First Drive Review: 2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid deftly substitutes electrons for cylinders

Big, torquey, and smooth, the 12-cylinder engine is ideal for an ultra-luxury cruiser that aims to cocoon passengers in serenity, while also providing the punch to intimidate more plebeian cars in its path. 

You know what else is torquey, smooth, and whisper quiet? An electric powertrain. The 2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid represents an interim step along the way to full electric propulsion without foregoing traditional Bentley power and peace.

The move to EVs is part of the Bentley 100 plan, which calls for a full electric lineup by 2030, and the plug-in hybrid Flying Spur Hybrid is the second stop along the way after the 2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid.

Bentley invited Motor Authority to Beverly Hills, California, to experience the Flying Spur Hybrid in its natural habitat and see if a V-6 hybrid can deliver an experience satisfying enough to replace the V-8 and W-12.

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

From the start, the prospects looked good. I drove the Bentayga Hybrid two years ago and found its plug-in hybrid powertrain up to the task for the brand’s SUV. The Flying Spur Hybrid borrows the hybrid system from the Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid, sandwiching an 134-hp electric motor between the engine and an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. The motor is fed by a lithium-ion battery pack mounted under the trunk floor with 14.1 kw of usable energy.

The engine is a turbocharged 2.9-liter V-6 also borrowed from the Panamera. Total system output is 536 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, compared to 443 hp and 516 lb-ft in the plug-in Bentayga Hybrid, which has a different engine, a 3.0-liter V-6.

The Flying Spur Hybrid’s main strength is how little it differs from the V-8 model, which is already faster than the W-12 version. It starts on the outside, where the only unique styling cues are the hybrid badges on the front fenders and the charge port door in the left rear fender.

Three EV-specific drive modes that can be set using a button on the center console—Hybrid, Sport, and Hold—represent the biggest difference between the Flying Spur Hybrid and the V-8 model. They aren’t to be confused with the Sport, B (Bentley), Comfort, and Custom general driving modes controlled through a knurled metal dial on the center console. The Sport E-mode quickens throttle response and actually charges the battery, while the main Sport mode stiffens the dampers, loosens the stability control, and adds more heft to the steering.

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

In my first 50 miles behind the wheel. I cycled between Hybrid and Sport E-modes, which have different aims. When a destination is input into the navigation system, Hybrid mode attempts to drain the battery as much as possible when you arrive for best fuel economy. You can then charge up at the destination and let it run efficiently again. Sport mode aims for best throttle response, which I preferred to perk up the reactions in a car that’s tuned for smoothness instead of jack-rabbit starts. Since I used both modes, I ended up using only 7 of the original 29 miles of estimated EV range and the trip computer showed 21.5 mpg. Total EV range hasn’t been rated by the EPA yet, but Bentley says it will be at least 25 miles.

The powertrain makes its best power in Sport mode, and a full-throttle romp will push the 5,600-lb beast from 0-60 mph in a tidy 4.1 seconds. That launch isn’t violent, though. When going hard off the line or punching it to pass, the powertrain eases into the power then slingshots the car forward, which keeps passengers from jerking then heads back while still showing this car runs with authority. Even with the engine running, the Flying Spur blocks out much of the outside noise, and the V-6’s subdued growl only becomes apparent during hard acceleration.

During the next 37 miles, my drive partner ran the car in EV mode much of the time, using 22 miles of EV range, before we arrived at our lunch stop and Bentley’s crew recharged the battery. The 14.1-kw battery can take a full charge in 2.5 hours on a Level 2 (240-volt) outlet through the car’s 7.2-kw onboard charging system.

During the next leg, my partner also used EV for most of a 50-mile stint, sapping 18 miles of EV range. I finished off the final 20 or so miles starting in EV, then switching to Sport, which reclaimed the few miles of EV range I used initially.

EV mode is the most tranquil way to drive the Flying Spur Hybrid, but it also gives the car about 134 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to gradually build up all the way to 80 mph or to keep the car going on the highway, but the engine starts to aid power with deeper stabs of the throttle. The engine switches on and off seamlessly. When it’s off, about half the cabin noise goes away, according to Bentley, and that’s a preview of the very serene environment future Bentley EVs will offer.

The battery and its power electronics have good and bad effects on balance and dynamics. They add almost 400 lb to tip the scales at a few sandwiches over 5,600 lb, and the space taken up by the battery precludes the installation of rear-axle steering. On a positive note, the extra rear weight sways the car’s weight balance from 53/47 front to 48/52 rear, bringing it closer to a perfect balance and putting more weight over the rear wheels for better traction during hard launches.

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

On the highways and twisty roads between Beverly Hills and Santa Barbara, the Flying Spur Hybrid felt substantial, composed, and controllable, but not quite agile. The oddly heavy steering became tedious to hold in place during a few prolonged highway arcs, and was otherwise direct though without much feel. The car responded willingly to steering inputs and didn’t suffer from too much body lean thanks to a standard three-chamber air suspension and adaptive dampers. However, it felt every bit its full-size car length, an issue that could be remedied by rear-axle steering, if only it could be specified. Even with standard 22-inch wheels, though, the ride was always smooth and isolating. 

Hitting the brake pedal triggers a mix of regenerative and friction braking. The hand-off between the two is mostly seamless. Only a touchy right foot will feel a bit of pedal drop in the transition.

Bentley positions the Flying Spur Hybrid as more of a limousine than other versions of its four-door sedan. That’s reflected in the overall tuning. While the suspension tuning doesn’t change from other Flying Spurs, the extra weight means it doesn’t feel quite as responsive.

That positioning also encourages more owners to experience the Flying Spur’s roomy back seat. Our drive concluded with a cocktail hour at the Sunset Restaurant in Malibu, so Bentley chauffeured us back to the hotel to experience that rear seat. Like the rest of the interior, it’s beautifully appointed, with quilted leather highlighted with contrast piping and stitching. Head and leg room are plentiful, but the seat bottoms are too short to offer the thigh support needed for long-trip comfort. My right foot and ankle especially were fatigued during the hour or so drive back to the hotel. A removable 5.0-inch touchscreen, sized like a cell phone, improved the experience as a novelty that can control the climate, entertainment, lighting, and other functions either remotely or set in place in the rear center console.

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

Up front, the look is the same as any other Flying Spur except for changes to the tachometer and the E Mode button on the center console. In addition to measuring revs, the tach’s digital needle sweeps through regen and EV drive sectors to show when the engine is on or off and to show if the electricity is being used or replenished. An additional circle within the tach shows remaining EV range, and the center touchscreen has an energy flow graphic that pops up under a Hybrid tab.

The cabin is one of the great joys of any Bentley. The beautiful mix of leather, wood, and metal makes driving a Bentley a singular luxury experience. No interiors on the market are as aesthetically pleasing and only a few are built to such a high standard. Choosing the color palette of the two-tone hides and complementary woods is an integral part of the ownership experience. Try out the configurator and you’ll likely get lost in a fit of design euphoria.

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid

The Flying Spur V-8 starts at $198,100 (without destination or a gas-guzzler tax), and Bentley says the Hybrid will cost 3% more, so pricing should be in the $205,000 to $210,000 range (likely without a gas-guzzler tax) when the car hits the market this spring.

All told, my trip covered 165.7 miles. With the stop in between to recharge, my drive partner and I used about 40 miles of EV range and got 25.7 mpg overall, according to the trip computer. While any given owner’s mileage may be better or worse depending on how often they charge, the Flying Spur Hybrid not only matches the power of its gas-powered siblings, but it also saves emissions along the way. A plug-in hybrid may be an interim step on the way to EVs, but it’s a good one.

Bentley paid for lodging and airfare for Motor Authority to get a taste of the good life and bring you this firsthand report.

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