Bentley Bentayga Hybrid review
|Car type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions|
|Plug-in hybrid||24 miles||81mpg||79g/km|
If it wasn't clear how far and wide electrification will spread across the motoring industry, the emergence of a plug-in hybrid Bentley surely shows there are no boundaries. This new Bentayga Hybrid has effectively replaced the diesel model that was pulled from sale in 2018, giving the SUV eco credentials and potential low running costs that aren’t usually a priority for buyers with six-figure sums to spend on a car.
Still, a focus on reducing CO2 output and the rise of low-emissions zones has forced Bentley to act. The firm doesn’t believe a battery-electric vehicle is the right solution for the time being, and as such it won’t make one until 2025. That said, it plans to electrify every model in its line-up by 2023, and the Bentayga is the first to undergo that process.
Featuring a 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine producing 335bhp and an electric motor generating 126bhp, total system power amounts to 443bhp. Combined torque comes in at 700Nm, meaning the two-and-a-half tonne Bentayga Hybrid will do 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds on its way to a top speed of 158mph.
Meanwhile, a 17.3kWh battery delivers zero-emissions range of around 24 miles. A full charge can be obtained from a domestic three-pin plug socket in 7.5 hours, a figure which falls to 2.5 hours with a dedicated wallbox charger.
Fuel economy and CO2 emissions aren't quite as impressive as those of less illustrious plug-in hybrids: the Bentayga can theoretically manage 81mpg and puts out 79g/km of CO2 – which is over the 75g/km threshold needed for exemption from the London Congestion Charge.
At least first-year road tax is guaranteed to be £120 or less (rising to £455 for years two to six, before dropping again to £135 annually thereafter), with fuel efficiency greatly superior to that achieved by the 6.0-litre W12 version.
As is the case with any plug-in hybrid, getting close to the official fuel economy figure requires regular charging to maximize the distance covered on electric power alone. On our test route, we managed to eke out around 40mpg having started with a three-quarters full battery, although we'd expect this figure to drop significantly on a longer motorway run.
There are seven driving modes to choose from: Sport, Bentley, Comfort and Custom will be familiar to existing Bentley owners, while EV Drive, Hybrid and Hold are new additions.
EV Drive mode sees the Bentley hybrid running on electric power only until the battery has depleted, while Hybrid mode lets the car decide for itself: set a destination in the sat nav, and the Bentayga will automatically calculate the most efficient mix of engine and electric motor use.
Finally, Hold mode conserves battery power until the driver decides to switch modes manually; a useful feature if you know you'll need it later on.
The Bentayga Hybrid uses the technology to great effect, wafting along serenely in exactly the way you’d anticipate from a luxurious SUV. The 24-mile electric range isn’t disappointing given the size of the battery, but if it’s enough to navigate the school run or a trip to the shops, the savings will add up over time.
Only when you stamp on the accelerator pedal does the engine come to life. Unfortunately, the coarseness of the V6 during harsh acceleration is one of the car’s biggest shortcomings, with the engine needing to be revved aggressively when getting up to motorway speeds. It's much happier at cruise, when it becomes quiet and settled again.
The winter tyres fitted to our test car no doubt had an effect on the ride and handling of the Bentayga Hybrid, however performance simply isn't as effortless as you'd expect on faster roads. It's still livelier than a Range Rover, and it hides its 2.6-tonne kerbweight incredibly well, but there's no getting away from the fact that it's the slowest Bentayga in the line-up.
That said, Bentley makes some of the finest car interiors in the world, and this is as true in the Bentayga as it is in any other of their models. Inside, there’s a mass of premium wood, metal and leather materials lining the interior, with impeccable attention to detail throughout. You could argue that the infotainment system and the buttons on the centre console are beginning to look a little dated, although this is a minor criticism.
The underlying appeal of the Bentayga remains, however, and at £133,100 it’s a useful six grand cheaper than the 4.0-litre V8 pure-petrol version. With the temptation of lower running costs, it might just be enough to tempt buyers towards the Hybrid.