|Car type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions|
|Plug-in hybrid||25 miles (est)||TBC||TBC|
It’s not often we mention the name ‘Bentley’ on DrivingElectric. While the brand has stated its intention to become a pure-electric manufacturer by 2030, it has so far only dipped its toe in the water with a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) iteration of its Bentayga SUV.
But things are gathering pace, and within two years Bentley has promised to reveal electrified versions of every model in its range. Next in line is the Flying Spur – a luxury limousine with a 14.1kWh battery and, its engineers claim, “at least” 25 miles of electric-only range.
That range – along with its fuel-economy and CO2 emissions figures – is yet to be confirmed, as the Flying Spur Hybrid hasn’t yet been officially homologated for sale in the UK. That’ll happen in the coming weeks, with the first customer cars due in spring 2022.
Before that, we were treated to an extensive test drive of the hybrid four-door – with the opportunity to experience the Flying Spur from both the front and back seats. This, Bentley says, is a car that can be appreciated whether you prefer to drive, or be driven.
Those familiar with the Flying Spur – either the ‘entry-level’ V8 or the flagship W12 – might be somewhat disturbed by the complete lack of sound on start-up. The hybrid doesn’t fire into life like its siblings; the word ‘ready’ on the dashboard is the only sign that it’s good to go.
Pulling away in complete silence suits the Flying Spur perfectly, however. A car like this should feel luxurious and special no matter the time or occasion – and nothing defines opulence like the Hybrid’s ability to waft from A to B in complete quiet.
This is absolutely the case, too – certainly in an urban environment. In theory, the Bentley prioritises electric power all the way up to motorway speeds, but if you input a destination into the sat nav, it’ll intelligently work out when to use the battery and when to lean on the brawny V6 petrol engine. The car’s electric range is displayed on the dashboard map by a fluorescent green ring, which gradually reduces in size as your charge depletes.
The engine isn’t the same as the one in the Bentayga Hybrid. That car’s 3.0-litre motor has been swapped for a newer 2.9-litre twin-turbo with a good chunk more power. As such, the Flying Spur Hybrid produces a combined (petrol and electric) 536bhp; it’ll do 0-60mph in 4.1 seconds and keep going to 177mph.
The thing is, despite the copious performance – the Hybrid is only slightly down on the V8 for outright power – the plug-in model feels heavier. You can sense the weight shifting from side to side during faster changes of direction, and while grip is good, you can sometimes feel the front end wanting to push wide through tighter bends.
That V6 engine isn’t as tuneful as the V8, either. Not that it necessarily matters – if you’re planning to use the Flying Spur as a chauffeur-driven car, or something to commute short distances in, then the hybrid, dare we say it, is even more luxurious than either of the petrols. But if you still really want a V8, there’s good news: Bentley says it’s developing an electrified version of that engine, too.
The switch between engine and electric motor is imperceptible, especially at motorway speeds and the gearbox is as slick as any we’ve encountered. Our car’s brakes were a bit grabby, although we’d expect that sensation to subside once they were properly bedded in.
Keep the battery topped up – a task possible in around two-and-a-half hours using a wallbox – and the Flying Spur Hybrid is a really relaxing car to drive. And one that should cost a fraction of what the V8 or W12 cost to run, too; we managed around 33mpg on our 110-mile test route. Not exactly diesel-rivalling, but impressive when you consider the V8 might only do half that.
Bentley says there are 56 billion ways to configure a Flying Spur Hybrid, meaning that even if you don’t like the Ghost White paint, Brunel and Linen leather and open-pore Koa wood trim of our test car, there should be a spec to suit you. Prices will be confirmed at a later date, but the maker is currently suggesting a 3% premium over the equivalent V8 – meaning a starting figure of around £170,000.
For that, you get LED lights and 21-inch alloy wheels, as well as a beautifully crafted cabin that uses only the finest materials money can buy. Every version gets a 12.3-inch infotainment system hidden within a rotating display – meaning if you tire of the crass illuminations, you can spin it round to show a set of classy analogue dials, or better still, a flush panel in keeping with the rest of the dashboard.
The seats are almost infinitely adjustable and super comfortable. There’s not as much space in the rear as you’ll find in a Mercedes S-Class, but providing the front seats aren’t slid all the way back, there’s more than enough room to stretch out. You can recline the backrests electrically, although it’s worth noting that Hybrid customers are denied a fridge in lieu of the middle seat; the battery packaging means the champagne chiller doesn’t even feature on the options list – a first-world problem if ever there was one.