Bentley Bentayga Hybrid
Is our Bentley Bentayga underpowered?
With its two forms of drive on offer, the Bentayga Hybrid has two distinct personalities – cheap, slow and silent (EV) and grumbly, underpowered and expensive (petrol ICE).
As long as you’ve plugged it in and juiced up the batteries for two or so hours (the onboard DC charger can only charge at a maximum of 7kW) it’ll automatically set off in EV mode making use of the 134bhp e-motor. That may not sound like a lot (because it’s really not) but it’s powerful enough to shunt the car up to 84mph eventually. If you’re not going at those speeds but just crawling around town (which many Bentaygas do) it’s plenty for a range of 25–30 miles on electric, which is great if you spend the majority of your driving time within 30 miles of your house.
See, there are two major virtues to electrified drivetrains when compared with their combustion counterparts. One, effortless performance. Two, quietness. You may have realised that in order to make a splash and get people’s eyeballs on EVs manufacturers have really been leaning into (we’re talking Michael Jackson in Smooth Criminal levels of lean) the performance side. And 0–62mph in sub-two seconds is impressive. But also rather sickening. And one-dimensional.
To me, where electric power really make sense is in the luxo market. It's no surprise that the Bentayga very much falls into this category with its quilted leather, knurled rotary knobs and jet-style rear seating. Effortless torque and silence gifted by batteries provide an environment of satisfaction and comfort – two key principles to a sumptuous experience. But that’s not particularly sexy. Or good for YouTube views. It's something you have to experience yourself.
And I have been. This makes for serene motoring as once you’ve got in and allowed the invisible butler to soft close the doors behind you, you’re cocooned in a double-glazed bubble of wood and rich smelling cow hide and flutter off in silence. The problem comes roughly 25–30 miles later when you run out of electricity or require more than 134bhp. Which happens as soon as you exit an urban environment.
It is then that the worryingly unrefined V6 engine fires into life and does its best to take up the slack. Unfortunately for the Bentayga’s big facelift, it didn’t get the new 410bhp twin-turbo ‘hot vee’ 2.9-litre V6 the new Flying Spur Hybrid has. Instead, it’s got the older single turbo 3.0 V6 (shared with Porsche and Audi) with 95bhp less. This power output adds to being a fair bit less than the 542bhp V8 and a world away from the even more potent 626bhp W12 you expect in a big Bentley. Worse still, the hybrid is around 200kg heavier thanks to all that hybrid tech and batteries that sit below the boot.
The gruffness of the engine actually puts you off driving the Bentayga quickly as there is a notable coarseness and un-Bentley lack of refinement at higher revs. Plus, at 2.6 tonnes it gets a little wayward on its air springs, not helped with a slightly odd steering rack and brakes that don’t blend the transition from hybrid regen to physical pad-meets-disc interaction very well.
There are three driving modes on offer; Sport, Bentley and Comfort. In anything but Sport (where the engine is on constantly) the transmission hiccups into action as a brain somewhere takes a while to compute what drivetrain to use before firing you down the road. So I don’t bother with any of that, preferring to drive the Bentayga in Comfort while stuck in urban traffic under the power of electricity while deafening myself with the unbelievable Naim audio system. Which is the first time I’ve said that. I guess it’s good news for Bentley’s electrified future though.