Pity the poor luxury car owner. Regulators around the world are cracking down on emissions and fuel efficiency and some cities – even a few countries – are set to ban internal combustion engines entirely. What’s someone who wants a product as lavish as the Bentley Bentayga to do?
They might want to consider the new Bentley Bentayga Hybrid making its debut at this year’s Geneva Motor Show. It joins the original, 600-horsepower Bentayga W12 model, the newer Bentayga diesel, and a gasoline V-8 just getting ready to go on sale. And, as strict new mandates go into effect in markets as diverse as Berlin and Beijing, it could eventually give those other options a serious run for the money.
“The Bentayga Hybrid is our first step on the road to electrification, combining traditional Bentley values with the very latest technologies,” said the British marque’s new chairman and CEO Adrian Hallmark. “It gives customers the best of both worlds – engaging, effortless performance on the open road and silent, emission-free driving in the city, which will become increasingly important with the ever-changing regulations around the world.”
As with the more plebian Chrysler Pacific Hybrid, the name of the new Bentley SUV is a bit misleading. It’s actually a plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle, or PHEV. And it pairs a 3.0-liter V-6 with an electric motor. Specific technical details, including horsepower, torque and fuel economy weren’t released at a Monday night preview, but company officials have hinted that power will be “commensurate” with the Bentayga V-8 – think something in the 400 hp range, with a quarter of that coming from the electric side. Power is sent to all four wheels.
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As for mileage, it’s certain to be well in excess of the current SUV’s numbers, which dip as low as 12 miles in city driving. In battery mode, Bentley is promising 31 miles per charge, though that’s based on the European cycle and will likely come in somewhere below 25 miles by the time the EPA is done running its own tests. Charging time, using a standard 240-volt Level 2 charger, is expected to be in the 2.5-hour range.
And, fittingly enough, you won’t have to mount the sort of mass-market charger on the wall of your garage that mere mortals with a Chevrolet Volt or Toyota Prius Prime rely on. The wall-mounted system Bentley is offering buyers was designed by none other than Philippe Starck and is made of environmentally friendly “pressed eco-linen with bio-sourced thermosetting resin.” There are also two bespoke Bentley bags in the trunk with cables for those who might need to find a conventional plug while traveling. On 120 volts, however, charging will take 7.5 hours.
A motorist can choose from a variety of different modes, including Sport and Comfort – as well as three specifically developed for the Bentley plug-in. That includes pure EV Drive, Hybrid and Hold. The latter maintains the battery charge until it’s needed. That could prove important in years to come, as a number of communities, including London and Paris, are looking to ban vehicles that aren’t operating in zero-emissions mode from their city centers.
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The interior of the Bentayga Hybrid goes largely unchanged but for the replacement of the engine coolant gauge with a battery charge monitor, and a tachometer modified to also display EV operations.
Bentley is billing the Bentayga Hybrid as the “world’s first,” a claim a variety of manufacturers might dispute, though it’s still a rarified market. But there’s a flood of electrified offerings – including conventional hybrids, plug-ins and pure battery-electric models – coming. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single ultra-luxury marque that doesn’t have various battery-based offerings by early in the coming decade. Failing to meet those ever-tougher regulations could leave a brand locked out of key markets, including China.
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Looking forward, Bentley isn’t laying out an electrified roadmap, but parent Volkswagen Group has made it clear it’s plugging in every one of its brands. For now, CEO Hallmark is only dropping a few hints, suggesting that, “Following Bentley tradition, the Bentayga Hybrid pioneers a new automotive sector – the luxury hybrid – and sets Bentley on the path towards a sustainable electrified future.”