Happy 100th birthday, Bentley. Light some candles and make a wish. But also pull out the crystal ball and gaze into the future at what the next 100 years might bring.
Right now I’m driving a big part of Bentley’s future. A new version of the best-selling Bentayga SUV. The first Bentley to come with a plug.
This is the 2020 Bentayga Hybrid, the first rung on Bentley’s ladder toward electrification. Come 2023, we’ll see the first all-electric Bentley. By 2025, every Bentley will be available as a hybrid.
If this new Bentayga Hybrid is anything to go by, they’re off to a fine start. Here’s a honking, super-luxe sport-ute that can average 50 gasoline-equivalent miles per gallon, and can whirr along in stealthy zero-emission electric-only mode for up to 16 miles.
And while most buyers won’t worry too much about MSRPs and window stickers, this new Hybrid has the distinction of being the least expensive, most attainable Bentley in the entire lineup.
While the $156,900 starting price hardly qualifies as a doorbuster, it’s $8,100 less pricey than the Bentayga V8, and a whopping $72,100 less than the flagship W12.
That said, most Bentley owners will likely still crave the best-of-the-best, which means eight or 12 cylinders under the hood. As a result, Bentley reckons the Hybrid will only likely account for 15 per cent of total Bentayga sales when it lands on U.S. soil early next year.
Which is puzzling, considering just how good this new gas miser drives. And how easy it is to live with.
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Power comes from a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 developed from the same unit that motivates hybrid versions of Audi’s Q7 and Porsche’s Cayenne. It cranks out 335-horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque.
Nothing special here until you pair it with a 126-hp 94 kW electric motor that amps up total power to 443 horseys and a stump-lifting 516 lb-ft.
Hard on the throttle — yes, very un-Bentley-like, I know — and the 5,789-pound Bentayga Hybrid will combine electric and gas to punch the all-wheel-drive sport ute to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds. While that’s no match for the Bentayga V-8’s 4.4 seconds, most eco-conscious buyers won’t notice the difference.
Where the Hybrid really comes into its own is around town. Stay light on the “gas” and it will whirr around silently like some over-sized Tesla. While the EPA quotes an official range figure of 16 miles, Bentley reckons most drivers should see at least 22 miles before the juice runs out.
See the gap in the traffic and need to move fast, and the V-6 will fire up imperceptibly to deliver full power. That said, you can hit the EV Drive button on the dash and it will stay in electric-only mode, all the way to 84mph.
As for charging, the battery pack can be topped up from a Level 2 240-volt outlet in 2.5 hours, or 7.5 hours from a standard wall plug.
The rest of the Bentayga Hybrid is pure Bentley, with acres of glorious diamond-quilted leather, mirror-finished timber, stunning chrome knobs and buttons, plus a Breitling clock on the dash that I’d love to have on my wrist.
And like both the Bentayga V-8 and 12-cylinder models, it drives like a dream, with a magic carpet-like ride, responsive, beautifully weighted steering, and an eight-speed automatic that shifts with the smoothness of hot fudge flowing from a jar.
I know, the thought of a V-6 Bentley might be a shock to the purist. But this is the future; a no-compromise Bentley SUV that dramatically improves fuel efficiency, can run with zero emissions and is still fun to drive.
If it could lose a little weight, it would be even better.
But Happy 100th birthday, Bentley; you’ve given yourself a terrific birthday treat.
Test drive the 2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid when it arrives early next year at Dimmitt Bentley Tampa Bay in Pinellas Park.