Chew on this problem for a moment. How do you go about highlighting the special virtues of a vehicle that brings a new level of fuel efficiency and climate-friendliness to the super-luxury SUV class (a sector not known for such priorities) when its creators’ main aim is to make it drive exactly like its conventional brethren?
This is the difficulty we faced with Bentley’s first plug-in model, the Bentayga Hybrid. Despite being packed from stem to stern with new equipment – a relatively small (3.0-litre) V6 petrol engine, a 126bhp electric motor sandwiched between engine and gearbox, a lithium ion battery under the boot floor with 13.3kWh of usable power and 25 miles of EV range, plus lots of mysterious black-box gadgetry connected under the skin by thick, brightly coloured high-voltage cables – this electrified edition of the world’s most successful super-luxury SUV had been configured to feel just like all the rest.
The official fuel economy and CO2 figures were no help, either, serving only to advertise the inadequacy of lab figures. A conventional Bentayga V8 returns 21.7mpg on the combined test cycle and pumps out 294g/km of CO2. Corresponding figures for the Hybrid are 81mpg and 79g/km, stats so hopelessly unlike real life that Bentley doesn’t even bother to quote them in its otherwise comprehensive technical presentation on the Hybrid. I mean, nobody’s really going to get 81mpg out of a Bentley hybrid, are they?
The one and only worthwhile comparator is that the electrified Bentayga concedes 0.8sec on 0-62mph acceleration to its V8 sibling, hardly a disaster when the PHEV’s test-track journey takes only 5.2sec. But what about the other stuff? If not 81mpg, what fuel mileage can Bentley hybrid owners expect in real life? How far will their fuel tank truly take them? Critically, will the hybrid deliver the same magic carpet progress as conventional models after you’ve spent hours behind the wheel? There was only one way to find out: take the Bentayga PHEV to the road on a very long day’s drive, including (safe levels of) journey fatigue in the equation to punctuate the mere statistics.