► Plug-in hybrid Flying Spur tested
► New V6 + e-motor powertrain
► Is it more than just a tax dodge?
We’re comfortably into the final decade of internal-combustion Bentleys. By 2026, it’ll be impossible to buy a brand new car from Crewe without some form of electrified input. So it’s perhaps surprising that we’re clambering into the front seat of just the second hybrid Bentley.
A combination of petrol and electric has powered a Bentayga for years, but has now finally made it to the kind of four-door limo us traditionalists surely prefer to extend behind the Flying B mascot. It’ll do big business, no doubt about it. But is the Flying Spur Hybrid more than a mere tax-hurdling venture?
So, it’s just a Bentayga Hybrid in a different body?
Nope. The powertrain is different to the one found in the Bentayga Hybrid, and much more powerful. The Spur uses a twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 as opposed to the SUV’s single-turbo 3.0 V6, hooked up here to a seven-speed DCT rather than an eight-speed auto. Which has given Bentley’s engineers a job in terms of calibrating in the appropriate amount of smoothness. Total outputs are 536bhp and 553lb ft.
The 14.1kWh battery accepts up to 7kW charging – a home wallbox, in essence – and thus takes 2.5 hours to fully charge. Plug it into the mains and it’s an overnight job. But, perhaps most crucial for those contemplating this over the V8 Spur is its ability to travel ’25-plus’ miles on electric only, at speeds up to 84mph (Bentley hasn’t yet verified all the green numbers). It’s this, not a reduced tax outlay, that should benefit Spur Hybrid owners’ smugness levels most.
Bentley’s electrification plans explained
Are you feeling smug, then?
In Californian rush hour, it’s easy to see the appeal. Even as we experience higher-speed gridlock on the freeway, the engine outright refuses to kick in. We manage more than the estimated 25 miles, but naturally we’re not taxing the heating system out here.
The Spur starts on e-power and you can manually prod the powertrain through EV, Hybrid and Hold modes as your priorities shift, but it’s easiest to just leave everything to sort itself out. Plug your destination into the sat-nav and the Bentley’s big brain will decide whether to extract power from the 134bhp motor right away or keep it tucked away so that you can creep through urban streets at the end of the journey. It only works with the native nav, though; CarPlay users won’t reap the same benefits. ‘Our future-generation vehicles are almost a tablet on wheels,’ says Crewe manufacturing boss Peter Bosch, ‘so we are very actively training software skills to make our fully digitised vehicles as high quality as our existing vehicles.’ We wouldn’t rule out niggles like this being ironed out.
Leave the powertrain to its own devices, driving like you have rich, precious cargo in the rear quarters (perhaps you do), and everything is creamy smooth. The engine kicks into life subtly and smoothly.
But what about when you want some fun?
If you’re chasing the startling 0-62mph time or simply driving with a bit more nous, the picture isn’t so rosy.
With stronger throttle inputs or keen use of the paddleshifters, the V6 powertrain reveals itself to be harsh as the revs rise. North of 4000rpm, the aura is very un-Bentley and you’re best pulling at least a gear higher than instinct suggests if you’re keeping manual control. It’s a shame, as the handling isn’t far off superb and provides the perfect base for any powertrain to be its most assertive self.
While the Hybrid is 175kg heavier than an equivalent Spur V8, it’s a drop in the ocean for a 2.5-tonne car, and the additional podge is all placed just behind rear passengers’ posteriors. So while it eats into boot space – down almost a fifth at 351 litres – it also shifts the car’s weight distribution favourably. It flips from the V8’s 53/47 front/rear spread to 48/52. As we all know with uncomfortable familiarity, that’s quite a crucial percentage switch. The results are overwhelmingly positive here, though, the car resisting understeer well and having a lovely rear-led push out of corners when you’ve flicked the drive mode dial into Bentley or Sport mode, giving the car (and yourself) a prod to get involved. It’s probably uncouth to drive a hybrid limo this way, but it’s reassuring to know it’s still possible.
Perhaps relevant, too. Over a quarter of Bentley’s sales last year were Spurs, and those buyers like to drive and be driven. Which means we’d be remiss not to cruise back into town with someone else driving. Below 50mph, Bentley says the Hybrid is 50 per cent quieter than the V8.
And it certainly whispers along serenely for those on the inside (the safety-appeasing e-warble for those outside is something else, though) while riding as well as a car on 22in wheels can hope to. Space isn’t staggeringly abundant – it’s roomy, just not memorably so – though with electric seat controls and a remote pad that overrides the driver’s control of almost every function, including whether the Flying B is erect, it’s really not a shabby place to spend time at all.
Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid: verdict
So it’s a timid second toe into hybrid waters for Bentley, all told. In two years, everything it sells will have a PHEV option, and it’s a safe bet the Continental GT will get this very powertrain. By 2030, all of Bentley’s cars will be full EVs, so perhaps it’s appropriate that its interim electrification involves making the most of the VW Group stock cupboard rather than anything more revolutionary.
If the sums work in your favour and you can make the most of those electric miles, this is unquestionably a very pleasant mode of transport. But if you’ll be spending the vast majority of your time up front, perhaps you need to give the lighter, less stressed V8 one last shot.
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