayga Hybrid is a good move for Bentley. It shows that the firm is acknowledging the need for electrification in its cars, while giving those who want to keep around-town emissions and fuel consumption down an option. The all-electric range could be better, but we’re certain that this tech will continue to be refined. It also takes the place as the cheapest car in Bentley’s range, and as an entry into the line-up, it’s no bad thing whatsoever.

Facts at a glance

Model: Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

Price as tested: £130,500

Engine: 3.0-litre V6 linked to electric motor

Power (bhp): 443

Torque (Nm): 700

Max speed (mph): 158

0-60mph: 5.2 seconds

MPG: 50

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