New Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid 2023 review
The V6 plug-in hybrid brings attractive tax savings to Bentley's luxury saloon, but it doesn't quite match the smooth driving experience of its petrol-powered V8 counterpart
4.0 out of 5
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Bentley’s sole saloon is certainly the classiest plug-in hybrid model we’ve driven with an impeccable, upmarket, comfortable interior and a handsome look on the outside, too. It’s not the greatest hybrid integration, but then we’re looking for perfection from Bentley, especially at the price. There’s a slight hesitation in the drivetrain and odd-feeling brakes, so unless you’re attracted by the eco message, driving in silence for just over 20 miles or the substantial tax savings, we’d stick with the wonderful V8 model while we still can.
Bentley is taking a step-by-step approach towards electrification with the Flying Spur saloon, the latest to get the plug-in hybrid treatment, and we’ve driven it in the UK for the first time.
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Electrification suits a Bentley, especially when it’s used to back up a beefy 2.9-litre V6 engine. So you get the balance of swift, silent electric progress – for up to 25.5 miles on a full charge – with petrol and electric power combined when you want a bit of performance.
In fact, it’s more than just a bit of performance that you’ll get – the total of 536bhp will get the Flying Spur from zero to 60mph in just 4.1 seconds, just a tenth behind the V8-powered model.
Use the hybrid as the official tests dictate with the right combination of electric and petrol power (which you never will) and you’ll save at the pumps: a claimed 85.6mpg versus 22.2mpg for the V8. In the real world the fuel savings will be less marked (we managed more than 30mpg), but the temptation of substantial company car tax savings will be enough to sway those spending corporate money towards the plug-in hybrid model.
And there are more reasons than ever to buy a Bentley – this is a company whose cars are just getting better and better. The Flying Spur is one of them – now the only saloon in the line-up, but it's good enough that you’ll get over the demise of the Mulsanne pretty quickly.
The rear doors swing open to present a luxurious and spacious rear seat, with the quality of everything you see and touch being as good as anything anywhere else – and probably better.
Bentley is brilliantly blending tech with tradition, and you can choose from beautiful leather and wood finishes, or more modern materials, and all are tastefully lit at night.
The thing about a Bentley, though, is that you’re more likely to be in the front seat enjoying the drive, where things are just as luxurious. The combination of chrome – much of it nicely knurled – wood and digital displays is tasteful enough, but if the 12.3-inch touchscreen is just too much for you, it’ll revolve to show either three analogue dials or just another glorious stretch of wood veneer (although the revolving screen is a £4,965 option).
But much as we (and others) have complained about too much reliance on touchscreen tech, the number of buttons, knobs and switches scattered across the dash of the Spur is a bit bewildering. It could do with a bit of a clean-up to aid usability – some buttons need a good hard stare to work out what they do.
Once you’ve adjusted the driving position to suit you – as it will anyone – you prod the central starter button and a subtle ‘Ready’ glows on the digital dash display. You’ll most likely pull away in complete silence, a sign of things to come for all Bentleys, unless you’re brutal with the throttle to urge the V6 into life.
If you’ve flicked the circular drive mode selector into Sport mode, the engine will keep running. Otherwise, leave it in automatic ‘B’ mode and there’s a very slight, but noticeable, hesitation before the engine kicks in – an issue with most plug-in hybrids.
What’s also an issue with electrified cars is the brakes; they not only have to stop the car – in this case over 2.5 tonnes-worth – but also regenerate as much power as possible to send back to the battery. Here the Flying Spur is slightly disappointing – you’ll miss the linear braking feel of the V8 with a pedal that feels slightly wooden yet grabby at times.
So with the hybrid’s hesitation and the difficult-to-modulate brakes, it’s not the smoothest Bentley we’ve driven. Nor is the ride the supplest.
There are times when you can feel the car wanting to waft, but it seems to argue with itself; part sports saloon, part luxury express. It’ll thump over bumps or potholes and even get upset over expansion joints in the road surface, but then at other times you’ll marvel at just how relaxing such a big car with sporting intent can be.
What there is no doubt about is the performance on offer, especially given the car’s size. It’s not an agile sports car, but it’s super-swift, there’s not much in the way of body roll and plenty of grip, even if the steering isn’t overly communicative.
We even managed to get pretty close to the 25.5-mile EV range; even on a cold day we got just over 20 miles. Use the car’s navigation system, rather than your Smartphone’s nav, and the car will use clever tricks to maximise EV use in all the right places on your journey. This Bentley is both classy and clever.
|Model:||Bentley Flying Spur S V6 Hybrid|
|Engine:||2.9-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol plus e-motor|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive|
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