Bentley quietly announces its second offering of the electric era with the 2022 Flying Spur Hybrid.
Normally, it’s hard to feel like you fit in when you’re driving a purple car, even in Beverly Hills.
But when it’s a Bentley done up in the British brand’s signature Azure Purple, and you’re driving around the marque’s top American market, the rules change.
For this is no ordinary Bentley Flying Spur. This new plug-in hybrid version, coming this spring, specializes in being quiet enough to blend into the background. So if you are driving with a friend you haven’t seen since before the pandemic began, and you have a lot to catch up on, conversation can flow.
As the second plug-in hybrid vehicle in Bentley’s lineup, the 2022 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid merited a mid-January multi-day media launch in this Los Angeles enclave that’s home to the brand’s strongest selling dealership.
Serenity could be the nickname of the Flying Spur Hybrid
If this car screams, or whispers, anything at all, it’s “serenity.”
“That’s the unique selling point,” says Mike Sayer, Bentley’s head of product communications. “It’s a sound barrier between you and the city.”
Even the multimedia screen allows a more serene experience. If you don’t want its intrusion, simply push a button and it disappears, an option that Bentley calls a Rotating Display.
The Flying Spur Hybrid, which follows the 2020 launch of the Bentayga Hybrid SUV, marks the next step in the century-old brand’s Beyond 100 strategy. Its vision for the first decade of its next centennial calls for the automaker to phase out its trademark eight and 12-cylinder engines in favor of plug-in hybrids. The automaker plans to launch its first EV in 2025 and go fully electric by 2030.
Our journey with the Flying Spur Hybrid reminded me of Bentley’s heritage
We began the 192-mile journey from the Peninsula Hotel (a longtime favorite of mine for its monogrammed pillows) to lunch at an imposing glass house at the top of a hill in Carpinteria, Calif., just outside of Santa Barbara. Our Azure Purple car stood out tastefully in the Los Angeles carscape as it weaved along the Pacific Coast Highway and climbed the canyons to make it up to the house where we stopped for a break.
The Flying Spur Hybrid does not sacrifice performance in the name of sustainability. It shares its 410-horsepower powertrain, which consists of a 2.9-liter V6 engine and an electric motor, with its Porsche Panamera corporate cousin. Its powertrain is paired with an eight-speed dual clutch automatic transmission and all-wheel steering for quick, responsive feedback on the road.
On our drive, the car accelerated almost soundlessly from a standstill, hugged the corners of the winding Pacific Ocean coastline, and effortlessly ascended miles of canyon roads.
“When you think hybrid, it shouldn’t feel like a Prius, it should feel like a Bentley,” says Peter Bosch, the Bentley board member responsible for manufacturing. “Our job was to create the silence and effortlessness of a hybrid but keep the resting power of the beast when you need it.”
It should come as no surprise that the Flying Spur Hybrid is expensive. Starting somewhere north of the V8-powered version’s $204,000 base price – full price TBA – the Hybrid pairs modern driving and luxury without the guilt of a gas-dependent engine.
The all-electric range is 25 miles, which is sufficient for the average daily commute. The car’s 14.1 kWh lithium ion battery can be charged to 100% in 2.5 hours at a level 2 charger (or, at a 220V household outlet, the same type of outlet a clothes dryer requires).
That it can travel 435 miles on just one tank of fuel and one full battery charge is one of Bosch’s favorite elements.
“What I really like is watching the center screen that shows the energy flowing from the battery and back to the battery when you accelerate and brake,” he says from a cozy couch in one of the glass home’s many pristine living nooks. “It shows that you’re reusing the car’s kinetic energy when you’re braking, as the battery recharges.”
Speed and performance are still the name of the game for the Flying Spur Hybrid
But don’t mistake the Flying Spur Hybrid for a left lane slouch; it can still reach a top speed of 177 mph.
“They still drive and feel and smell and sound like Bentleys,” Sayer tells me.
As a brand with a rich heritage in producing powerful engines, Bentley knows it must ease customers into the idea of electrification. That’s why the automaker aimed to make the Flying Spur Hybrid look identical to its gasoline-powered counterpart.
The only difference between the models is the Hybrid badging on the doors and the charge port on the rear left-hand fender where the car plugs into an outlet. Both models can seat four or five people depending upon the configuration.
The Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid made me wonder if it’s better to be the driver or the passenger
After our respite at the Glass House, we drove back along the Malibu coastline at sunset, where our Bentley-trained chauffeur met us to complete the journey back to the hotel.
Like the regular Flying Spur, the Hybrid is designed to drive and to be driven in. Both models hew to Bentley’s philosophy: A person should feel equally comfortable in the driver’s seat as in the rear.
Rear seat amenities include plush, pillowy headrests and child restraints for a car seat. The optional rear seat entertainment unit is portable so that you can seamlessly transfer your movie from the car to your home.
If you don’t opt for the screens, the Flying Spur Hybrid comes with a pair of picnic tables that descend from the front seatbacks and enable you to rest an iPad or laptop on their flat surface.
A touchscreen remote stored in the center console allows you to control the car’s four-zone climate control; mood lighting; and heating, cooling, and massaging functions. The touchscreen also lets you monitor in real time data on the ride’s speed, duration, and distance.
Of course, our car included rear seat vanity mirrors made for touching up your makeup on the way to a premiere.
However, my friend and I were far too tuckered to head to any premiere. At the end of a satisfying day, I took a selfie next to my monogrammed pillow and drifted off to sleep.
What I liked:
- Quiet cabin
- Comfortable rear seats
- Rear head pillows
- Control around curves
What I didn’t like:
- Uncomfortable front seats
- Sparse design
- Buggy navigation system
Disclosure: I was Bentley’s guest for the introduction of the Flying Spur Hybrid. All opinions and impressions are my own.