May 20, 2022
The 2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid represents tradition in transition

The trickle of electrons at Bentley will soon turn into a flood as the automaker prepares to fully electrify its entire offering by the end of the decade. While this is a shared goal across the industry, it’s a fairly monumental shift for Bentley, whose reputation has been determined in large part by its massive – and thirsty – engines. Hence the existence of the Flying Spur Hybrid, a 5600-pound stepping stone between the shores of those gargantuan powertrains and the horizon of total electrification.

As befits this transitional role, visual changes are kept to a minimum, with only fender-mounted ‘Hybrid’ badging and a J1772 charge port hidden behind a door on the left rear flank. Distinct square oval tailpipes complete the exterior transformation. Inside, the infotainment and driver screens now have EV-specific gauges. We were particularly intrigued by the EV range overlay feature on the navigation map – a translucent green zone hovers over the vehicle’s position, outlining the limits of electric range. As the battery level decreases, the zone shrinks accordingly. On the center console, an EV button toggles through the three electric driving modes: all-electric EV drive, hybrid and hold, preserving battery charge for later use.

The Flying Spur follows in the footsteps of the Bentayga, which tiptoed into hybrid waters back in 2019 as Bentley’s first electrified model. Both use plug-in systems as the larger battery provides motivation that a regular hybrid cannot. Here, the Flying Spur uses a 410-horsepower version of the company’s 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6. It is the first six-cylinder found under the hood of a Bentley sedan in 64 years. A 134 hp electric motor takes up the space between the engine and the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. With a combined output of 536 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque, the hybrid powertrain delivers numbers that are comparable to its more rowdy, 542-horsepower big V-8 brother.

As a result, despite a weight penalty of several hundred pounds, the hybrid’s performance should be similar as well. With both engines singing and all four wheels pulling, the Flying Spur hybrid should be able to hit 60 mph in 4.0 seconds. (We recorded a time of 3.5 seconds for the Flying Spur V-8.) Top speed is limited to 177 mph, versus 198 for the V-8. While Bentley emphasized that the EV system is optimized for city driving, it also touted the hybrid’s ability to cruise at speeds of up to 80 mph in EV propulsion mode. Official numbers are yet to be released, but we estimate the 14.1kWh battery will deliver around 21 miles of range. EPA fuel economy estimates are still available, although one would hope to see them notch a significant gain over the V-8’s 15/20 mpg city/highway numbers.

The joy of electric thrust isn’t in its mechanical voice, it’s in its absence. Bentley touts that the hybrid’s cabin is 50 percent quieter than the V-8’s at 50 mph. Alone, the electric motor produces 295 pound-feet of torque, all of which is available from a dead stop. It’s more than capable of maintaining the big Bentley’s momentum through traffic. When the Flying Spur Hybrid rolls along in EV Drive mode, it offers a wonderful glimpse of what an all-electric Bentley could look like.

It’s only when you test Hybrid mode that graceful composure is turned on its head. Step on the accelerator and the V-6 unceremoniously crashes the party. The engine’s rugged and throaty character is in complete contrast to the rest of the underlying package. We found its presence particularly intrusive in hold mode, as it constantly boomed at elevated idle. Occasionally the petrol engine and electric motor would balance about their position, resulting in a brief hiccup as the computer tried to make peace between the two. And a pronounced transition between regular and regenerative braking made it difficult to smoothly modulate to a stop.

Charging the battery avoids this bit of powertrain inelegance. The 7.2 kW on-board charger can fully charge the battery in about two and a half hours, according to Bentley. We suspect most owners will rely on a dedicated home charger rather than chilling their heels in a public unit. That’s a good thing, too, because the placement of the charging port and the Flying Spur’s considerable length make it difficult to squeeze into crowded bays, we’ve found. Speaking of maneuverability, the Spur’s rear-wheel steering and 48-volt active anti-roll bars aren’t on the options list, as the bulk of the hybrid components now occupy the space normally reserved for them.

As a result, you’ll feel every bit of that 125.7-inch wheelbase powering through corners. Navigating the twisting canyon roads of the Transverse Ranges just outside of Ojai, California, we found that the hybrid was happiest with more deliberate corner entry. Despite the absence of the active anti-roll system, the rest of the chassis still retains that improbable feel of the Flying Spur’s dexterity thanks to the three-chamber air suspension and adaptive dampers. When the road relaxes, the standard Bentley driving mode offers commendable dynamic balance, although it’s a bit more floating than we’d like. Conversely, the dampers in sport are a bit too jerky. We would advocate for an attitude that divides the difference. Bentley Plus maybe.

In a recent survey of its customers, Bentley found that about half of them expressed interest in purchasing a PHEV or EV vehicle. But this is where the hybrid version of the Flying Spur lacks the few key features that make the gas-powered variants so appealingly engaging. For those early adopters, however, the rough edges of the hybrid might be an acceptable compromise.

specifications

specifications

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

Vehicle Type: Front engine, mid engine, 4 wheel drive, 4 or 5 passenger, 4 door sedan

PRICE (C/D East)

Base: $190,000

POWERTRAIN

2.9-liter, twin-turbocharged, intercooled, V-6, DOHC, 410 hp, 406 lb-ft + AC motor, 134 hp, 295 lb-ft (combined power: 536 hp, 553 lb-ft; 14.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack; 7.2 kW onboard charger)
Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase: 125.7 inches
Length: 209.3 inches
Width: 77.9 inches
Height: 58.4 inches
Passenger volume (C/D is): 104 ft3
Trunk volume: 12 ft3
Curb weight (C/D est): 5600 lbs

PERFORMANCE (C/D EAST)

60mph: 4.0 sec
100mph: 8.8s
1/4 mile: 12.3 sec
Top speed: 177 miles per hour

EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EAST)

Combined/City/Highway: 20/18/22 mpg
Combined petrol + electricity: 48 MPGe
EV range: 21 miles

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