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Divine in the details

We drive Bentley’s first electrified sedan, a compelling (simultaneous) showcase of luxury and sustainability

WHILE IT IS heartening that most — if not all — manufacturers are making a dash toward electrification, it can sometimes get overwhelming. That’s probably how policy makers and legislators feel as they play catch-up to the developments and evolutionary leaps in the sector.

For while hardly anyone can discount the fact that we need to significantly shrink our carbon footprint — to which our fossil-fuel-gulping, internal-combustion-engine-powered vehicles contribute a huge chunk — getting from the electrification point A to point B can be challenging.

But someone has to do it. Being a first mover can reap benefits while helping us get to that tipping point where more people can and will earnestly look at electrified, greener mobility.

Having said that, can people have their cake and eat it, too? Electrification has typically not been associated with higher levels of luxury because, well, for practical purposes, the wealthy can afford to gas up, thank you very much. But this thinking is changing rapidly because caring for the environment should be on everyone’s agenda regardless of socioeconomic status.

The well-off are surely taking a look at what Bentley has in store. For, at the end of the day, does going green mean compromising on the what the brand stands for? That’s not nitpicking; that’s about getting your money’s worth even at this price point. That’s the premise, nay, raison d’être for Bentley’s hybrid range.

“Sustainability and luxury used to be almost mutually exclusive, polar-opposite concepts. Can these qualities coexist without compromise? We’d like to take you on a journey to explore the many facets of sustainable luxury living with us,” underscored Bentley Motors Ltd. Head of Marketing and Communications for Asia Pacific Calista Tambajong in her invitation letter to experience the Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid through a meticulously curated, exclusive ride-and-drive event in Singapore.

With my pal Carl Cunanan of Cars and Calibres and Calibre Magazine, we were picked up at the Changi Airport straight away by the vehicle that would be our opulent chariot the whole time we were in Singapore.

At first blush, this electrified (plug-in electric hybrid) Flying Spur appeared no different from its ICE-powered siblings, and that’s clearly a good thing. The only visual clues are “hybrid” decals underneath the forward fender vent grilles left and right, and on the door sills.

This iteration of the Flying Spur is bestowed a turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 gasoline engine delivering a stout maximum of 536bhp when supplemented by the 138bhp electric motor. The total torque derived from the system is 750Nm — realized most nicely as the vehicle obediently responds to your throttle inputs and gets its 5,500lbs-plus weight going without hesitation.

Drivers can access the promise of its powertrain via a smooth-shifting eight-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. Bentley claims a top rate of 285kph, with a sprightly standstill-to-100kph time of 4.2 ticks.

The first electrified sedan in the Bentley stable, the Flying Spur Hybrid’s V6 is supplemented by an 18.0-kWh (usable) lithium-ion battery that accepts charging at a rate of 7.2kWh. This means it can be juiced up to capacity in “as little as two-and-a-half hours.”

If you’re used to the concept of traditional hybrids, which do not require an external charger and instead derives all the charging from its companion ICE plus some regenerative braking, a plug-in electric hybrid will need to be “properly” charged like battery electric vehicles. Its advantage over conventional hybrids though is that you can go quite a long way on full-electric mode — in the Flying Spur’s case, it’s more than 40 kilometers even with the air-conditioning on.

Admittedly, I was exhausted — possibly due to a combination of the oppressive heat and humidity. I gladly took the back seat of the Flying Spur and smiled to myself, thinking about the opportunity to rest and recharge while soaking in impressions of the vehicle. I adjusted the air-conditioning through the second-row screen (called Touch Screen Remote), and turned on the massage function of the seat. Among other things, the remote can deploy or retract the window blinds, regulate airflow, and other niceties. With the V6 in operation, the Flying Spur is already a study in quiet. Imagine when it’s on EV mode. We surprised a couple of workers employing leaf blowers who didn’t realize we were upon them (don’t worry, we were driving very slowly when people were around) because, well, their machines were making a lot more noise than our refined Flying Spur was.

Before I knew it, I was out like a light — which also speaks volumes about the utter lack of NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) in the Flying Spur.

When I came to, I felt much more ready to take my turn at the wheel. By default, the car will choose the EV Drive mode — perfect for shorter, intra-city trips. But you can choose Hold, which will let you access the EV range when you desire it. Hybrid, of course, intelligently combines the V6 and E-Motor for optimum range and performance. It’s really a toss-up which seat is best in the Flying Spur — and note I am one who just loves to drive all the time.

As we go to press, Bentley Motors had just turned in its financial results for 1Q 2023, its “second-best-ever quarter in history.” The company reported operating profits of €216 million, representing 27% growth of the same period last year; overall revenue hit €882 million, up 9% from €813 million.

Significantly, Bentley said that “the latest global figures and demand for new models provide (the company) with self-funding for its ground-breaking Beyond100 strategy, to lead sustainable luxury mobility in the future. That includes a €3-billion investment in its Crewe factory, as well as launching five new BEV models in just five years, starting in 2026.”

The Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid is clearly part of that future — a vehicle that veritably a poster child for sustainable luxury. Think of it not as a hybrid that’s a Bentley; it’s a Bentley that just happens to be a hybrid.

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