Like it or not, the days of Bentley’s famed 8- and 12-cylinder engines are certainly numbered now. By the brand’s own recent announcement, its iconic ICE conveyances are set to be replaced by 2030 with an EV-only line-up. Now, the famed luxe automaker’s first step in this march toward electrification seems to be the fresh-out-of-the oven 2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid!
This is actually the plug-in hybrid version of the company’s flagship, and more than anything else, the new car proves it’s possible to maintain the historic brand’s peerless sense of occasion, even in these current times when everyone’s actively looking to cut down on emissions.
Here in Malaysia, the marquee’s local distributors, Bentley Kuala Lumpur, is now already accepting orders for this PHEV limo priced from RM2.3 million. And once set on spending that sort of money, future owners can look forward to things never thought possible with a Bentley, like a very useful 41 km pure electric range on the WLTP cycle!
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This, of course, is courtesy of an 18.0-kilowatt-hour (of which 14.1 kWh is usable) lithium- ion battery sending power to a single electric motor. Mounted between the twin- turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 and the eight-speed automatic transmission, the motor makes 136 PS and 400 Nm on its own, with a very Bentley-like combined total of 544 PS and 750 Nm.
All that urge from the hybrid powertrain propels the Flying Spur Hybrid from 0-100 km/h in 4.3 seconds, just a whisker slower than the ICE Flying Spur V8, all the way to a top speed of 285 km/h. A press of a button allows the driver to select from three electric modes – EV Drive, Hybrid Mode and Hold Mode. EV Drive is the default when the engine is switched on and maximises the electric driving experience, ideal for city driving and short journeys.
Meanwhile, the Hybrid Mode setting maximises vehicle efficiency and range using data from the car’s navigation system. This means using its predictive electric propulsion and engine coasting while following directions from the sat nav.
The driver just inputs a destination, and the car automatically engages the correct drive mode for each part of the journey, calculating the most efficient use of battery charge and storing electrical energy for sections of the journey where it is most useful, such as when arriving in the city. Finally, the Hold Mode balances engine and electric power to hold high voltage battery charge for later use.
But perhaps more significantly, the Spur’s interior remains a haven of luxury that offers a rare combination of old-world leather and wood craftsmanship with up-to-the-minute tech. Front leather seats come with electric adjustment and memory settings. There’s also active cruise control, dual-zone climate control plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity for the twin 12.3-inch infotainment displays.
Meanwhile, in the audio department, the standard system is 650W with 10 speakers, the next level up is Bang & Olufsen (1,500W, 16 speakers) and at the top of the shelf is a 2,200W 19-speaker Naim option.
And when it comes to interior surface materials, the Spur’s available combinations of veneers and hides are simply vast! Between the leather, wood, and laundry list of available options, the Flying Spur can also be configured in a huge variety of different ways.
One can, for instance, add on the super luxurious Azure or S (sporty) trim levels, or the Blackline (black trim to replace chrome) options. Go even further and off the menu with Bentley’s Mulliner division for bespoke possibilities ranging from unique paint and unusual options like tweed and stone veneer options or personalized details.
Complementing these luxurious additions to the brand’s latest is also a supremely commanding presence that’s expected of a Bentley. This is enhanced by 20-inch alloy wheels, bi-LED auto-levelling adaptive headlights, LED tail lights, plus LED daytime running lights.
With Bentley and pretty much the rest of the automotive landscape hurtling towards pure EVs, the Flying Spur Hybrid seems at first more like more like a stop gap measure than a route to the ultimate destination. But remember, taking things one step at a time is no bad thing, as the PHEV Spur represents a very compelling package as is.
More crucially though, plug-in hybrid electric Bentleys prepare customers for electrification in a way that’s more digestible to traditionalists who might otherwise be resistant to change. Given the brand’s more, ahem, seasoned demographic, retaining the option for petrol power could safely keep the stalwarts onboard as the engineers in Crewe refine the brand’s fully electric offerings to the fullest.
Suppose good things do take time, then…