View all Bentley Reviews
► 726 wintry miles in Bentley’s Hybrid
► 25 miles of electric range
► Almost 30mpg on long journeys
The Flying Spur Hybrid is Bentley’s most environmentally friendly car, given its 25-mile electric range reduces average carbon emissions to 75g/km. But that’s under ridiculously sympathetic test conditions, so critics would say it’s merely Bentley’s least environmentally unfriendly car.
We put it to a tougher test – 726 wintry UK miles – to see how a Bentley downsized by six cylinders and with added electrons would fare.
Before we set off, remind me of the powertrain
This Flying Spur is a plug-in hybrid, with a 18kWh battery fitted under the boot floor. Up front, Bentley’s flagship (but outgoing) W12 and thumping V8 are eschewed for a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6, and there’s a 138bhp electric motor sandwiched between it and the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Combined maximum torque is a huge 553lb ft at a lowly 1750 revs, sent to all four wheels. The battery takes 2.5 hours to replenish on a 7kW AC wallbox – and the stated 25 miles are achievable following a full charge.
Be under no illusion, this Spur Hybrid remains a driver’s Bentley. Any time the throttle senses you want to make rapid progress, the Spur switches from electrified waft to Crewe’s missile as instantly as Joe Pesci loses his rag in Goodfellas.
It catapults us past genteel traffic on Salisbury Plain’s long overtaking stretches, though the engine sounds harsh and shrill above 3000rpm. Acceleration may be on par with the unruffled V8, but it doesn’t have that effortlessness of Bentleys packing bigger displacements.
Is it smooth and economical on a cruise?
The gearbox is equally committed to the pursuit of rapid progress, holding onto gears to preserve momentum rather than hurriedly changing up to conserve fuel. Occasionally the software gets caught out, such as approaching a roundabout on the overrun, with the transmission clinging onto second gear and the revs flaring.
Otherwise its discreet shifts are smoother than a George Clooney quip, and the switch from engine to electrons mostly seamless.
On our largely highway cruise from Herts to Wiltshire, the Flying Spur returned 29.8mpg and cossetted like a typical Bentley. The air-sprung ride is utterly sumptuous despite the slender tyres, though rubber grumbling is the most perceptible noise in a deliciously hushed cockpit.
Flying Spur Hybrid real-world fuel economy
The battery starts empty for the journey’s next leg: a 174-mile run to Powys, Wales. Not that the electric drive clocked off: the digital tacho is constantly updating on the system’s status, be it recouping electrical energy when coasting or silencing the engine for a burst of EV assist. Fuel consumption deteriorated to 27.1mpg however.
The 18kWh battery is pretty sizeable, chosen – says Bentley – because it covers 90 per cent of its customers typical round trips. But it’s dwarfed by the Range Rover Sport’s whopping 38.2kWh pack, which on the same Herts to Wilts route mustered 45mpg – having travelled more than 33 miles on electric alone.
The Flying Spur Hybrid’s best return was 40.9mpg, on a 65-mile A1 drive to the office. Overall we managed about 40-30mpg on medium to long journeys, starting fully charged. More than double what you’d get in a 12-cylinder Spur, and that emits 337g/km of CO2 too.
How does she handle?
For a 2.5-tonne, 5.3m-long limousine on slippery wintry tarmac, the Hybrid handles pretty well. The steering is lovely, from the feel of the luxurious but solid rim and its stately weighting, to the delicate front-end response. Driving a Flying Spur feeds back the road’s surface in silken granularity, and it makes the helm of normal cars feel rubbery and wayward. The crisp brake pedal delivers too.
The Hybrid clings on doggedly in fast corners, but you’re always working against that mass: it’s a case of slow in, fast out to make sure you don’t force the nose wide on these damp roads. Typically you can feel the rear wheels propelling you forward; the fronts only chip in on demand.
And how practical is the Flying Spur Hybrid?
The hybrid may promise luxurious grand touring, but with two major caveats: don’t expect to charge quickly on the go, or take much with you.
Infuriatingly the Spur doesn’t have any DC fast charging capability. Take a long trip away from your home wallbox, and you can’t stop at a 50kW charger to quickly refill the big battery and improve economy. I found myself killing time in the car park of Tesco Welshpool Tesco, trickling juice into a spent hybrid. This is daft on a £168,300 car.
Hybrid kit also deposits a prominent carbuncle on the left-side of the boot, reducing capacity from the combustion car’s tight 420 litres to a sub-Ford Focus 351 litres. We managed to cram in one suitcase and a couple of carry-ons, but Spur owners will need to travel light.
Any other business…
The upside of the Tesco car park experience was watching shoppers clock the Spur. The muscular exterior design cleverly walks the tightrope between traditional limousine and eye-catching modern detailing.
Muted racing green paint, £3620 Blackline specification stripping away any chrome and gloss black-accented 22s (part of the £15,220 Mulliner Driving Spec) turn heads. There’s even a tiny sliver of orange piping around the carbon sills and bumpers.
It’ll be interesting watching how Bentley transforms its cockpits, with the overwhelming bank of switches around the gear selector ripe for elimination by capacitive switches and the touchscreen. Let’s hope the Bentley rotating screen lives forever: it’s a joy watching its precision engineering drop it backwards to free up the space to turn and reveal the hidden veneer panel. Worth every penny of the £4865 option fee.
The Flying Spur Hybrid is a transitional model on Bentley’s long journey to being carbon neutral. Much of the Bentley experience – engaging to drive, comfortable to ride in, luxurious to behold – is present and correct.
Its prodigious performance is suitably Bentley, though the shrill V6 is not. The fuel economy is a big step forward, but pales compared with Range Rover hybrids. And there are some big compromises that second-generation plug-ins surely won’t require.
It’s a Bentley, just not quite as we’ve known it. And there will be less compromised electrified Bentleys to come.
Read more Bentley reviews here
|Price when new:||£168,000|
|On sale in the UK:||Now|
|Engine:||2894cc twin-turbo V6 plus e-motor and 14.1kWh battery, 536bhp @ 6000rpm, 553lb ft @ 1750rpm|
|Transmission:||Seven-speed dual-clutch auto, all-wheel drive|
|Performance:||4.3sec 0-62mph, 177mph, 85.6mpg, 75g/km CO2, 25-mile EV range|
|Weight / material:||2505kg|
|Dimensions (length/width/height in mm):||5316/1978/1483|