2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid first drive review: Charge port gained, no prestige lost

The Ice (white) 2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid slips almost silently through its natural environment, the Silicon Valley town of Atherton, California. Homes with an average price of $11 million line the streets with gates and fences that are as welcoming as the member policy of Augusta National Golf Club on the other side of the country. Yet the price and the technology of the ultra-luxury plug-in hybrid SUV fit in here like a blue blood at Augusta.

The Bentayga Hybrid is Bentley’s first crack at electrification, and it’s an effective use of plug-in hybrid technology in a whopper of an SUV. An Audi-sourced turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 lurks under the high-set hood. It spins out its usual 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. Sandwiched between the engine and the 8-speed automatic transmission is a 126-horsepower electric motor that also contributes 258 lb-ft of torque. Total system output is 443 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque.

I’m piloting the Bentayga, dodging multiple truck-and-trailer rigs that belong to crack teams of landscapers parked along the streets. The residents around here have apps to develop, code to write, companies to create, and IPOs to manage; they don’t have time for yard work. At these low speeds, the electric motor is doing all the work and the engine is going along for the ride.

2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

I’m running in Hybrid mode, though I might as well use the EV Drive mode for much of this 22-mile jaunt through Silicon Valley. EV Drive prioritizes the motor, but the engine will come at a certain point of throttle tip-in and powertrain load. I can’t feel a detent in the throttle pedal that triggers the engine to start, but I can hear it, feel it ever so slightly, and see the engine working when it lights up orange on the Energy flow screen.

After leaving the haughty Atherton neighborhood, I pass by the several city blocks that make up Facebook headquarters. I briefly reflect on the damage Facebook has done to democracies, civility, and friendships the world over and wonder why I still maintain my account. Those thoughts fade when I see a chance to test the Bentayga Hybrid’s acceleration.

A right turn reveals a stretch of wide-open two-lane highway and I punch it. The V-6 lets out a muted roar, the electric motor gives all it has, and the 5,789-pound Bentayga sprints forward with the gusto of a much smaller vehicle. Bentley’s quoted 0-60 mph time of 5.2 seconds feels firmly within reach. I come nowhere close, but I believe that this British behemoth can also reach the quoted top speed of 158 mph.

Soon I’m toddling through the campus of Stanford University and the town of Palo Alto. The Bentayga Hybrid looks natural in this quaint, bustling downtown area as well, with its trendy restaurants and high-end shopping. I use this chance to test the EV Drive mode, though it’s no different than Hybrid because I’m not traveling fast enough to need more than the 126 hp the electric motor can deliver.

I do note, however, that the range indicator on the Energy flow screen read 31 miles when I left and that’s down to 16 after about 16 miles. However, the vehicle hasn’t been running engine-off the whole time, so the EV miles are slipping away faster than the system promises.

According to Bentley, the Bentayga Hybrid will be rated at 16 miles of EV range, and that it returns 50 “gasoline equivalent” miles per gallon.

A final run back to the hotel involves a few miles on the freeway. I use this opportunity to try out both the Hold mode, and the Charisma drive controller’s Sport mode, which also defaults the EV mode to Hold. Hold retains the battery’s current state of charge by aiding the engine less often and/or using the engine to charge the 17-kwh battery. Bentley reports that the battery has 13 kwh of usable capacity because the hybrid system is programmed to keep 20 percent of the battery in reserve, even when EV range says zero, so the system has enough energy for the motor to aid the engine and provide the vehicle with its full 443 horsepower when needed. As expected, given my earlier sprint, freeway passing is a breeze.

2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

Once off the freeway, it’s just a few blocks back to the hotel where I can gather the stats for my 22.2-mile trip. According to the trip computer, I got 34.3 mpg (which sounds like MPGe), averaged just 11 mph, added 9 miles back into the battery, and used a total of 22 miles of EV range. The combustion engine accounted for 25 percent of the propulsion, and I drove on the motor and the battery pack—emitting zero emissions—75 percent of the time.

Maybe it was my lead foot but another journalist reported 52 mpg.

But wait, there’s more. My drive partner gets a turn behind the wheel as well.

He starts out in strictly EV Drive on a freeway stretch and uses up the remaining 9 miles in 4.2 miles. At the point, the vehicle automatically switches to Hybrid mode.

His drive consists of about half highway miles, followed by several miles on beautiful twisty roads in a 45 mph zone stuck behind a large truck going about 20 mph under the speed limit.

At the end of his turn, our totals for the 43.9-mile run now read 27.2 mpg with a 16-mph average speed, 38 percent use of the combustion engine, and 62 percent zero emissions driving. After running out of charge, he built up another 3 miles of EV range by the end of his 21.7-mile run.

2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

Final thoughts

The Bentayga Hybrid’s hybrid system seems particularly well integrated. In the default Hybrid mode, it looks to use the electric motor as the means of propulsion as much as possible and it truly works, at least in low-speed city driving. The battery takes 2.5 hours to recharge on a 240-volt outlet through the system’s 7.2-kw onboard charger or about 7 hours on a 120-volt outlet.

For those who don’t want to charge, Bentley has no expectations that they must. The system will maintain a minimal level of battery charge and use it to feed power to the engine. However we didn’t get a read on the system’s average mileage with no charge.

Smoothness is expected in a Bentley, and so it’s not unexpected that switches back and forth between electric operation and engine-on driving was smooth and seamless. The power is always at the ready when called upon. Bentley says the quiet and immediate torque of an electric motor are both traits that fit with the brand. I found that to be the case, though the V-6 engine used here is the weak point; it isn’t as refined at full throttle as Bentley’s other engines.

The 2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid will go on sale by the end of the year as the most-affordable version of the brand’s ultra-luxury family hauler with a price of $156,900 not including a mandatory destination charge. At that price, and with its looks and unmistakable interior luxury, it will fit in at expensive zip codes everywhere, even if I don’t.

Bentley provided travel and airfare to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand report.

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