Gliding soundlessly through Atherton, California, we rolled up on a Tesla Model X at a stoplight. As the EV’s driver eyeballed our stately British hybrid lustily, we couldn’t help but wonder if Tesla’s grip on Silicon Valley status symbols might finally be loosening.
The 2019 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid, By the Numbers
- Base Price: $156,900
- Powertrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 with e-motor | 443 horsepower, 516 pound-feet of torque | 17.3 kWh lithium-ion battery | 8-speed automatic | all-wheel drive
- 0-60 MPH: 5.2 seconds
- Top Speed: 156 mph
- Electric Range: 16 miles
- Fuel Economy: TBA
- Cargo Capacity: 17.1 cubic feet | 15.2 cubic feet with the four-seat configuration
The 2019 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid is Bentley’s first salvo in the battery wars, with the aim of having a fully electric or hybrid variant for each model in the lineup by 2023. Though many are quick to relegate Bentley’s electrification to tightening European, Asian, and American internal combustion regulations, Bentley’s silent EV-future points to a far more brand-specific goal: When the door closes, it needs to provide complete isolation from the discord of the world outside. In that regard, the hushed Bentayga Hybrid is a step closer to the ultimate Bentley experience.
Thy Charge Be Done
Underneath the Bentayga Hybrid’s sculpted hood is a Porsche-derived, turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 supplemented by a 94 kW e-motor and an advanced 17.3 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Output from the hybrid setup is good for 443 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque when both are engaged. Zero to 60 mph happens in just 5.2 seconds, and the nearly three-ton SUV will churn through its 8-speed gearbox to a top speed of 158 mph.
Pure EV mode provides an operating range of 16 miles; more than enough to get from the outskirts of London into Piccadilly Circus. More beneficial to commutes, however, is how the onboard computers seamlessly shift through gasoline, hybrid, and fully electric power to conserve energy. Especially cool is how it uses a powertrain algorithm applied to navigation data to predictively store energy for jaunts inside zones where the combustion engine is already being stifled—Paris, Berlin, Madrid, London, and perhaps in the near future, some parts of California.
Crewe Gives PHEVs a Bespoke Flair
Whereas Tesla’s Model X trades in bleeding-edge technology, and Toyota’s Prius in economical longevity, Bentley’s methodology is luxury-focused. That’s foremost felt in the company’s tradition of insulating its occupants.
Even before its hybrid makeover, the Bentayga was quiet. Bentley’s standard sound-deadening excellently separated the cabin from the noisy outside world. The hybrid powertrain transforms the Bentayga Hybrid into a long-forgotten Egyptian pharaoh’s tomb. Even just sitting behind the silky leather-wrapped steering wheel, the Bentayga Hybrid is quiet enough to hear your own heartbeat through your temples.
Throughout the cabin, the Bentayga Hybrid is enshrined in Bentley’s long history of meticulous attention to detail. You’ll touch the interior’s rich woods, splashes of carbon fiber, hand-polished metals, and intricate glass. The 22-way adjustable seats are plush, warm, and inviting, with a fabulous massage function. Even in the rear seats, passengers are treated to similar levels of opulence as the front, except rear occupants have access to a removable tablet controlling the car’s audio system, onboard infotainment, and internet access.
Moreover, even in Silicon Valley’s world so codified with “the new,” the Bentayga Hybrid’s bespoke experience is something others just can’t meet. As such, Bentley’s Mulliner division can individually tailor a customer’s Bentayga Hybrid exactly to their standards and whims. Something that’s still only available from marques of the monied aristocracy.
One issue we must address, however, is the optional Naim audio system.
You’d expect a premium audio system, one that Bentley charges $8,910 for, to be an audiophile's paradise where notes are played with such crisp fidelity that it provokes autonomic chills. But reality isn’t that rich, and the optional audio system doesn’t provide the clarity the price tag implies. Even when we played with the system’s settings, we couldn’t get the right sweetness for The Drive’s exacting stereo test playlist that goes from the boisterous notes of Logic’s Homicide to the digital rain dance that is Justice’s Canon. Bentley can do better.
Driving Your Annual Bonus into San Francisco
Once the congestion-choked Atherton was resolved in the mirrors, and we entered the winding cliff-adjacent coasts around San Francisco, we finally stoked the Bentley’s hybrid performance mode—full power from both the turbocharged V6 and the 94 kW e-motor. We needed to test whether Bentley forgot its sporting heritage when delving into the eco-conscious world. We’re happy to report it hadn’t.
Blasting from light-to-light, the Bentayga’s hybrid drivetrain’s instant, electrically-produced torque and top-end turbocharged V6 power accelerates like its twin-turbocharged V8 sibling apart from one key difference; you start silently. The quiet quickly gives way to the low thrum and pops of the turbocharged V6. And after a few pulls, with quicker than expected results, we’re confident Bentley is underrating the Bentayga Hybrid’s haste with typical British reserve.
Off-the-line zip aside, the Bentayga’s true athleticism comes from its brilliant chassis and preternatural suspension. Thankfully, when adapting the Bentayga to the Bentayga Hybrid specification, Bentley didn’t touch either. Underneath the unchanged bodywork is the similarly unchanged and expertly engineered Audi-derived chassis. Combine the black-magic air-suspension with Bentley’s Continuous Damping Control electronic dampers and you get the luxurious ride quality you expect with the flat-corner performance you don't.
On the Bay Area's more technical roads, the Bentayga Hybrid schooled sports cars a quarter of its weight and a third of its height. Miatas, Toyota 86s, and even a handful of slightly out-of-date Porsches all pulled to the turnouts along the cliffs after their drivers were unable to shake the studio apartment from their rearview mirrors. In fact, the Bentayga Hybrid feels a fair bit more planted than its non-hybrid stablemates thanks to the lithium-ion battery pack evening out the SUV's weight distribution and lowering the center of gravity.
An Ecological Bentley is Still a Bentley
Bentley's attention to detail, engineering, and ability to meet production targets and the demands of its most deep-pocketed clientele, are what have maintained its 100-year existence. The addition of the Bentayga Hybrid not only furthers Bentley’s commitment to the brand’s customers, insulating them in a protective hybrid cocoon without sacrificing any Bentley hallmark, but enables Bentley to ensure its next 100 years in a changing climate.
As presented, the Bentley Bentayga Hybrid checks all the right boxes to lure luxury-attracted environmentalists. Those amateur ecologists who crave a bank vault cabin, the wavey and easygoing ride of a yacht, and the ability to tailor to their individual fashion. If we were certain luxury EV company’s sales team, we’d be worried; the Bentayga Hybrid’s status and specs are an appealing proposition to many an Atherton driveway.