Giving in to peer pressure, the famed British manufacturer, Bentley, jumped headlong into the hybridization trend last year with its first-ever electrified vehicle - bravely, they picked an SUV to start with. The Bentayga Hybrid is the result of the carmaker's commitment to creating hybrid versions of all Bentleys by 2023, and the first Bentayga Hybrid model launched in 2019 did the most to meet expectations as the world's first luxury hybrid SUV. Understandably, many have been skeptical - and, with its divisive looks causing more than a few raised eyebrows - the 2019 Bentayga Hybrid managed to prove its worth, and then some. Popular rivals like the Range Rover Hybrid and even the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid have a much bigger following - and cost a great deal less; but with the flying-B pedigree behind it, an opulent cabin, and a potent powertrain, the odd-looking Bentayga is worth a look. If you have $160k lying around, that is.
Released as an all-new model in 2019, the Bentayga Hybrid sublimely cruises into 2020 with no changes to note. As a plug-in, the Bentayga Hybrid is touted as the first true ultra-luxury SUV in the world with an electrified motor, and the novelty of that fact is both delightful, and worrisome. However, Bentley effectively manages to keep the luxurious offerings from its standard Bentayga, while harnessing the benefits of hybrid technology.
See trim levels and configurations:
3.0L Turbo V6 Plug-in Hybrid
The Bentayga is a strange creature - some, undoubtedly swayed by the intoxicating effects of the flying B on the hood, say it's a good-looking SUV. Those with an eye for consistency and uniformity in thematic design, say it's odd. While it's generally inoffensive, the front of the car is a confusing mix of modern styling and old-world throwbacks, with the combination of chrome mesh grille and pronounced air intakes, plus rounded LED headlamps. The side profile is muscular, with the assertive haunches expected on an SUV, even hinting at a dalliance with an Audi designer somewhere along the line. The rear is rather bland, with more of that retro-styled, less-is-more vibe, which does little to give away the ultra-luxury character of the car. Twin-quad tailpipes set it apart from the regular model, while LED rear lighting and panoramic sunroof round out the looks. 21-inch five twin-spoke alloy wheels carry the entire package over the tarmac.
The plug-in Bentayga shares most of its dimensions with the standard gas-fed version, with an overall length of 202.4 inches, 78.7 inches of width with mirrors folded, and a wheelbase of 117.9 inches. The Hybrid version stands slightly shorter, however, with 68 inches of height as standard, which increases to 70 inches with the various height settings on the air suspension system. The all-important electric components are responsible for a weight gain of around 400 pounds over the standard variant, with curb weights ranging from 5,774 lbs to 5,789 lbs depending on seat configuration.
What engine would be deemed worthy of a Bentley designed to maximize efficiency and minimize emissions? A 3.0-liter Audi-sourced V6 TFSi motor combined with a 94 kW electric motor makes the cut, and produces a combined 443 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque for all four wheels. An eight-speed automatic transmission helps propel this ponderous bulk of luxury to 60 in 5.2 seconds, which - although slower than the four-second dash in the non-hybrid variant - is pretty impressive on its own. By contrast, the Range Rover Hybrid needs more than six seconds to get there, while the Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid gets a sub-five second time. The hybridized motor proves to be effective in unleashing instant responses to throttle inputs, and when cruising down the strip, there's smooth, consistent power delivery that never leaves you wanting. The benefit of hybrid vehicles includes an all-electric range that allows you to travel gas-fee; for the Bentayga Hybrid, this means around 24 miles of near-silence at speeds just a little over 80 mph.
Bentley's history of building race-worthy vehicles translates into the manufacturer knowing exactly what a driver wants to feel when behind the wheel. In this case, accurate and pleasantly light steering is key, making it easy to place the Bentayga on the road and allowing for effortless maneuvering around town, too. Hitting corners at speed isn't a problem either, as the Bentayga Hybrid is eager to show off excellent grip thanks to torque vectoring technology. The air suspension serves well to smooth out abrasions on the road, and, with continuous damping control and four height settings, drivers can tackle even slightly rougher terrain without worry. Whether using the EV mode or allowing the eager V6 to kick in, transitions are hushed and seamless, which makes for a relaxed, tranquil drive. Bentley has employed some clever tricks to help keep your driving style efficiency-minded, one of which is a warning reverberation through the gas pedal when you approach the point of switching from electricity to gas - an interesting idea to keep to a safe driving style, but one that can rattle an unsuspecting driver.
Talking gas mileage in hybridized vehicles seems like a complicated affair, but the basics for the Bentayga plug-in are pretty straightforward: 18/20/19 mpg on city/highway/combined cycles, and 50 MPGe on electric power only. Additionally, the Bentayga Hybrid can go for around 24 miles - according to Bentley - although some independent tests have shown longer ranges are achievable. The Hybrid has a smaller gas tank than the standard Bentayga and should be able to go for around 376 miles with its 19.8-gallon tank filled to the brim, when relying on the V6 to carry it, with the extra few miles added by electricity to total around 400. Filling up with protons is a simple affair, with the battery pack taking around 2.5 hours to charge on a 240-volt outlet, with 7.5 hours needed on a normal household socket.
In keeping with the luxury standards expected of a Bentley, interior themes are numerous, with large spans of surfaced leather to color as you'd like - whatever you choose, you get some of the most comfortable and plush perches in the business. The standard configuration offers seating for five, although the more opulent Four Seat Comfort Specification can be optioned to add a rear center console and two seats instead of the default bench. Head and legroom is ample throughout the cabin, with the driver and front passenger afforded 40.3 inches above their heads and 40.9 inches to stretch out their legs. Rear seat passengers see 38 inches of headroom and the same figure for legroom - 40.9 inches, which is better than most compact SUVs on the market. With such a sense of occasion, the cabin is a tranquil place to be; in this vein, ergonomics are great, too, and the driver is positioned optimally to have a good view of the road ahead.
Cargo space is an important feature in the crossover and SUV segment - even for the very posh. So, the 15 cubic feet of trunk space (which increases to 16.9 cu-ft with the rear bench installed) is not particularly impressive. The Porsche Cayenne Hybrid, by contrast, offers 27.1 cu-ft, which expands to just over 60 cubes with the seats down. Even the Range Rover Hybrid offers upwards of 25 cubic feet to start with. But, while these figures would make the every-day SUV buyer turn up their nose, if you're looking at a Bentley, chances are you won't be buying it to ferry goods around, anyway.
With only one model to specify, the Bentley team have crammed as much as possible into the available trim to ensure buyers get what they came for: luxury, comfort, and class. In line with this idea, the Bentayga Hybrid gets a standard panoramic roof with a tilt-and-slide front panel, all-LED lighting, and the all-important 'Flying B' emblem. Inside the Bentayga Hybrid is plush leather on almost surface, with various veneers covering the rest. The seats are heated and there is a standard automatic climate control system, which can be upgraded to four-zone additionally. Where we feel the team skimped, however, is in terms of safety. Front and rear parking sensors are really all you get as standard, together with a rearview camera, and one of our few gripes is that so many important safety features need to be optioned on. This includes necessary active driver assists like night vision, a head-up display, park assist, traffic sign recognition and a top view camera. Lane assist, adaptive cruise control, and traffic assist require a second package add-on, too, which is almost nonsensical for a vehicle in this price bracket.
The Bentayga Hybrid gets a standard audio system comprised of ten speakers and an eight-inch touch screen display. This system also has navigation and voice control with text-to-speech as standard, while CD, MP3, and SD card playback are all supported. This is the same default system from the non-hybrid variant and includes Apple CarPlay, but not Android Auto. It can be upgraded to the Bentley Signature Audio setup, which includes a 12-channel amplifier and two additional speakers. For the true audiophiles, a Naim for Bentley option is available too, which adds a 21-channel amp and a total of twenty speakers to your car. Bentley claims this upgrade is the most powerful audio system available in any SUV, and at $5,050, should at least gild your eardrums in gold. A rear entertainment system is also available, with two 10.2-inch tablets that will keep your passengers busy and connected, whether you are sipping champagne in the back, or strolling about the polo fields nearby.
Neither the 2020 nor the 2019 models have been rated by J.D. Power, but both model years are also recall-free thus far. In case something does go wrong, Bentley provides a basic warranty covering three years or unlimited miles, with powertrain coverage for the same period. The hybrid battery is covered by an eight-year/100,00-mile warranty, too.
Luxury vehicles with high prices and low sales volumes seldom get tested by the NHTSA and the IIHS, and thus the Bentayga Hybrid has no ratings to speak of. Still, at least it has all-LED lighting with adaptive beam assist in front, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, and stability control. A full consignment of airbags is standard as well. Two important upgrades can be optioned on to equip advanced driver aids, like park assistance, pedestrian warning, traffic sign recognition, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and a head-up display.
Testing the proverbial waters with the Bentayga Hybrid could be seen as a risky venture - SUVs aren't usually the easiest vehicles to get it right with, considering their general heft, handling, and thirsty engines, which drives efficiency figures down. Yet Bentley has managed to do quite well for its first attempt at hybridization - the Bentayga is as divine inside as is expected, and the electrically-assisted motor doesn't detract from the driving experience; sure, it's not as potent as it's gas-fed stablemate, but it still fares remarkably well. It's still an excellent drive, with great handling dynamics and a quiet, comfortable cabin - the levels of luxury in this SUV are fully worth the price you pay - but… if we're honest, we're unimpressed with the lack of standard safety features, and feel a little bitter about having to fork out thousands more for features that are standard on some rivals. We'd rather keep our money for a top-of-the-range SUV with all the bells and whistles, or - if we really needed to stroke our egos with a flying-B in our garage - we'd simply opt for a different model altogether.
A slight increase in price from the 2019 model year, a 2020 Bentley Bentayga will set you back $160,000 before any options and without a destination charge of $2,725. Everything about this one-model lineup is pricey, and with so few standard safety features - and a generally pricey options list - you can realistically budget around $200k for this car. You could easily get a top-spec Range Rover for half that and still be happy with the drive - yes, you'd have to sacrifice on the I'm-rich-and-I-know-it interior, but honestly, the Bentayga Hybrid just doesn't warrant that premium.
Assuming you're hell-bent on buying the Bentayga Hybrid, you only have one model to choose from, as the Hybrid variant doesn't have trim levels to compare. However, the available model is literally devoid of any valuable advanced safety tech and requires numerous add-ons to make it worthwhile. So, if you're going to do this, you will have to add on the Touring Specification package for lane assist, night vision, traffic assist, adaptive cruise control and a head-up display at $8,470, and a further $3,915 for the City Specification package to add park assistance, a top view camera, traffic sign recognition, and rear cross-traffic alert. Since we're hypothetically throwing our money around, we'd also add the superior Naim sound system for a further $5,050. A final kicker is the $11,855 four-seat configuration with the rear-center console, which would put our configurator at just under $190,000 already.
|Bentley Bentayga Hybrid||456 hp||TBC||$197,300|
|Land Rover Range Rover Hybrid||296 hp||TBC||$97,000|
|Rolls-Royce Cullinan||563 hp||12/20 mpg||$348,500|
One of the original SUV hybrids to enter the motoring world, the Range Rover Hybrid features a 2.0-liter Si4 gas engine paired to a 105 kW electric motor to produce a combined 398 hp and 472 lb-ft torque. This comes in lower than the 446 hp and 516 lb-ft of the Bentayga Hybrid but proves to be an equally excellent vehicle to drive - as an added bonus, the Range Rover PHEV's off-roading abilities are way beyond the wildest dreams of the Bentayga. The Range Rover's all-electric range of 29 miles is much more impressive than the 24 miles Bentley claims for their hybrid, with the Range Rover managing 23/32/25 mpg combined - substantially more fuel-efficient than the 18/20/19 mpg of the Bentley. While the quality and opulence of Bentley's cabin is far superior to that of the Range Rover, there's almost double the amount of cargo space behind the second row of seats in the Range Rover. What ultimately seals the deal, though, is that the Range Rover Hybrid comes stock fitted with tri-zone climate control, both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto interfaces, emergency braking, lane departure warning, and front and rear park assist - which you have to sell your soul for on the Bentley. While there's obviously a higher status linked to the flying B offering, we'll happily forego our bragging rights and opt for a top-spec Range Rover Hybrid, and still have change to spare.
It makes sense to speak of Bentley and Rolls-Royce in the same sentence - mergers and acquisitions aside. These two vehicles are much more evenly matched in terms of sheer lavishness and prestige. While the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is not available in a hybrid version (yet), at least Bentley are trying their hardest not to fill the atmosphere with climate-affecting emissions. Unlike the Bentayga, the Cullinan doesn't even bother to try, guzzling fuel at a guilt-inducing rate of 12/20/14 mpg. Still, the Rolls is something most cars could never be - perfectly ostentatious about its exorbitant levels of comfort and elegance. Surprisingly, it's capable on rougher terrain too, but only the really wealthy can afford the nonchalance of scratching a $325k vehicle off-road. So, while we'd love to play Daddy Warbucks and splurge on the Rolls, we're sensible folk. So we'll settle for the Bentley this time round.
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