The 2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid is a shaky step towards the luxury future of the electric car.

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Bentley engaged in the never-ending battle for the balance between classic luxury coachbuilding and modern automotive manufacturing.

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The luxury car manufacturer must not only keep pace with changing technology, consumer tastes and industry standards, but also constantly sophistication inspired by the old world that he is famous. The automotive industry’s move towards electrification adds another challenge – Bentley is also pursuing its Beyond 100 initiative to become an all-electric brand by 2030 and offer electrified versions of all of its products by 2023.

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Bentley first tested electrified waters in 2019 with a hybrid version of the Bentayga SUV. Now it’s time for the Flying Spur, a full-size luxury sedan that has historically been paired with either a decadent W12 engine or a punchy V8.

The automaker replaced the hybrid powertrain with a V6 engine to prove that Bentley is more than just a powerful power plant. Bottom line: The Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid is an uncharacteristic bump on a rocky road leading into the future.

Nuts and bolts

Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid Bonnet Decoration

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Image credits: Alex Kalogianni

Under the hood of the Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid is the first V6 engine to be installed in a Bentley sedan in 64 years, a 2.9-liter twin-turbo engine that on its own develops up to 410 horsepower. It is paired with a 134-horsepower electric motor that sits between the engine and an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

When everything works in unison, the Flying Spur Hybrid boasts a power output of 536 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque, sending it to all four wheels and going from 0 to 60 in 4.1 seconds. That’s just a tenth of a second slower than the V8 for those who keep score.

To put that into perspective, the W12 Flying Spur can make 626 horsepower and hit 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. It can also reach speeds of up to 207 mph, and the 542-horsepower V8 can reach speeds of up to 198 mph. The new hybrid is limited to 177 mph. All of this is academic for those who live without the convenience of an unrestricted stretch of autobahn, but taken together paints a picture of a car struggling to meet the set standard rather than exceed expectations.

Batteries and Modes

Hybrid Bentley Flying Spur

Image credits: Alex Kalogianni

Along with the electric motor, new components include an 18.0 kWh battery and a J1772 level 2 charging port that Bentley says can be charged in two and a half hours. It lasts about 21 miles of all-electric cruising and gives the Flying Spur a solid 46 mpg on the combined cycle, a far cry from its other, more voracious iterations. The extra port and “Hybrid” badge are the only things that make this Flying Spur different from any other.

Like other Bentley cars, there is a set of modes that affect driving dynamics, determining the softness or sportiness of various systems. With the new hybrid driver setup, a new separate set of modes has been added to customize the drivetrain behavior: EV Drive, Hybrid and Hold.

The Flying Spur hybrid does its best at launch, defaulting to EV Drive. It’s a quiet, flowing nod to what an all-electric Bentley will look like when it hits the market.

Hybrid mode switches predictably between systems based on driver behavior and conditions, as well as route optimization through the link between this system and on-board navigation. Plan a route and Flying Spur will determine the most efficient segments to use the remaining charge.

The hold mode will limit battery usage, but will not turn it off completely. It will mainly use a V6, but will use an electronic motor for extra acceleration. This is also the default setting in sport driving mode.

Speaking of driving, some notable sacrifices have been made to simplify all of the new hybrid equipment. On the V8 and W12 Flying Spurs, you’ll find rear-wheel steering and a 48-volt anti-roll system. Not only do these systems provide more balance and stability for comfortable driving, but they also help change the dynamics of a healthy-sized sedan during high-speed and sporty rides.

luxury rooms

Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid - infotainment system

Image credits: Alex Kalogianni

In the cabin, the technology is the same as in the rest of the cabin. Flying Spur line-up and the Continental GT Coupe: a 12.3-inch digital touchscreen that flips up when not needed to reveal three analog gauges, an all-digital gauge cluster, and a head-up display. They have been updated with additional graphics to monitor battery usage, remaining charge and regeneration, and the instrument panel has been specifically updated to display transmission behavior in real time.

Battery health is one of the many things that can be tracked outside of Flying Spur thanks to connected car services that communicate with the car via a smartphone app.

Along with the current charge, the app allows users to schedule charging times and get estimates of charging times. It also logs trip data, including average fuel consumption, so you can better plan future trips. The cabin can also be removed prior to arrival so it can be heated or cooled down, depending on the current climate.

What hasn’t changed is Bentley’s masterful interior trim. Like a holiday treat, the Flying Spur delivers sensational enjoyment with plush leather seats, open-pore koa wood accents, knurled-cut metal handles and a host of other intricate details. It’s fair to say that Bentley has the luxury side of things properly anchored at the moment, although that doesn’t seem to be the case yet when it comes to electrification.

UX

Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid Screen

Image credits: Alex Kalogianni

Switching to the default EV mode at launch is a smart showcase of the Flying Spur Hybrid’s best qualities. Relatively quiet and impossibly soft, the electrified Bentley seems to be exactly what it was designed for.

Combine this with significant cabin noise cancellation and at times the experience is almost frightening and it takes a fraction of a second for your senses to remember that everything is working as intended and that nothing has turned off. Passengers are treated to the feeling of flying on a quiet, luxurious cloud through the city, and while this may be the peak Bentley experience from the back seat, it’s a different story behind the wheel.

While the temptation to go full steam ahead in a W12 version or take a brisk walk with a V8 is always there, the Flying Spur is a car designed to be comfortable to drive for most of its life. Light acceleration, smooth shifting and soft braking were the rules of the game in this regard, and they have all been changed in this version of the Spur.

Driving Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

Image credits: Alex Kalogianni

Bentley Mode Bentley is an automatic universal setting that changes depending on the behavior of the driver: a little pressure and he will behave in a comfortable mode, and if you start to get angry, he will switch to a sporty one. Typically, they affect steering stiffness, damper stiffness, and throttle and brake input speeds. These three settings now have to compete with whatever transmission setting the driver wants to use, and it starts to get complicated.

By default, the throttle has a slight input lag, not uncommon in luxury cars, to soften forward surges. It works great in E mode at low speeds, but running purely on electric motor has its limitations. Any desire to truly move forward requires the activation of V6.

In fact, trying to tweak just the throttle response requires a sport mode. All this effectively breaks the spell of the all-electric mode. Traditionally, this is where the satisfying growl of any of the other engines makes its presence felt, ready to go, but the V6 doesn’t come to life in the same way. The extra confusing sound further reduces it in a frustrating way.

Sound aside, the Flying Spur seamlessly transitions from battery to engine power, and once it picks up speed, it coasts unmistakably like a Bentley. Once it’s time to slow down, the newly implemented regenerative braking gives the Flying Spur an odd “jump” right at the end, making it hard to stop smoothly. All in all, from start to finish, the core luxury experience is compromised by the inclusion of a hybrid system.

In sport mode, everything is more familiar. With the V6 always on, most of the new quirks are reduced. Braking still suffers, but the throttle and steering are as sharp as ever. The extra battery charge makes up for the shortcomings of the smaller motor, although it’s very limited and it takes a long time in “hold” to pay off a mile of range. The loss of rear steering isn’t nearly as bad as the loss of the anti-roll bar system, which has certainly helped reduce the weight of the Flying Spur in the past when cornering.

Bentley Flying Spur hybrid front

Image credits: Alex Kalogianni

Take all of the above with a very refined grain of salt. We’re still talking about the Bentley here, and it still does everything in a comparatively stellar fashion compared to most cars. But compared to other Bentleys, the Flying Spur Hybrid stumbles way too often to be in the lead.

Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid differs from other models in that it is most economical version literally miles. It has an electric range of 21 or so miles on its own, but paired with a V6 it can go the distance if it’s regularly charged at home. Bentley is kind enough to add a charger to a roughly $210,000 purchase so buyers don’t have to condescend to visit a local charging station.

Compromising the performance of the Flying Spur’s luxurious performance seems like a necessary growing pain in light of Bentley’s grand mission.

In context, this would seem like an important step towards achieving the promise of full electric luxury. Currently, the Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid oscillates between what it does best and what it does for the first time, resulting in a rare Bentley that fluctuates in performance. This car’s all-electric mode is a tantalizing slice of what’s to come, just a shame the taste is so fleeting.


Credit: techcrunch.com /

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