Done with SUVs and hybrids? Well, you might make an exception for this one

Why we ran it: Can a Bentley Bentayga be affordable to run and still be a Bentley at the same time?

Month 3Month 2Month 1 - Prices and specs

Life with a Bentayga Hybrid: Month 3

Can a Bentley be parsimonious and retain its luxury appeal? The verdict is in - 16 February 2022

One doesn’t wish to sound spoiled, but were there a single Bentley from the entire model range I’d have chosen not to run as a long-termer, a Bentayga Hybrid it would have undoubtedly been. Too little power, too few cylinders, too much weight: it didn’t sound like a recipe for a great Bentley. That was the theory. The reality was that the Hybrid was absolutely the only Bentley in the line-up whose running costs I had a hope in hell of being able to afford. So into its arms I fell – and with some gratitude.

It wasn’t around for long – such things rarely are. But the Bentley was with us for long enough to put almost 4000 miles under those elegant rims and to learn, first, whether it was still going to bleed me white despite the hybrid drive and, second, whether it would be worth it if it did.

It has been fascinating, and far more so than I ever imagined. Indeed, I would say as object lessons in the difference between driving a car and living with it, I’m not sure I’ve come across one more vivid. And for those who doubt the value of long-term testing compared with conventional road testing for really getting under the skin of a car, well, there is a lot to be learned here: had I just done my standard road car assessment, the words that follow would have been very different.

I’m not going to dwell on the statistical side of things because you can see from the spec sheet how heavy and (relatively) slow this Bentayga is. But having now driven the Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid, I wish the Bentayga had that car’s powertrain. Both have V6 engines displacing close to three litres, but the Bentayga must make do with an earlier single- turbo engine while the Spur gets a later twin-turbo unit, lifting power from 443bhp to 536bhp.

It was as a result of this paucity of quality power that made it a car I never felt inclined to drive fast, despite the fact it handles better than anything so high and so heavy has a right. And that decision was curiously liberating. If you have a thundering V8 at your disposal, you feel somewhat honour-bound to use it. But a grumbling V6? Not so much if, indeed, at all.

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So I just relaxed and wafted, and while other SUVs may be better in certain other regards, in this and of those I’ve driven (I have yet to drive a Rolls-Royce Cullinan), it’s bettered by none.

And when you’re powered by electricity alone, it is in a class of its own. Driven so, a different kind of Bentley experience, one I’d never even considered before, became apparent. It didn’t take much time to calculate that as long as I always charged it at home, the energy cost of using the Bentayga for local journeys was remarkably similar to that of the 1.0-litre Toyota Aygo I own and which my daughters use when home.

I know that the sort of person who can splurge over £150k on a car will not find themselves sweating over the fuel bills as might a freelance journalist, but it is also my experience that very few people got to be that rich by being casual with money. They would most likely appreciate the 500-plus-mile range, too. Even if not, the idea of swanning about in a vast Bentley and it costing mere buttons just appeals to me. So I drove it for all those jobs for which I’d never normally think of using a Bentley: local errands, tip trips, the vet... I never needed much of an excuse.

And nor, I venture, would you. I have said many times before that I am not instinctively a fan of enormous SUVs, but if ever there was a brand that could get away with it despite no previous history, surely it has to be Bentley. When Ettore Bugatti called WO’s machines ‘the world’s fastest lorries’, he was inadvertently or otherwise validating the approach. Most of the cars produced by the original Bentley Motors in its final years a lifetime ago were high, heavy, excessive and designed to accommodate families in swaddling luxury over limitless distances. Remind you of anything?

The Bentayga Hybrid long-term experience aligned less precisely with my expectations than that of any car I can recall running on this fleet. It was perhaps not too surprising that the McLaren 720S left an indelible mark on my mind, or that running a Porsche 911 Carrera S should be pretty much what I expected. But the Bentayga? I imagined it would be interesting to run such a car, that I’d be pleased I did and that when it left I’d not cast so much as a wistful glance over my shoulder.

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Not so. I can remember a BMW i8 defying my expectations, but the Bentayga did so even more. I really liked it, and I’ve been around too long to go weak-kneed just because it’s an expensive car from a posh brand. I never did a journey I didn’t enjoy – not because we were tearing about the place, but actually, and somewhat counterintuitively, because we weren’t. When you’re stuck in traffic or sitting on the motorway or, yes, going to the supermarket, it’s just a better place to be. And, after all, is that not precisely what a Bentley should be striving to achieve?

Second Opinion

Fuelling this car indeed seems almost bizarrely affordable on short hops, and whatever the congested state of the roads outside, you’re always glad to be in that superb cockpit. What I loved most on long hauls was the touring range: on one trip we did 600 miles with a single charge.

Steve Cropley

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Love it:

Interior Just a fine place to be. Functional and beautiful, bringing a sense of occasion to every journey.

Looks Yes, really. The Bentayga has had one of the most successful facelifts of recent years.

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Running costs Not what you expect in
a Bentley report, but the way I used it, it has been a bargain.

Loathe it:

Engine Single-turbo 3.0-litre Audi unit isn’t sufficiently Bentley. Flying Spur Hybrid gets a superior engine.

Performance Every Bentley needs to be luxurious and fast, regardless of purpose. This is the former but not the latter.

Final mileage: 8117

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Life with a Bentayga Hybrid: Month 2

Fill yer boot - 19 January 2022

One of many blessings I get to count each year is that, with brothers and adult nephews aplenty, Christmas shopping is pretty simple, so long as I have the right car. A trip to the Wye Valley Brewery to buy the requisite number of kegs and bottles of Butty Bach and the job is done. Last year’s Porsche 911 curtailed operations; there was no mistake this time.

Mileage: 7418

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Life with a Bentayga Hybrid: Month 1

It’s more economical than a 1.5-litre VW Golf (conditions apply) - 5 January 2022

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It was a difficult decision to run the Bentley. I know, I can hear the violins from here.

But the harsh reality is that I rack up a huge annual mileage, I have to pay for my own fuel and I’ll not be alone in noting the stuff isn’t exactly cheap right now. Which is why I’ve never run one in the past. But the appearance of the Bentayga Hybrid changed all that, at least on paper. Yes, of course I knew it had no chance of doing the 83.1mpg claimed for it, but I thought that, in theory at least, it might drag the prospect of running a Bentley out of the realm of the simply impossible and into that of the just about affordable, so long as I was very, very careful.

Being very, very careful about how you consume fuel is probably not a matter of overwhelming concern to most Bentley owners, but I thought it would be interesting to see, even as a technical exercise. And here’s the news, both good and bad. The good news is that it really will do around 28 miles on electrical power if you keep your journey local. And my local town is 11 miles away. This means I can get to the supermarket and back by Bentley for a lower energy cost than taking our family 1.5-litre Volkswagen Golf so long, of course, as I only ever charge it at home, which I do. And a wonderfully pleasant, if somewhat ostentatious, commuter car it is, too.

But what about longer journeys? I think it can still be pretty remarkable. Recently, I headed off on a gentle cross-country jaunt to have a pub lunch with an old friend, left with the battery fully charged and did over 80 miles at better than 40mpg – in a 2.5-tonne Bentley. I don’t think either of my more recent long- term test cars – a BMW 128ti preceded by a Ford Focus ST – would have done any better; the Ford probably quite a lot worse. And yes, you have to add the cost of the electricity, too, which is £2.38 for those 28 miles, but that’s buttons when it comes to running a Bentley.

What if, however, you find yourself in a suboptimal situation, such as you’ve been an idiot and forgot to charge the car, you’re in a hurry and the journey is all motorway? I’ve been there, too. Drive down said motorway as fast as you think will leave your licence unburdened by additional points and its fuel consumption doubles. Early 40s MPG in gentle driving with a bit of electrical assistance becomes very early 20s MPG when rushing on an empty battery.

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Not good, then. But one more reason to plan ahead, take your time, sit back and enjoy the ride. It’s what this car is best at.

Love it:

‘UBER-BENTLEY’ MODE There is nothing more refined than an EV, and when it is in this mode, the Bentayga feels very Bentley indeed.

Loathe it:

SUB-BENTLEY ENGINE The off-the-peg 3.0-litre Audi V6 is not a very Bentley engine, but thanks to hybrid torque, you rarely need to use many revs.

Mileage: 5420

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Gives more than you expect - 24 November 2021

In my quest to keep running costs within faintly affordable limits, I’ve been going as far as I can on electricity. The blurb says 24 miles is all you’ll get out of the battery, but even without trying I’m seeing 30 or more. It also regenerates so much that by descending a nearby hill I can add three miles. Hopefully such measures will help keep me from debtor’s prison for a while yet.

Mileage: 5344

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Welcoming the Bentayga Hybrid to the fleet - 17th November 2021

It’s a sign of the times that I’m even writing this. Ten years ago, the very idea of a Bentley SUV would have seemed hard to imagine, although I’m not entirely sure why, given that the brand built its name on huge, heavy, do-anything, goanywhere cars. But the thought that Bentley might not only build such a car but then equip it with the smallest engine ever fitted to a Bentley, the first with six cylinders since the 1950s and the least powerful in the modern history of the brand? That would have been closer to unthinkable. 

But we must move with the times, whether we like the direction of travel or not, and you can’t blame Bentley for doing so, because the statistics say my new long-term Bentayga Hybrid will cover 83.1 miles for every gallon of unleaded I buy and emit only 82g of CO2 for every kilometre travelled. In environmental terms, it makes a 1.0-litre Volkswagen Up look like a Sherman tank. Or rather it would were such numbers not utter rubbish. Their only relevance is to the taxman, ergo the reason for the car’s existence. And the truth is that, for this reason alone and rightly or wrongly, there will be people who are able to park a Bentley outside their house who might never have been able to dream of doing so before. 

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So this, then, is a pragmatic Bentley, a democratising Bentley that also shows how far the company has come, for these aren’t adjectives that I used to associate with Britain’s second-most blue-blooded automotive brand. Of course, Bentley could have chosen to stay firmly rooted to the past, but it tried that at the back end of last century and it damn near killed the company. Adapt or die. 

This, then, is a Bentley for realists, or at least those like me who pay their own travel expenses. The hard facts we know: the Audi-supplied, single-turbo V6, the 17.3kWh lithium ion battery, the 443bhp combined system output and the, wait for it, 2648kg kerb weight. And yes, that is more than a Mulsanne… 

What we’re here to discover is if the above can still be crafted into a credible Bentley, if there’s enough of the character and charm we hope for all cars flying those wings to justify their position on its prow. 

At least one problem has gone away. The 2021-model-year facelift has transformed the car’s appearance. It’s still not gorgeous, but which full-sized SUV is, save a Range Rover? But it has achieved two critical aims: first, it has removed its looks from high on the list of possible reasons that all by itself might stop someone buying the car. Second, it has given the Bentayga proper presence: for all is size and hulking appearance, the pre-facelift Bentayga never really had any. Given how little room for manoeuvre designers usually get at facelift time, it’s a sizeable achievement. 

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But it has come at a cost. Inside and out, this is a different car to its predecessor, but so too does it come at a different price, the entry point to Bentley ownership now starting at £155,500, some £22,000 more than the same hybrid version of the previous model. Bentley would say you were getting a lot more car for your money, which I wouldn’t dispute, but it’s also true that Bentley boss Adrian Hallmark believes the brand should become considerably more upwardly mobile, and doubtless that view is reflected here as well. 

And all that’s before you succumb to the siren call of the options list. I had some say over the colour, and I think the Viridian green paint is as good as I’ve seen a Bentayga wear, but no choice whatsoever over the interior spec. I have in the past driven Bentaygas groaning under the weight of more than £75,000 of non-standard applied goodies, so actually the £30,000 spent titivating this car is a fairly modest outlay.

 

There’s still plenty I could leave out. I don’t need the 22in rims of the Mulliner Driving Specification, but some of the other touches (diamond quilting, embossed Bentley emblems and so on) are lovely. Once you’ve heard the Naim audio, you wouldn’t want to be without that, either. But I would probably ditch the Touring Specification, because I hate lane-keeping assistance, am not that keen on active cruise control, don’t need night vision and only really want the head-up display; and life would go on without front seats that air your nether regions while simultaneously massaging your back. I love the rear blinds. But picnic tables and rear privacy glass? Not for me, either. 

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The car is here and I’m just getting to know it. And I know already that if my finances are to survive the next three months, I must run on cheap-as-chips home-delivered electricity as much as possible. It won’t help much on long runs, but it will encourage me to use the Bentley for local journeys where I would have left a V8 behind, because if the journey is less than 25 miles (exactly the return mileage to my local town), this enormous Bentley will be cheaper by far to run than the faithful family 1.5-litre Volkswagen Golf. I’m looking forward to it already.

Second opinion: Steve Cropley

Not long ago, people said that if you could afford a Bentley, you could afford the fuel. Ergo, the cost of the fuel (and by inference, its environmental effect) didn’t matter. But in 2021, the instant popularity of this new Hybrid model puts the lie to that. Better still, the Hybrid adds a new dimension to low-speed driving, a smoothness and silence even the W12 can’t match. So you can buy this car on the grounds of pleasure as well as conscience. 

Bentley Bentayga Hybrid specification

Prices: List price new £155,500 List price now £155,660 Price as tested £186,020

Options:Mulliner Driving specification £9985, Naim premium audio £6725, Touring specification £6480, Front Seat Comfort specification £2935, rear picnic tables £1715, Sunshine specification £1700, rear privacy glass £980

Fuel consumption and range: Claimed economy 83.1mpg Fuel tank 75 litres Test average 36.2mpg Test best 41.4mpg Test worst 30.8mpg Real-world range 530 miles Electric range 25-26 miles

Tech highlights: 0-62mph 5.5sec Top speed 158mph Engine V6, 2995cc, turbocharged, petrol, plus electric motor Max power 443bhp at 5300-6400rpm Max torque 516lb ft at 1340-5300rpm Transmission 8-speed automatic Boot capacity 479 litres Wheels 11.0Jx22in Tyres 285/45 ZR 21 Kerb weight 2648kg

Service and running costs: Contract hire rate £1699 CO2 82g/km Service costs None Other costs None Fuel costs £708 Running costs inc fuel £708 Cost per mile 18 pence Faults none

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JuneRhea 22 February 2022

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giulivo 28 November 2021
It still looks like an oversized London cab and that's some seriously ugly dashboard trim; what happened to wood?
lambo58 28 November 2021

80mpg my arse. Only as long as the battery charge lasts and then its down to 18-22 mpg at best from its ICE unit and thats if you dont hammer it. Utter fraudulant claims. Tosh in other words for a pig ugly car that journalist get their jollies in.

 

scotty5 28 November 2021

Fraudulant in respect this car is capable of over 1000 miles to the gallon?

The claim is made using a prescribed set of rules that apply to all manufacturers. It's the rules to blame not the results. Unless you know better ( and if you do, please tell us ) then Bentley's figures will be correct.

 

 

lambo58 29 November 2021

 

By what metric of stupidity do you honestly think that the so called perscribed set of rules taken as gospel by manufacturers is not a blatant lie to make their figures seem better than it is. Its fraud pure and simple endorsed by magazines like this one as well whether you like it or not.

Of course 1000 miles in this ugly thing is bollocks as is any other claim that says hybrids can do 100s of miles. Just plain crap to mislead. nothing more.