2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid First Drive Review: Don’t Fear The Reaper

2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid First Drive Review: Don’t Fear The Reaper

01/19/2022

Bentley’s famed 8- and 12-cylinder engines will soon be a thing of the past, replaced in 2030 with an EV-only lineup. The first step in that march toward electrification is the 2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid, a plug-in version of the company’s big sedan that wants to prove it’s possible to maintain the brand’s peerless sense of occasion, even without any noise coming from under the hood.

While the Bentayga Hybrid was technically the first electrified Bentley, the sedan is the most significant so far. Big four-doors have been a staple of the automaker’s lineup for well over half a century, offering slightly more performance and slightly less flamboyance than some rivals. If the Flying Spur Hybrid is going to succeed, it needs to follow that muscle-under-the-radar formula, but it also should offer something special that rewards folks for choosing plug-in power over the legendary, woofling W12 or the well-mannered V8.

While Motor1.com strives to rate every vehicle we test, Bentley has not released pricing or fuel economy on the 2022 Flying Spur Hybrid. We’ll attach a rating once that information is available. For more on how Motor1.com rates cars, click here.

Gallery: 2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid First Drive








Take It Easy

That extra something is an estimated EV range of 25 miles, courtesy of an 18.0-kilowatt-hour (of which 14.1 kWh is usable) lithium-ion battery sending power to a single electric motor. Mounted between the twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 and the eight-speed automatic transmission, the motor makes 134 horsepower and 295 pound-feet on its own, with a very Bentley-like combined total of 536 hp and 553 lb-ft. The Flying Spur Hybrid is one of the first six-cylinder Bentleys (alongside the Bentayga Hybrid) since 1959, and curiously, the sedan’s gas engine is different from the single-turbo, 3.0-liter V6 found in the less powerful electrified SUV.

Immediately upon setting out from my starting point in Beverly Hills with the so-called E Mode selector set to EV Drive, the Flying Spur Hybrid impressed me with its excellent low-speed manners. Removing the white noise of an idling engine can exacerbate other noises a car makes – suspension creaks, groaning brakes, and road surface clatter – but the Flying Spur does a commendable job of insulating the cabin from all of that. There’s plenty of torque on hand to keep the vehicle moving with the flow of traffic, even without the gas engine fired up, but if you really push the accelerator down, the V6 will join the party rather seamlessly.

Even when operating as a pure EV, the electric motor turns the transmission, with attendant upshifts that make acceleration feel a little more natural (if less seamless) than other cars’ EV modes. Unfortunately, downshifts from that gearbox conspire with regenerative braking that’s just a shade away from good, making it hard to navigate stop-and-go traffic smoothly – a one-pedal driving mode that removes the brake pedal from the equation would help.

The Flying Spur features two additional battery settings, Hybrid and Hold, letting owners customize the car’s electricity use to suit their needs. Hybrid, for example, prioritizes EV driving wherever possible, but will fire up the engine more readily to provide passing power or keep the battery at a respectable state of charge. If the navigation system is active, Hybrid mode also uses traffic and route data to maximize EV use where it’s most effective, like heavy traffic or low-speed urban areas. Meanwhile, Hold mode is handy for when drivers want to arrive at their destination with as much EV range as possible.

Removing the white noise of an idling engine can exacerbate other noises a car makes – suspension creaks, groaning brakes, and road surface clatter – but the Flying Spur does a commendable job of insulating the cabin from all of that.

The learning curve for these functions is short – convenience is the greatest luxury, after all – and it’s easy to get comfortable with the Flying Spur’s newfound electric drive. Helping the experience is a subtly altered gauge cluster, with an EV drive/regen meter taking up some of the tachometer’s designated space. The meter helped me accurately measure my accelerator use and made a game of keeping the engine off as much as possible. Otherwise, the interior and user experience are identical to that of other Flying Spurs. You and your chauffeur will love it.

Take Me Home

My first couple hours behind the wheel were on a lightly trafficked Interstate 5 north to Santa Clarita, and the Flying Spur Hybrid was an excellent travel companion for the duration of the cruise. As expected, the quiet cabin and supportive seats kept me from feeling fatigued, and the infotainment system – sourced from Audi but dressed in Bentley duds – was simple and intuitive to operate. Nearly every surface of my tester’s cabin was coated in rich-feeling Imperial Blue leather, genuine aluminum, or attractive open-pore walnut trim, with Bentley-signature touches like organ-stop vents and knurled knobs.

With abundant space for four occupants, complaints on the in-cabin experience are few and far between. While the Flying Spur Hybrid does a good job of disguising its Audi software on the 12.3-inch center touchscreen display, the similarly sized digital instrument cluster’s menus and map display look too similar to that of the much cheaper A8 sedan. At least the analog-style gauge readouts look appropriate for the price, with intricate details that recall a fine watch. Finally, taller drivers’ elbows will hit a funny little edge on the B-pillar, though its upholstered surface takes much of the sting off.

Burnin’ For You

In all that freeway driving, the hybrid E Mode setting switched the engine on and off imperceptibly, with no shudder on startup. For example, as the Grapevine mountain pass’ steep uphill grade started to overwhelm the electric motor, the engine stepped in and got to work instantly, keeping the Flying Spur moving at prevailing speeds with no delay or drama. By the time I turned off the open road and headed toward Ojai on the devilish Highway 150, our Bentley was indicating a commendable 28.5 miles per gallon – great numbers for a big luxury sedan and a heady improvement over the V8’s 15 city, 20 highway, and 17 combined EPA ratings.

Also surprising, given the Flying Spur Hybrid’s size and estimated 5,523-pound curb weight, is its nimbleness and traction on a great driving road. Highway 150 starts and ends on either side of a small mountain range, and the 2.9-liter V6 and electric motor combination provide more than enough thrust to scramble out of uphill hairpin corners, with any trace of turbo lag erased thanks to instantaneous electric torque.

Also surprising, given the Flying Spur Hybrid’s size and estimated 5,523-pound curb weight, is its nimbleness and traction on a great driving road.

With the drive selector (distinct from the E Mode selector, mind you) set to the firm, aggressive Sport mode, the active anti-roll bars smother all hints of body roll – though at some expense to ride smoothness. In that vein, I preferred the more balanced Bentley mode, which maintained a nearly perfect ride while still tightening up body motions nicely. The Hybrid’s standard four-wheel steering improves maneuverability in tight corners and stability through fast sweepers.

Pizza-sized 16.5-inch front and 15.0-inch rear brake discs are more than up to the task of slowing the Flying Spur Hybrid on long downhill stretches, with the transmission willing to hold lower gears thanks to grade-sensing logic. The steering wheel itself is mostly numb to road feedback, but that didn’t stop me from pushing the big sedan harder than any of its owners ever will. I also suspect that my driving didn’t come close to the Flying Spur Hybrid’s actual limits. That said, a few cracks in the sedan’s genteel facade began to form in hot driving.

The first is minor. The Bentley features an elevated seating position, which improves long-distance comfort and visibility, but it does exacerbate body motions in hard driving. The second is more worrisome, given the Flying Spur’s ultra-premium positioning. The 2.9-liter V6 emits some thrashy underhood sounds on full throttle, noises that might be masked by exuberant exhaust notes in other products where it appears – the non-hybrid Porsche Macan Turbo comes to mind. Such sonic tailpipe emissions would be unbecoming in a Bentley, but that just leaves us with the underhood racket (and a few cabin vibrations) instead.

Slow Ride

That minor annoyance aside, the 2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid does an excellent job of integrating electrification into the brand’s high-speed grand touring image. The electric motor offers enough power on its own to silently waft the big sedan around town, and out on the highway, the powertrain management software seamlessly integrates the turbo V6 as needed. Familiar driving dynamics – courtesy of that always-on eight-speed transmission – will appease Bentley traditionalists, while everyone else will appreciate the Flying Spur’s sumptuous interior and newfound green cred.

Of course, it comes at a cost. Bentley doesn’t have official US pricing or fuel economy estimates just yet, but a company representative said the Flying Spur Hybrid would cost about 3 percent more than the V8, which starts at $201,825 including a $1,000 gas guzzler tax and $2,725 for destination. With a heart-stopping $68,500 in options, including an $8,640 bundle of Level II driver assistance tech that should really be standard, my tester would likely cost around $280,000 from a dealer. Omitting the blacked-out exterior elements would save $4,830 and impart some vintage flair to the Flying Spur Hybrid, but this is still a pricey vehicle.

The 2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid does an excellent job of integrating electrification into the brand’s high-speed grand touring image.

Yet it still feels worth every penny of the cost. From the solid thunk of the organ-stop vents and the dainty knurled surfacing around the clock face to the instantaneous rush of torque on hand from the electrified powertrain, nearly every aspect of the 2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid feels tailor-made to keep the driver and passengers happy. It’s nice knowing that Flying Bs will still be good even when internal combustion goes away.

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