GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — Following decades of dependence on big-bore V-8s and massive W-12s, Bentley has finally revealed its first concrete step towards an electrified future. The Bentley Bentayga Hybrid turns the brand’s fuel-thirsty powertrain offerings on its tail by combining a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 gas engine with an electric motor/generator battery.
Power output won’t be released until closer to the model’s anticipated market launch, and Bentley isn’t taking orders until mid-2018. But for reference, the current 3.0-liter-powered Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid produces 462 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque—though we suspect the Bentayga will lean on Bentley’s history of churning more generous gobs of low-end torque. For an internal combustion benchmark, the Bentayga’s new twin-turbo V-8 makes 542 hp and 568 lb-ft of twist.
Though this marks Bentley’s first six-cylinder since the Rat Pack era, the brand asserts the new SUV will feel and ride “like a Bentley”—which we hope means it will deliver a seamless transition between gas and electric and effortless waves of forward motion. Initial info indicates the hybridized sport ‘ute will also feature advanced tech like powertrain logic which coordinates with GPS data to strategize the gas/electric split depending on route information. Using traffic data and estimated speeds, the system will automatically switch to a hybrid or EV-only mode so the battery is strategically emptied by the time the SUV arrives at its destination.
Bentley claims over 31 miles of electric range and a full battery charge from a domestic socket in 7.5 hours, or 2.5 hours with a fast charger. Drive modes include Sport, Bentley (a factory-customized combination), Comfort, or the driver-modifiable Custom setting.
Expect to see Bentley’s typically plush interior finishes, though modified instrumentation includes an EV drive/tachometer replacing the analog tach, and a battery status gauge that sits in place of the coolant temperature indicator. A revised infotainment screen and Driver’s Information Panel will also convey performance, power flow and consumption information. The MyBentley3 service enables remote battery charging, remote heating and cooling and vehicle status via smartphone. Don’t expect to Bentayga Hybrid drivers to shop for off-the-shelf charging units, either; Bentley worked with designer Philippe Starck to produce a slick looking dock that’s accented with ecologically sourced linen and hot-pressure cast aluminum.
Will Bentley’s first step towards electrification satisfy old guard ultra-luxury buyers or will it attract a new crop of eco-conscious customers? This brave new world of six-figure ultraluxury SUVs remains uncharted territory, so we can safely say that remains to be seen. In the meantime, check this space at a later date for driving impressions on the first ultra premium hybrid SUV.