Bentley hasn’t always been the most forward-looking of car makers, but it’s now a very different prospect in that regard from how it once it was.
Those with long enough memories might recall when, 20 years ago and after some complicated corporate ownership wrangling between Volkswagen and BMW, the company effectively supplanted the much more modern 4.4-litre BMW V8 in the Bentley Arnage saloon for its older 6.75-litre two-valve pushrod V8, making the car only marginally quicker but considerably less fuel-efficient – and winning the approval, and return business, of much of its clientele in the process. Continental drivers of various kinds have since, by and large and often in spite of this magazine’s recommendation, overwhelmingly preferred W12 engines to V8s. As far as engines have been concerned, bigger has invariably meant better for the Bentley customer.
But, knowing that catering to those tastes wouldn’t serve it well for long, the firm has now moved decisively towards electrification. Its Crewe factory was independently certified as carbon-neutral in 2019 and its first production PHEV, the Bentley Bentayga Hybrid, came in the same year.
By the time Bentley’s first electric car arrives in 2026, there will long have been a plug-in hybrid version of every Bentley model. And the subject of this week’s road test, the Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid, is out to show, Bentley claims, that choosing any one of them needn’t mean accepting a single significant compromise to any of the dynamic qualities that you might expect of any of its cars.