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Bentley's updated Bentayga range has been expanded to include a plug-in hybrid. But is it just a box-ticking exercise?
Configurable digital instrument display, 10.9in touchscreen multimedia interface, My Bentley smartphone app, head-up display, Android Auto and wireless Apple Carplay integration, electrically-adjustable and heated front seats, leather upholstery.
340hp 3.0 TFSI plus 126hp electric motor (449hp combined)
Bentley's Bentayga SUV underwent mid-life updates in 2020, and deliveries began of the Hybrid this summer - a plug-in alternative to W12 and V8 models. Bentley has also said the Flying Spur saloon will be next in line to be offered as a plug-in version.
By 2023, all Bentley models will be available as hybrids, with the first fully electric Bentley due to be launched in 2025. By 2026, Bentley will only offer plug-in models - hybrid and electric - and the company says in 2030 it will have an entirely electric line-up.
Is this significant? Well perhaps, for what is currently the company that sells more models with 12-cylinder internal combustion engines than any other.
Of course, these models are not necessarily targeting fleets. But they are keen to have an offering for business leaders whose status befits the brand, but can choose a model with a reduced environmental impact.
Although Bentley has a reputation for producing bespoke models, there is nothing unique about the drivetrain, which is essentially carried over from the pre-facelift model. It's a Volkswagen Group-sourced 340hp 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine, turbocharged and assisted by a 126hp electric motor powered by a 17.3kWh (13.3kWh usable) battery.
Engine and motor combined produce 449hp, with the engine powering the front wheels and the electric motor sending drive to the rear axle. It is possible to use an all-electric mode, but Bentley has ensured the battery never depletes below 20% of capacity.
This means there is a disappointing 25 miles of EV range available, and with CO2 emissions from 79g/km, the BIK tax band for 2021/22 is a disappointing 19%. Not that anyone choosing to drive a Bentley should feel disadvantaged by around £1,000 in BIK tax a month.
Although its most obvious rival is Range Rover's SV Autobiography plug-in hybrid, that model (88g/km and 31 miles of EV range) is in its twilight years, and we imagine the replacement in 2022 will be significantly more competitive.
But looking at the upmarket PHEV SUVs sitting below the Bentayga Hybrid in price, such as the Mercedes-Benz GLE 350de and BMW X5 xDrive45e, offering 64 and 58 miles of EV range respectively, it does create the impression that the Bentayga's environmental concessions are more a 'me too' exercise than a genuinely ambitious game changer. Bentley told us that the majority of Bentayga Hybrid customers are completing most journeys or commutes within the 25 miles of charged range.
The Bentayga offers the function of holding charge in the battery, should EV mode need to be deployed later in the journey. Like other plug-in hybrid models in the Volkswagen Group stable, the Bentayga's navigation system can also analyse a programmed route and use EV mode at the most appropriate times.
The interior of the Bentayga is one of the main reasons it would be chosen, with finely crafted materials and a precise feel to buttons and switches. Upholstery and colour combinations are varied and interiors are one of the things Bentley can claim to do better than any other car manufacturer, with decades of expertise and skills in these crafts at the Crewe factory.
The dashboard touchscreen is also a generation later than in the pre-facelift model we tried last year, and is much better for it in size, clarity and intuitiveness.
On the road, the Bentayga Hybrid is serene and refinement is exceptional. Switching between electric power and the engine is imperceptible, and even on the large wheels available (our test car was fitted with 22in rims) there was little harshness to the ride, and noise insulation is excellent. It can be fast - 0-62mph is possible in 5.2 seconds - and the 700Nm of torque available at low revs makes it feel like a modern Bentley, despite only having six cylinders. It's a pity the electric part of the equation fails to deliver on paper and in the wallet.