2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid first drive review: One posh plug-in
For a lot of people, buying a hybrid or EV is as much about saving fuel as it is about making a statement. Coincidentally, that desire to flaunt is also what gets many well-heeled buyers behind the wheel of a Bentley .
So it's a good thing, then, that Bentley will soon offer electrified versions of all its vehicles, starting with the 2020 Bentayga Hybrid you see here. The Bentayga is already Bentley's most popular model, and the least-expensive way to get a car with a Flying B on its nose. In fact, the Hybrid makes the world of Bentley even more accessible. At a still-lofty $156,900, or $8,100 less than a Bentayga V8, it's the company's lowest-priced offering.
But that doesn't mean the Hybrid skimps on luxury; open the door and you're greeted to the same cabin as every other Bentayga. The SUV's interior can be as monochromatic or wildly vibrant as you wish, with myriad leathers, metals and veneers to choose from. There's a real sense of occasion to all Bentley interiors, and this least-expensive Bentayga is no different. Every last stitch of the diamond-quilted leather looks as exquisite here as it does in a $400,000 Mulsanne . Everything from the turn signal stalks to the air vent plungers have a satisfying feel to their action, and the cabin is as comfortable as it is quiet.
My only beef with the Bentayga's interior is on the tech front. While the 2020 Continental GT gets a lovely, Bentley-skinned version of Porsche's Communication Management multimedia system on a 12.3-inch touchscreen, the Bentayga uses a glorified version of Volkswagen's older infotainment interface, on a smaller, lower-resolution, 8-inch display. The system is somewhat easy to use -- mostly because it doesn't offer a ton of functionality -- and Apple CarPlay is included, though Android users are once again left out in the cold. Thankfully, Bentley's smartphone app has a number of hybrid-specific services, including remote charging, cabin preconditioning and a charging station locator.
The Bentayga doesn't get the Continental's fully digital gauge cluster, either, instead relying on a fixed tachometer and speedometer, with a low-res readout between them. The gauges themselves look fine, with fancy Bentley fonts, and in the Hybrid, there's even an analog gauge for the battery's state of charge. Still, it's kind of laughable that you can get better behind-the-wheel tech in a sub-$30,000 Volkswagen Jetta .
Because the electric drivetrain's battery pack is housed below the existing cargo floor, the Hybrid doesn't lose any luggage space compared to other Bentayga models (17.1 cubic feet with the rear seats up). However, you can't spec the Hybrid with the Bentayga's optional third row of seats, which is probably fine, since they're basically useless.
Outside, you'll only be able to spot a Bentayga Hybrid thanks to its discreet badges on the doors and liftgate, and the driver's side charging port door. I personally find this SUV to be a pretty homely thing regardless of powertrain, but buyers can rest assured knowing the Bentayga's full roster of color and wheel options are available on the Hybrid, with endless possibilities to be found in Bentley's custom Mulliner collection.
The Bentayga Hybrid uses a 17.3-kilowatt-hour battery pack, which can be recharged from a Level 2 (240-volt) outlet in 2.5 hours, or 7.5 hours from a standard wall plug. Completely topped off, it gives the Bentayga Hybrid just 16 miles of electric driving range, and offers supplemental torque for acceleration.
Under the hood, you'll find a turbocharged, 3.0-liter V6 engine paired with a 94-kilowatt electric motor. The engine is a version of the new V6 used in the Audi A6 , A7 and A8, making 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. Add in the oomph from the electric motor, and total system output is 443 horsepower and 516 pound-feet. Those are substantial numbers, make no mistake, but still 99 horsepower and 52 pound-feet shy of what you get in the Bentayga V8. And because the Hybrid has some extra 525 pounds to lug around -- this is a 5,789-pound SUV -- it's quite a bit slower. Bentley estimates the Hybrid will accelerate to 60 miles per hour in 5.2 seconds, or 0.8 seconds slower than the Bentayga V8.
Of course, if you want to make the most of the Bentayga Hybrid's electric range, 0-60 runs are out of the question. Driving around Palo Alto, California in the Hybrid's EV mode, it's easy to modulate the throttle to keep pace in traffic without sacrificing too many electrons. You can run the Bentayga in EV mode at speeds up to 84 mph, but don't expect to get anywhere near the full 16 miles of electric range while doing so.
In the default Hybrid drive mode, the Bentayga uses the electric motor and gas engine simultaneously, switching them on and off as needed. You don't really hear or feel the transition when the V6 wakes up -- it's a smooth action, and the Bentayga's hushed cabin keeps much of the engine's noise outside, where it belongs. Hybrid mode also allows you to coast on the highway -- take your foot off the gas and the Bentayga's engine will shut off, which is a great way to save fuel at faster speeds.
Speaking of saving, the Bentayga Hybrid has a Hold mode, which runs the engine and electric motor at the same time, but preserves the battery's state of charge. You could drive on the highway in Hold mode and switch to EV when you're slogging through traffic in the city. This is likely the best way to drive the Bentayga most efficiently.
Official fuel economy data isn't available just yet, but Bentley estimates the Bentayga Hybrid will return 50 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) combined. For reference, the similarly sized Volvo XC90 T8 -- which is lighter, but also less powerful -- is rated at 58 MPGe combined.
Slogging through traffic in Silicon Valley, the Hybrid is a silky-smooth operator. The suspension does a fine job of ironing out road imperfections, so the ride quality is always lovely, even on my tester's huge, 22-inch wheels. The steering is pretty devoid of feedback, but nicely weighted for both in-town driving and highway cruising. You'll barely feel a shift from the eight-speed automatic transmission, and braking power is ample and easy to modulate.
Get the SUV out on country roads, and you'll certainly feel the added heft -- not that the Bentayga is a featherweight to begin with. The steering doesn't always accurately translate the vehicle's weight to the driver, though Bentley's optional 48-volt antiroll tech keeps the big SUV nice and flat while cornering. The plug-in Bentayga isn't as fun to drive as the V8- or W12-powered models; this Bentley is at its best while cruising. If you want an electrified luxury SUV that's truly rewarding to drive, buy a Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid.
But in typical Bentley Bentayga driving conditions -- traversing tree-lined roads near Greenwich, Connecticut; trying to find parking at The Grove -- the Hybrid offers a plush, cosetting experience. Bentley expects the V8 model will continue to account for the lion's share of Bentayga sales, but if you don't need so much muscle with your hustle, the less-expensive plug-in offers a satisfying experience, and gives you access to those up-front hybrid parking spaces, too.
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