Geneva Auto Show: Bentley enters hybrid territory with Bentayga SUV

On Monday, at a private party prior to the Geneva Motor Show, Bentley Motors Ltd. unveiled the Bentley Bentayga Hybrid. This is the first vehicle in Bentley's family of cars to run on hybrid power.

Attendees look at a Bentley Motors Ltd. Bentayga luxury vehicle ahead of the 88th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday, March 5, 2018. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Attendees look at a Bentley Motors Ltd. Bentayga luxury vehicle ahead of the 88th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday, March 5, 2018. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

True to form, the Crewe, England-based company gave its new plug-in SUV a nod toward prestige: The 2019 Bentley Bentayga hybrid comes with a plug-in power dock made from sustainable materials and designed by the French designer and frequent Bentley customer Philippe Starck. It uses two power sources, a 3.0-liter V6 combustion engine and an electric motor.

It accompanies the V8 version of the $230,000 SUV that Bentley announced earlier this year, which the company will also show in Geneva. But while the V8 will probably sell more units next year, the hybrid will get the applause.

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"The Geneva show is about posturing and buzz—energy," said Kelley Blue Book Managing Editor Michael Harley. "It's fitting that brands like Bentley bring the cars they most want to hype."

As for Bentley, new Chief Executive Officer Adrian Hallmark says this hybrid SUV is important because it signals the direction of the company for coming years: "It's our first step on the road to electrification."

After the diesel scandal, hybrid power

Bentley's latest debut comes soon after parent company Volkswagen AG suffered a scandal regarding faked diesel emissions tests but then nearly doubled total profits last year over 2016. The company made the first Bentayga in 2015 and has since produced more than 10,000 of them.

The new Bentayga hybrid shows Bentley is working to meet federal emissions regulations and keep up with the times (Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Audi AG, for instance, also make plug-in hybrid luxury SUVs), regardless of just how many consumers are actually demanding a hybrid SUV that costs a quarter of a million dollars. (Bentley declined to comment on that.)

Regardless of actual sales, the hybrid works to introduce an eco-conscious mentality to the 99-year-old brand. The V6 combustion engine and electric motor are paired with all-wheel drive and multiple drive modes. It will get 31 miles under electric-only power, far shy of the 350-mile range on the Tesla Model X, though it enjoys regenerative braking, like many hybrids. Charging to full strength takes more than seven hours with a standard charger, or 2.5 hours with a special industrial-strength one. Bentley hasn't yet released numbers for top speed and how quickly the Bentayga hybrid can reach 60 miles per hour, though standard versions can do it in roughly four seconds.

As plush as the original

The interior will follow the rest of the Bentayga line, with myriad plush upgrade options: deep diamond-quilted seats, drilled alloy sport pedals, and a center-console chiller among them. A $10,000 "Black" specification adds carbon fiber elements throughout the car, along with a front bumper splitter, side sills, rear bumper diffuser, and prominent rear spoiler.

Bentley's hybrid will also come with some decidedly upper-crust technological capabilities, such as remote start and battery monitoring, remote heating and cooling, and a vehicle status monitor that reports the condition of the vehicle to a mobile app. The eight-inch, high-definition control screen and 10.2-inch rear-seat entertainment screens are there as well. The idea here is that the hybrid feels no different from the regular Bentayga, which is smooth, powerful, and luxuriously massive. On this, Bentley has succeeded.

Pricing has yet to be announced. Deliveries will begin this fall.

First Published Date: 07 Mar 2018, 12:07 PM IST
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