In the third part of our supercar review series, LUX gets behind the wheel of the Bentley Bentayga Hybrid
If you need an example of how the attributes of heritage luxury car brands have to change in the new world of sustainability and electrification, look no further than Bentley. This is a company that has been making cars that are primarily distinguished by their immensely powerful and vocal petrol engines for more than 100 years. Taking the petrol engines out of Bentleys would be like taking the leather out of a Chesterfield.
This latest model we drove is not electrically powered, but it’s a halfway point. The company’s luxury SUV is typically distinguished by its massive 12-cylinder engine (although there are models available with a V8). Here we have a hybrid version, with a six-cylinder petrol engine accompanied by an electric motor.
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Does it work? That depends: if you’re listening for that V12 ‘whoof’, and expecting the distinctive power characteristics – speed and responsiveness to increase in tandem – you may be disappointed at first. In fact, the sound is the most notable characteristic of this car, as going from a Bentley V12 to this is rather like going from wild to farmed beluga. Still good, but not what you’re used to. But, given that in a few short years no engine will make any sound at all apart from a faint hum, this is really a moot point.
One other characteristic a traditionalist will welcome is the lighter feel: there is less engine in the nose of the car. It feels quite alive around corners on country lanes on the way to one’s architect-redesigned Oxfordshire manor house.
That is the kind of lifestyle this car is aimed at and it does an excellent job. The interior feels like sitting in a well-appointed bank vault with windows onto which the outside world is projected. Unlike some very powerful SUVs, it doesn’t feel like it wants to race every car from the traffic lights. It’s not exactly serene – it’s a Bentley after all – but it’s a wonderful mix of refinement and muscle. If you’re an enthusiastic driver, you won’t complain about the relatively agile handling, excellent roadholding and responsiveness at speed. You may wish for a little more feedback and involvement, though, as this car is set up more at the luxury end of things.
Your passengers will enjoy the crafted feel of the interior, which really does feel a cut above almost any rival. It may not feel as passionate as the SUV offerings from Lamborghini or the Mercedes G 63, but it aims to do a slightly different job, rather more grown-up. It is also a car you could get in to drive from the Cotswolds to ski in St Moritz in one day, and arrive refreshed and ready for the slopes. And the fuel savings from the new electric-petrol engine will pay for a couple of drinks at Pavarotti’s.
LUX rating: 17.5/20
Find out more: bentleymotors.com
This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX