Bentley Bentayga Hybrid (2021) review: familiarity breeds intent

Published:18 October 2021

Bentley Bentayga Hybrid (2021) review: familiarity breeds intent
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► Updated looks and infotainment
443bhp combined power output
25-mile WLTP electric only range

A member of the well-to-do with a conscience? Bentley says that collective is growing, so is slowly electrifying all of its models ahead of a battery-electric car coming in 2025.

After the Bentayga was facelifted, the brand has re-introduced the Hybrid model. Like the more traditional V8 and W12 powered variants the nose has been tweaked to make it more like the Continental GT and less, well, ugly, while the back gets some ovular rear lights on a significantly reworked tailgate. Look inside and you’ll find a much needed new infotainment system, too.

Our guide to hybrid car tech

This all seems familiar…

It’s familiar under the skin, too. Bentley has retained the 3.0-litre single-turbo V6 good for 335bhp and 126bhp e-motor from the pre-facelift Bentayga. Overall, then, the hybrid Bentayga has 443bhp and 516lb ft of torque – a fair bit less than the 542bhp V8 and a world away from the even more potent 626bhp W12.

bentayga hybrid rear static

It’s around 200kg heavier too, thanks to all that hybrid plumbing and batteries that sit below the boot (which also stop it coming in seven-seat form). This isn’t looking good, is it?

As you’d expect from a fully paid up member of the Volkswagen group, the Bentayga’s hybrid system is shared with a number of other SUVs in the group. That includes the Audi Q7 TFSIe and even the Volkswagen Touareg R.

The best hybrid cars and plug-ins on sale

What do you get? 

With a starting price of ‘just’ £155,500, the Bentayga Hybrid is a significant chunk cheaper than the V8 or W12 models, and the 82g/km of CO2 it emits make its BIK rate far more appealing. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to run a Bentayga Hybrid as a company car, it’s in the 20% band, a significant reduction over the 37% of the other engines.

bentayga hybrid instruments

Then of course there’s the electric only range. At 25 miles on the WLTP cycle, it’s proved enough for many customers to do all their driving around town on volts, helped by a 2.5 hour recharge time for the 13kWh of battery available.

At this juncture, it’s worth pointing out that the hybrid system here is rather different to that found in the upcoming Flying Spur Hybrid. Not only will that come with a more potent twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6, it’ll also have a slightly more powerful electric motor and a much bigger 18kWh battery pack.

Tell me, what’s your flavour? 

Hybrid cars are complicated things at the best of times, but the Bentley’s driving modes mean this car can be driven in several different attitudes. 

The electrified Bentayga offers three hybrid modes: EV-only, Hybrid and Hold, plus a further tree driving modes on top, including Sport, Bentley and Comfort. These are easily selected via a delightfully knurled rotary dial between the front seats combined with Hybrid-specific buttons.

bentayga hybrid screen

EV-only mode is exactly what it sounds like, while Hybrid mode uses both petrol and electric power. Hold mode saves battery energy for when you need it most (ie around town), and because that power can also be held back for instant performance, it’s the only powertrain mode available when you’re in Sport mode. Even so, Bentley claims that the full 443bhp is on tap any time you want it in any mode by always leaving a little battery power in reserve.

The driving modes are the same as elsewhere across the Bentley range, so Sport weights up the steering, firms the ride and increases throttle response; Comfort softens and lightens everything up; and Bentley mode continues to impress as a brand-building balance of the other two. It’s the one we picked most often in our test drive.

What’s it like to drive? 

Driving in EV-only mode is quite startling. You can pootle around town in silence and electric drive can be engaged at speeds up to 84mph, giving near silent running and punchy initial acceleration off the line. As speeds increase and gradients get steeper, you are aware of how 126bhp and 258Ib ft isn’t a lot to push 2.6 tonnes along, though. Indeed, at one point in our test drive the engine had to spring into life as the Bentayga struggled to top 25mph up a hill.

bentayga hybrid side pan

There are some nice touches; the Bentayga Hybrid shows a dynamic EV-only range zone on maps, which helps you plan your journey and charging times. In EV and Hybrid modes, the throttle has a tangible barrier between electric and petrol power. Push the pedal down to this detent for EV-only power, and then push through it for the combined power of engine and electric. Like kickdown of yore, it’s simple, effective and intuitive – exactly what you need in a car bristling with technology. 

Hybrid mode also has an added layer of intelligence, and switches between electric and petrol modes to maximise efficiency and range for your journey if you’ve tapped it into the sat nav.  And as with all the modes here, the car will display energy use in real-time, so you can see it working. 

However, the problems begin when you start using the combined powertrain. Wake up the VW Group’s 3.0-litre V6, and it’s relatively seamless – but still abrupt enough to be noticed. Fine in a Volkswagen, passable in an Audi – but in a brand that’s been surrounding its customers in a luxury cocoon for a century? Less so. 

Once it does come to life, the V6 predictably can’t quite match the refinement of a W12, the soundtrack of a V8 or the ease of the EV-only mode. It’s quiet enough when driven sedately, with the electric motor helping it feel like a larger powerplant, but push harder and it’s coarse and gravelly when revving, which sounds a tad uncouth.

bentayga hybrid front chase

Performance is certainly brisk with 0-62mph taking 5.5sec, but those hoping for a proper wallop in the back will be somewhat disappointed. It’s also worth pointing out that the Hybrid isn’t available with the 48v active anti-roll bars available on purely combustion powered Bentaygas, leaving you with plenty of lean in bends and a real sense of the weight involved if you hustle it along. It’s heavy, yes, but other variants of the Bentayga hide their weight much better.

At least the ride is pleasingly cushioned, with a decent balance between body control and suppleness. The 22in wheels of our test car no doubt contributed to a little bit of low speed fidget over craggy road surfaces, but for the most part this is a comfortable thing you’d be happy to do big distances in.

And the interior? 

The big news inside is the adoption of a new, larger touchscreen that feels far more contemporary than the pre-facelift Bentayga’s. The menus are clear and easy to follow, although the software isn’t quite as responsive as we’d like.

Leather seems to cover almost every surface, with hide found on the lower reaches of the dash and doors, including within the door pockets. Anyone that’s driven a Q7 but is looking for an upgrade will find the steering wheel controls very familiar, albeit with a chromed veneer over them and knurled scrolling wheels.

bentayga hybrid interior

Even so, this is an interior that feels a class above even the most lavishly equipped Q7 or Porsche Cayenne. If you’re wondering why you’re paying so much extra for a Bentayga over other members of the Volkswagen Group SUV hierarchy, you’ll certainly find the answer here.

Bentley Bentayga Hybrid: verdict

Depending on your intended use, the Bentayga Hybrid will either be the answer to your prayers or something of a disappointment. If you’re after a luxurious cocoon that’ll quietly whisk you around urban environments yet still provide long-distance transportation without resorting to an imperfect public charging network, we can really see the appeal. That’s especially true if you’re benefitting from the relatively low BIK taxation.

However, when pushed it just doesn’t have the effortless nature you’d expect from the flying B. Unlike the V8 and W12, the V6 just feels like its working too hard and is far too reminiscent of lesser Volkswagen group products. Let’s hope the punchier 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 in the upcoming Flying Spur Hybrid is more in keeping with the brand.

Browse more of our Bentley reviews

Specs

Price when new: £155,500
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 2995cc 24v single twin-scroll turbocharger V6, 443bhp, 516lb ft
Transmission: Eight-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance: 5.5 seconds 0-62mph, 158mph, mpg/CO2 n/a
Weight / material: 2626kg/steel and aluminium
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 5140/2224/1707mm

Rivals

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  • Bentley Bentayga Hybrid (2021) review: familiarity breeds intent
  • Bentley Bentayga Hybrid (2021) review: familiarity breeds intent
  • Bentley Bentayga Hybrid (2021) review: familiarity breeds intent
  • Bentley Bentayga Hybrid (2021) review: familiarity breeds intent
  • Bentley Bentayga Hybrid (2021) review: familiarity breeds intent
  • Bentley Bentayga Hybrid (2021) review: familiarity breeds intent
  • Bentley Bentayga Hybrid (2021) review: familiarity breeds intent
  • Bentley Bentayga Hybrid (2021) review: familiarity breeds intent
  • Bentley Bentayga Hybrid (2021) review: familiarity breeds intent
  • Bentley Bentayga Hybrid (2021) review: familiarity breeds intent
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