Goodwood Test: Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid 2022 Review
Want to sell a car in 2022? Well then you’ll need to electrify it in some way. Yep, that even includes you, the big beasts of old-school engineering Bentley and Rolls-Royce. So now even the behemothic Flying Spur limo can be had fitted with some batteries and electric motors. The question is, does it make sense? Is making the already pretty hefty Bentley even heavier actually a good idea?
- Attractive styling
- Excellent EV cruising
- Stunning interior
We don't like
- Gruff, unrefined V6 engine
- Cumbersome handling at speed
- Why not go fully electric?
The addition of a bunch of extra moving electrons has made absolutely zero difference to the looks of the Flying Spur. For that we’re thankful because it’s a pretty handsome beast. The front gains the latest Bentley lighting, ovals with interior cutting inspired by a whiskey glass, while the grille is a big thing, standing proud as almost a symbol of what this car stands for.
The side, including the largest single piece of metal used on a production car, is surprisingly muscular for a cruiser, the rear arches cut aggressively toward the rear, and the long saloon boot is met by a heavy-duty drop from the roof.
The rear has Bentley’s double “B” lights, now found on all its models, and a strong design line down the middle, just below the logo and above the word Bentley – both existing just to make sure you know. The exhausts are big ovals, taken straight from the Continental GT. Altogether it is almost the definition of handsome. The big Bentley would never be “pretty”, historically that just wouldn’t fit a car from Crewe. No, a Bentley should be attractive in a fearsome way, and so this is.
Performance and Handling
The second change to the Flying Spur to make it a hybrid – after adding electricity – is to lop off at least two of the cylinders. The Flying Spur Hybrid comes with neither W12 or V8, but a 2.9-litre V6 engine.
That V6 provides 416PS (305kW) of the Flying Spur Hybrid’s total 544PS (400kW), and an electric motor – mounted between engine and transmission rather than on the axle – adds up to 136PS (100kW). Perhaps the most impressive stat here is that the V6 is actually more power dense than the normal V8. Torque sits at 550Nm (406lb ft) – that’s 95Nm more than the V8 – from pretty much zero revs, thanks to that electric motor, so 62mph can be reached in 4.1 seconds, which is just 0.1 slower than the V8.
The most intriguing thing about this car is perhaps that, despite its literal century of internal combustion experience, it is the trad V6 that lets the Flying Spur Hybrid down. The electric motors are well integrated, providing instant power and capable cruising with little issue, but the moment the V6 kicks in the big Bentley goes from peaceful cruiser to something less refined. There’s a very un-Bentley-like rattle when the petrol motor gets itself going, and while it settles down somewhat it’s always a little gruff, which, when we’re talking luxury Bentley, isn’t exactly the smooth ride you hope for.
However, that said, the electric powertrain very nearly makes up for the V6’s problems. The combination of totally quiet motion with luxury car refinement is surely a match made in heaven? This is truly peaceful perambulation. When the Flying Spur is in its all-EV mode it feels at its absolute best. That single motor may only add 136PS, but it has a chunky 400Nm (295lb ft) on tap. It’s not the most expressive of electric powertrains we’ve driven, but foot to the floor it’ll ship itself to 60mph in sprightly fashion.
Show it a corner in any mode and it feels heavy, but then so does every Bentley. The suspension does a good job of dialling away the effect of the extra batteries to keep the Flying Spur on a smooth keel. The damping is not quite as smooth as on the standard car, letting just the odd extra judder sneak its way through, but it’s more a case of noticing them when you look for them than being shocked out of your seat. The steering is numb, and in its EV mode you can feel the front tyres scrabbling at times should you ask more through a corner, it really does also feel very heavy when you come to moving it anything more than a small kink left or right.
But when you quieten down to a proper cruise it comes over all Bentley again, balancing the engine and motor nicely to bring a calmer soundscape and soaking up most things the motorway can chuck at you.
On its own the electric powertrain is capable of carrying the Flying Spur for around 25 miles, but this will obviously depend on how rapid you choose to make your journey. It can be switched between full EV, hybrid and charge holding modes (where you retain the same charge for your arrival in a town or city) and we found that hybrid managed to deliver around 36mpg, impressive for a hefty (2.5 tonnes) saloon.
Back to standard Bentley fair here – other than the addition of a button to switch it into full EV. That means it’s quite possibly the best-designed car around at the moment. The dash is large, winged across from the centre console, with inlays from whichever pattern you’ve chosen – and this being Bentley the options are pretty much endless. Unlike the Bentayga it’s a single flat design line across the dash, rather than dropping to hug the screen and climate buttons as the SUV does.
The screen is a 12.3-inch unit, massive and capable of being slid away should it offend your eyes, replaced with a trio of more traditional dials. The seats are exceptionally comfortable, swathed in diamond stitched leather and the rear is a masterpiece of isolating you from the rest of the world. Pull up the blinds side and rear and recline what are nearly armchairs and, if the Flying Spur is in its quietest mode, sleep would probably follow with rapidity.
Technology and Features
As you might expect for its £163,000 “base” price, the Flying Spur Hybrid has all the technology you expect. “Our” car, which was priced up to £205,000 in “Odyssean” specification – think white over white – had automatic cruise control, automatic wipers, auto headlights, massaging heated and cooling seats, climate control across four zones, reclining rear seats, massaging and heated rear seats and everything else you would hope for.
The big screen that dominates the front is easy to use and controls pretty much everything except the climate control, which has been thankfully still left separate. Perhaps its weakest point is the functionality for controlling the hybrid system. It can be switched reasonably easily between its three modes, but the interface feels very much like a first attempt at hybridisation, lagging behind a lot of its less luxurious rivals. Some functions, like setting how much battery you wish to hold, or changing regen yourself, are missing or very hard to find. That said if you plot your journey through the sat-nav the system will very cleverly set up how it uses its power based on what is coming up over the journey, optimising coasting and regen depend on where you are.
A week with the Flying Spur Hybrid left us with two conclusions. Firstly, a pondering as to whether there was actually a point in making a hybrid version of something like a Flying Spur. The increase in mpg is good, but not good enough to make a difference when you’re looking at buying a massive luxury hybrid. If you are in the lucky position of being able to get a Bentley as your company car the BiK change will potentially make a difference to you, but for everyone else it feels superfluous. The second point only reinforces the first. In EV mode it all makes total sense all of a sudden. The future of luxury motoring, a place where relaxed serenity is prized above all else, is surely with the method of movement being totally silent too.
At which point you wonder why not just wait and take the full step? A full EV Flying Spur would be, or rather will be, almost perfect and this first stab at electrification shows that Bentley is fully on the right track to making a high-quality powertrain one day. At the end of the day the only real let downs are the V6, which has a real lack of refinement, and its less than smooth abilities down a windy road. The Flying Spur Hybrid is perhaps the ultimate motorway cruiser when its engine is off, but let that V6 into the show and it isn’t the machine we, or our £163k, want. However it does show us that the future is probably quite bright.
This score is an average based on aggregated reviews from trusted and verified sources.
|Engine||2.9-litre V6 petrol, electric motor|
|Power||544PS (400kW) @ 5,500-6,500rpm|
|Torque||550Nm (406lb ft) @ 2,000-5,000rpm|
|Transmission||Eight-speed dual-clutch, four-wheel-drive|
|Price||From £163,000 (£205,000 as tested)|
Reviewed by Ben Miles