With the Bentley Bentayga Hybrid.
Bentley was once famously accused of building the world’s fastest trucks, by Ettore Bugatti of all people who, at times, was also a manufacturer of large and fast cars like the 6.4 metre, 12.7 litre Bugatti Royale. That seems rather unfair.
Bentleys may be large (the Bentayga SUV is over 5 metres long and 1.7 metres high), but that is where the resemblance ends. Ask any truck driver! Or almost, because Bentley does indeed produce the world’s fastest SUV – the Bentley Bentayga Speed which has a declared top speed of 306 km/hr. However, this is not that car. This is something far more impressive.
The Bentayga Hybrid is not really about going fast.
Of course, it is hardly slow, making the sprint to 100 km/hr in 5.5 seconds and topping out at 254 km/hr, which is faster than Maserati’s Levante Hybrid SUV, but the essence of this car is less about speed than it is about being smooth. You don’t buy this car because you need to go places as quickly as possible but because you have other more demanding travel requirements. In fact, the addition of a plug-in electric motor means the hybrid model brings a whole new dimension to Bentley ownership.
The car’s party trick becomes apparent right from the off, when it starts by default in full electric mode and you begin to glide forward without a single sound. It at once feels eery and at the same time perfectly suited to such a cossetting luxury vehicle. Whilst I couldn’t hear the ticking of the clock, as an old Rolls Royce advert once used to claim, it is certainly quiet enough to hear the sound of your own breathing. The muted growl of the 3.0 litre V6 turbo engine only breaks the silence when it cuts in automatically, and very smoothly, as you gather speed. Even with the motor up and running, you are still moving forward in a bubble of tranquillity when compared to most cars. It still feels as though you are in a standard petrol-engined Bentley.
The Hybrid may have 449 bhp but it doesn’t have the urgency of some sportier SUVs, which might have something to do with its extra weight: 230 kgs more than the V8 version of the Bentayga, thanks to that extra battery, and finally tipping the scales at a hefty 2,645 kgs.
The Bentayaga Hybrid corners relatively well for a car of this size, and it doesn’t feel quite as large as it looks when an average size human stands next to it, but you soon realise it is a very different beast from the sportier SUV models produced by other luxury manufacturer.
Perhaps ironically, the Bentayga Hybrid is at its best at low speeds. The ability to travel 40 kilometres on electric power alone means it is perfect for swooshing around town, which is probably where most SUVs spend the greater part of their life, and it also means you can feel less guilty about adding to the exhaust fumes at pavement level, because there aren’t any (it produces 82 g/km CO2 overall, and 0 g/km CO2 in full electric mode). The benefits of this model become even more apparent when you remember that you still have a petrol engine should you need it for that trip up to a ski resort or a day out in Portofino. Range anxiety is never a problem.
The interior is beautiful, such a lovely place to spend time that you won’t want to get out. You have to make a conscious effort to only glance briefly at the spectacular hi-tech displays whilst driving (including head-up) and they blend harmoniously with the sumptuous leather and aluminium
interior. The First Edition car that I was driving has secondary leather hide that is called Porpoise, although this refers to the dark grey colour rather than the source.
Bentley claims that they use animal hides hand-picked from animals that live high up in the mountains, which are “naturally free of the insect bites that could otherwise leave blemishes in the leather”. Modern car interiors are not renowned for being covered in insect bites but it highlights the attention to detail which is evident in the way the car is finished, with the care of a piece of jewellery rather than a simple object for transporting us from A to B.
The Bentayga Hybrid starts at the same price as the V8 model so it really is a choice between all-petrol performance and dual-power practicality. For many people, it will seem like a no-brainer.
This Hybrid Bentley may not quite live up to the reputation as the fastest truck in the world, but it could be one of the most appealing, to buyers of luxury SUVs.
With the combination of opulence and speed, electric and combustion power, it allows owners to enjoy the best of all worlds. As the British like to say, it allows them to have their cake and eat it.