Geneva LIVE: Bentley Bentayga Hybrid

Bentley\'s flagship SUV goes plug-in.

Electrification is the name of the game for Volkswagen Group this year. Between full-electric concept cars, full-electric production cars and now a plug-in flagship hybrid SUV, it's very clear that VW has fully embraced its pivot from oil to electrons.

Meet the Bentley Bentayga plug-in hybrid. Bentley is calling it the "world's first luxury hybrid," which is the kind of statement that just begs to be qualified. We're not going to try to defend it, because frankly it's just a poor choice of hills to die on.

Baby stepsBentley is also calling this the company's "first step towards electrification," so while it may not truly be the world's first luxury hybrid, it is Bentley's most efficient vehicle.

The hybrid powertrain is V6-based. The three-liter gasoline power plant is mated to an electric motor/generator in typical PHEV configuration. Details are scant for the moment, so we have no hard numbers for total system power, battery capacity or electric motor output.

There are a few things we can relate, however. Bentley claims the Bentayga PHEV can run in EV mode for up to 31 miles on the European cycle (likely around 25 miles by U.S. measurement), can be fully charged on a household outlet in just 7.5 hours, and that the charge time can be cut to just 2.5 hours with the company's Power Dock in-home charging station.

DifferentiatorsThe Bentayga Hybrid is virtually indistinguishable from its new V8 counterpart. A "hybrid" badge adorns the tailgate, front doors and sill plates. Copper-colored center caps and Bentley badges are also part of the deal.

Inside, the auto-stop/start button is replaced with a hybrid-themed drive mode selector which allows drivers to choose between EV, Hybrid and Hold modes. The first is exactly what it sounds like; the second is essentially normal operation; the third maintains the battery's state of charge regardless of how the vehicle is operated.

The Hybrid also gets unique interior displays for hybrid system operation, state of charge, and efficiency indicators.

DistinctionThe lack of technical details, the overall absence of "killer-app" type features, and the lack of a performance or luxury angle to the Bentayga Hybrid combined with Bentley's somewhat perfunctory pretension about the new model's claim to being the first luxury hybrid leave us scratching our heads.

We're more inclined to believe that this is a car born of regulatory requirements rather than genuine interest in pursuing electrification as a corporate strategy. Whether this car will see any genuine marketing support is anybody's guess.

Live photography by Ronan Glon.

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