by Roger Biermann
The rise of the luxury SUV has been well documented, and even better received over the past two decades. They have become the trendsetters in terms of luxury and practicality - but no one would have guessed that a brand such as Bentley, renowned for building some of the most elegant grand tourers in the history of the automobile, would one day bring us a luxury performance hybrid SUV. Well, it's here. Powered by a turbocharged V6 gas engine in combination with an electric motor, the 443 horsepower Bentayga Hybrid offers an exciting mix of modern-day hybrid technology combined with old-world luxury and enough performance to keep the average sports car on its toes. Going up against the likes of the popular Range Rover (in hybrid form), the Bentayga Hybrid might seem gimmicky to some, and its asking price of over $150,000 will put many off. But it is competent, and that flying B on the hood speaks for itself.
The 2019 Bentley Bentayga, first introduced in 2016, finally gets hybrid power for 2019, a first for the famed British luxury auto manufacturer, making Bentley's most popular model even more attractive to those who care about status and the environment at the same time. The Bentayga Hybrid shares most of its features with the rest of the Bentayge lineup, including its LED headlights, infotainment system and a panoramic sunroof.
The Bentayga employs a modern SUV design that resembles Audi's range of Q cars, but that famous front grille lets you know that you're dealing with royalty. Standard exterior features for 2019 include a set of 21-inch twin-spoke alloy wheels, a chrome radiator grille, full LED lighting with adaptive high beam assist, twin-quad exhaust tailpipes and a scattering of Bentley badges.
The midsize Bentayga measures 202.4 inches in length and is 87.6 inches wide when you include the side mirrors. Overall height comes in at 68 inches or 70 inches depending on suspension setup. The Bentayga rolls on a 117.9-inch wheelbase and weighs in with a curb weight of 5,774 lbs with four seats, and 5,789 when fitted with five seats.
The 2019 Bentayga Hybrid combines the effort of a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 gas engine producing 335 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, and an E-Drive electronic motor that produces 126 hp and 258 lb-ft for a combined 443 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. This gets the Bentayga Hybrid up to sixty in only 5.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 158 mph. Around town, the Bentayga feels quick thanks to the instant response from the electric motor, and out on the open road, the turbo V6 purrs with delight. The eight-speed auto transmission feeds a continuous surge of power to all four wheels.
Light but precise steering has become the de facto setting for most performance SUVs. What this means is that even inexperienced drivers can place the nose of the Bentayga with relative accuracy, but also enjoy almost effortless steering around town for added comfort. Around the corners, the Bentayga surprises with high levels of grip, which is assisted by torque-vectoring technology and a competent air suspension setup, but the sheer weight of this SUV means that the tires will eventually give way to understeer. Off road, more tech wizardry allows it to tackle beginner trails, and the air suspension, with its four height settings, provides good ground clearance, but the road-biased tires are a limiting factor.
Adding a hybrid system to the Bentayge has added a semblance of fuel economy to this ultra-luxurious performance SUV. EPA estimates for the midsized British SUV comes in at 18/20/19 mpg city/highway/combined with a 50 MPGe figure. On all-electric mode, the 2019 Bentayga Hybrid has a total range of 24.2 and a total combined range of an impressive 464 miles. On the other hand, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, with its gas-guzzling 6.75-liter twin-turbo V12, will only manage 12/20/14 mpg, and that's with a light foot. The 2019 Range Rover Hybrid offers a better all-electric range of 29 miles. The all-electric range on the Bentayga is more than enough for local shopping and school runs and satisfying eco-warriors out there who still want a posh SUV.
Bentley cars have traditionally offered great interior space; after all, passenger comfort is paramount in any car sporting the winged B logo, and the 2019 Bentayga follows suit with an impressive amount of interior space. The front headroom is measured at 40.3 inches, while front legroom comes in at 41.7 inches. In the back, passengers can expect to see 38 inches of headroom and a massive 40.9 inches of legroom. Bentley gives owners the option of a third-row seat, which is fine for small adults and children, but gets tight for the average adult.
Not only is the Bentayga a pleasure to drive around town, and ultra-luxurious, but it's practical too. Behind the second row of seats, the Bentayga Hybrid offers 15.2 cubic feet of space when in four-seat configuration. That space grows to 17.1 cubic feet in five-seater mode. With the rear bench folded flat, there's a total of 62.6 cubic feet of usable space on offer, enough for your horse polo equipment.
The Bentayga isn't your average mom-and-pop SUV, so it comes with some premium features, but with an asking price of over $150,000, we'd expect to see a few more standard-issue items and a smaller options list. Standard exterior features for 2019 include air suspension with continuous damping control, a bright chrome radiator grille with added chrome surround, full LED lighting with adaptive headlight tech as well as a panoramic sunroof. Inside, you get standard heated power leather seats, a universal garage door opener, keyless start, automatic climate control with an optional four-zone system on offer, as well as parking sensors front and rear. Driver touch-points, such as the single-tone three-spoke steering wheel covered in a fine leather hide and classic 'B' design foot pedals, reminds you that you're driving something special.
The infotainment system on the 2019 Bentayga is a mixed bag of old VW parts and no-name equipment that doesn't do the interior or the overall user experience any good. The eight-inch touch-screen infotainment display and cluster frame are filled with buttons that date the overall design and look. Navigation and Bluetooth, as well as digital satellite radio, CD player and SD card slot come as standard. Apple CarPlay is available, but Android Auto doesn't make the cut. Audio is channeled through an underwhelming 10-speaker system. Bluetooth connection times were below average, most likely due to the fact that the Bentayga makes use of an older system. It's a shame that Bentley didn't spend more time on the infotainment, which lets down an otherwise brilliant interior.
The 2019 Bentayga Hybrid hasn't been rated by J.D. Power, but the good news is that the NHTSA hasn't reported any recalls for 2019. Bentley covers their Hybrid SUV with a standard three-year/unlimited-mile warranty, which includes a three-year/unlimited warranty for corrosion and roadside assistance, while a three-year/50,000-mile warranty covers the drivetrain.
The Bentayga Hybrid hasn't been crash-tested by either the IIHS or NHTSA due to its low-volume sales figures and its six-figure asking price, but a good list of standard safety features and a shared DNA with the likes of the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne means the Bentayga should prove safe enough. Safety features include LED headlights with adaptive beam assist and a rearview camera. Advanced safety features such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, night vision assists, and a head-up display are also available.
There are faster SUVs, better handling SUVs, and better-equipped SUVs out there, but not a single one of them carries the flying B on the hood. The Bentayga Hybrid is an impressive first foray into the world of EV for legendary British automaker Bentley and combines the supreme luxury we've come to expect from the people who've given us such cars as the Continental and the other-worldly Mulsanne with everyday practicality, off-roading capability and enough cargo space for a medium-size family. The Hybrid version is still brand new, so we can't comment on its reliability, but once again, Bentleys shares DNA with the likes of VW and Audi, and suggests that no corners have been cut when it came to development and testing. For a 5,000 pound car, the Bentayga Hybrid handles well, has a comfortable ride, and accelerates with real zest. The car is let down by a somewhat limited standard features list and a dated infotainment system; minor issues that don't detract from what is otherwise a good car. The biggest issue for most will be the asking price of over $150k, which is still chump change when compared to the Rolls Royce Cullinan, but the Range Rover Hybrid offers a lot more value for money.
Bentley will charge you $157,000 to get in the driver's seat of the new Bentayga Hybrid, but everyone knows that no one buys a base model Bentley; optional extras could see the Bentayga going for closer to the $200k mark, which is still over $125,000 less than an entry-level Rolls-Royce Cullinan. At the other end of the spectrum lies the ever-popular and highly capable Range Rover. In hybrid form, the Range Rover starts at $95,950, and while it might not be as quick in a straight line, it offers an equally impressive overall package.
3.0-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Hybrid
The 2019 Bentayga Hybrid is the only Hybrid vehicle on offer in the Bentley range and is the British automaker's first attempt at electric propulsion. The 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 engine produces 335 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, and combined with an E-Drive electronic motor producing 126 hp and 258 lb-ft, the Bentayga Hybrid kicks out a total power figure of 443 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, allowing the big SUV to sprint to sixty in the low five-second range. The exterior features LED headlights with adaptive beam control, a panoramic sunroof, air suspension with four height settings as well as a chrome grille with the famous winged Bentley logo mounted proudly on the hood. Inside, you get a premium leather interior, climate control, navigation, as well as an eight-inch infotainment system which includes navigation, optional Apple CarPlay integration and a ten-speaker sound system.
Most thought that the British foray into the Luxury SUV market started and stopped with the Range Rover, but that was not to be; both Bentley and Rolls Royce now have their own ultra-exclusive SUV offers in the form of the Bentayga and Cullinan. The Cullinan has no hybrid version, in fact, it is as far removed from a hybrid vehicle as you can get thanks to a massive 6.75-liter twin-turbo V12 engine producing 563 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque. This results in a fuel consumption figure of 12/20/14 mpg. The full-size Cullinan offers more interior space, and it becomes clear why the Rolls Royce asks such a premium; the Cullinan manages to look and feel even more premium than the Bentayga, which is really saying something. The Rolls-Royce style "Magic Carpet Ride" sensation is present when you take to the road, and feels more comfortable when cruising, but the Bentayga is the better handling car. It's worth noting that the Cullinan is an adept off-roader, not that anyone would ever want to take it anywhere that's slightly dusty. Inside, there's more standard tech, and the overall design is cleaner and more sophisticated, but the asking price of $325,000 puts the Cullinan out of the race.
Internationally recognized as the original luxury SUV, Land Rover was one of the first luxury SUV builders to introduce a hybrid model, and for 2019 the Range Rover Hybrid offers an interesting alternative to the overpowered and uneconomic Luxury barges on offer by other manufacturers. Powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot and electric motor, the Range Rover Hybrid produces a combined 398 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque, enough for a zero to sixty sprint time of 6.2 seconds and a top speed of 137 mph. Interior and exterior dimensions are very similar to the Bentayga, but the Range Rover offers more cargo space. In terms of standard features, the Range Rover blows the Bentayga out of the water: it comes with a superior 10-inch Touch Pro Duo infotainment screen, advanced active safety features such as 360-degree parking assist, traffic sign recognition, and costs well over $50,000 less than the Bentley. We're not even going to mention the Range Rover's off-road advantage.