UPDATE 7/28/22: This review has been updated with test results.
The trickle of electrons at Bentley is soon to become a flood, as the automaker prepares to fully electrify its entire lineup by the end of the decade. While eventual full electrification is a goal shared industry-wide, it's a rather monumental shift for Bentley, whose reputation has been defined in large part by its massive—and thirsty—engines. Hence the existence of the Flying Spur Hybrid, a 5754-pound steppingstone placed between the shores of those gargantuan powertrains and the horizon of total electrification.
As befits this interim role, visual changes are kept to a minimum, with only fender-mounted "Hybrid" badges and a J1772 charging port concealed behind a door on the left rear flank. Distinct quad oval tailpipes complete the exterior transformation. Inside, the infotainment and driver screens now feature EV-specific readouts. We were particularly intrigued by the EV Range overlay function on the navigation map—a translucent green zone hovers over the vehicle's position, outlining the boundaries of electric driving range. As the battery level drops, the zone shrinks accordingly. On the center console, an EV button cycles through the three electric drive modes: all-electric EV Drive, Hybrid, and Hold, which maintains battery charge to be deployed later.
The Flying Spur follows in the footsteps of the Bentayga, which first tiptoed into the hybrid waters back in 2019 as Bentley's first electrified model. Both employ plug-in systems, as the large battery delivers motivation that a regular hybrid can't provide. Here, the Flying Spur uses a 410-hp version of the corporate 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6. It's the first six-cylinder found under the hood of a Bentley sedan in 64 years. A 134-hp electric motor occupies the space between the engine and eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. With a combined output of 536 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque, the hybrid powertrain delivers numbers on par with its rowdier Flying Spur big brother's 542-hp V-8.
As a result, the hybrid's performance is pretty similar, despite a 280-pound weight disadvantage. With both motors singing and all four wheels pulling, the Flying Spur Hybrid hit 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and covered the quarter-mile in 12.3 seconds at 114 mph. (We recorded a 3.5-second time for the Flying Spur V-8, along with a 12.0-second, 115-mph pass in the quarter.) Top speed is limited to 177 mph, versus 198 for the V-8. While Bentley emphasizes that the EV system is optimized for urban journeys, it also touts the hybrid's ability to cruise at speeds up to 80 mph in EV Drive mode. The EPA reckons that the car's 15.0-kWh battery is good for 21 miles of electric range. Yet, electrons carried us for 35 miles on our 75-mph highway test, after which the hybrid averaged 28 mpg, beating its federal highway rating by 6 mpg. However, our 25-MPGe measurement overall is well short of the hybrid's official 46-MPGe combined rating, which essentially indicates we drove more gasoline-powered miles between plug-ins than an actual owner would.
The joy of electric thrust lies not in its mechanical voice, but in the absence of it. Bentley says that the cabin of the hybrid is 50 percent quieter than that of the V-8's at 50 mph. On its own, the hybrid's electric motor produces 295 pound-feet of torque, all of which is available from a dead stop. It's more than capable of sustaining the big Bentley's momentum through traffic. It also helps the hybrid post a 4.7-second run from 5 to 60 mph, which is only a tenth of second longer than what the V-8 requires. When rolling along in EV Drive mode, the Flying Spur Hybrid provides a marvelous glimpse of what an all-electric Bentley might be like.
It's only when you sample Hybrid mode that this graceful serenity is upended. Prod the accelerator and the V-6 unceremoniously crashes the party with 74 decibels of noise at full throttle—1 decibel more than the V-8. Gruff and guttural, the engine's unrefined character is in total contrast to the rest of the underlying package. We found its presence to be particularly obtrusive when in Hold mode, droning away constantly at what amounted to a heightened idle speed. Occasionally, the gas engine and electric motor jockeyed for position, resulting in a brief hiccup as the computer scrambled to make peace between the two. And a pronounced transition between regular and regenerative braking made it difficult to smoothly modulate to a stop.
Keeping the battery charged avoids this morsel of powertrain inelegance. The 7.2-kW onboard charger can fully replenish the battery in three hours, according to the EPA. We suspect most owners will rely on dedicated home-charging equipment rather than cool their heels at a public station. That's just as well, as the Flying Spur's charging-port placement and substantial length make it challenging to squeeze into crowded bays, as we discovered. Speaking of maneuverability, the Spur's rear-wheel steering and the 48-volt active anti-roll bars are not on the options list, as the bulk of the hybrid components now occupy the space normally reserved for them.
As a result, you feel every bit of the 125.8-inch wheelbase going through turns. When navigating twisty, challenging roads, we discovered that the hybrid was happiest with a more deliberate corner entry. Despite the lack of the active anti-roll system, the rest of the chassis still retains the Flying Spur's improbable sense of dexterity, thanks to the three-chamber air suspension and adaptive dampers. Riding on 22-inch Pirelli P Zero PZ4 summer tires, our test car posted a solid 0.90 g of grip around the skidpad, along with a respectable 158-foot stop from 70 mph. For comparison, the lighter V-8 model on its similarly sized Pirelli P Zero All Seasons generated 0.94 g of stick yet needed an additional 10 feet to stop from 70 mph. When the road unwinds, the default Bentley drive mode provides a commendable dynamic balance, though it's a bit floatier than we'd like. Conversely, the dampers in Sport are a tad too choppy. We'd lobby for a setting that split the difference. Bentley Plus, perhaps.
In a recent survey of its customers, Bentley discovered that roughly half of them expressed interest in either purchasing a PHEV or EV vehicle. But at this juncture, the hybrid version of the Flying Spur is missing those few key traits that make the gas-powered variants so delightfully engaging. For those early adopters, however, the hybrid's rough edges might be a tolerable tradeoff.