Up until recently, luxury vehicles relied on big, powerful petrol engines to set themselves apart from their more affordable counterparts, but as Bob Dylan once sang, the times they are a-changin'. The latest crop of luxury limos are swapping their V8s and W12s for hybrid and electric powertrains. One such vehicle is the new Bentley Flying Spur. But does Bentley’s hybrid Flying Spur compromise on luxury or performance, or does it take luxury to a new level? I spent a weekend with one to find out…
From the outside, you’d be hard-pressed to tell this is anything new, but there are a few subtle visual differences that set it apart from its fossil fuel-burning siblings. These include special Hybrid badges and quad oval tailpipes.
The big news here is that under the bonnet is a 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine mated to an electric motor, delivering a total of 536 bhp and 750 Nm of torque. This not only helps propel the car from 0 to 60 mph in under 4.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 177 mph, but it also makes it the most efficient Bentley ever, with the capability to cover over 700 km when fully fuelled.
Inside, the cabin is just as luxurious as the internal combustion engined model. The main difference being the automatic Start-Stop switch has been replaced with a control for the three electric modes. You can choose between pure EV mode, hybrid mode and ‘hold’ mode, which enables the driver to manage the battery usage during a journey.
The car starts in EV Drive mode and I must say, it feels super luxurious gliding around silently using the electric motor. You can travel in this mode for around 25 miles before the V6 petrol engine kicks in, making it ideal for city driving and for shorter journeys. When it comes to charging the 14.1 kWh lithium-ion battery will only take around 2.5 hours to get to 100-percent.
In Hybrid Mode the Flying Spur’s powertrain delivers an intoxicating blend of the internal combustion engine and electric motor. It’s both refined and fast, almost matching the Flying Spur V8 when it comes to acceleration. The new powertrain has managed to maintain an authentic Bentley character but achieves a significant reduction in fuel consumption, making it perfect for eco-conscious petrolheads.
Of course, the Flying Spur Hybrid is no slouch in the tech department either. It features a plethora of intelligent equipment that borders on James Bond levels of technology, including the incredibly cool rotating dashboard which hides your infotainment screen behind a set of physical dials. An embedded SIM is provided, enabling a range of My Bentley connected car features accessed through a dedicated app. These include ‘find my car’ and ‘lock my car’, through to My Battery Charge, My Car Statistics, and My Cabin Comfort.
So does Bentley’s hybrid Flying Spur compromise on luxury or performance? After my weekend with the luxury limo, I actually think going hybrid improves luxury and performance, and I can’t wait for more ultra-luxe brands to opt for electrified powertrains.