You wish to roll your eyes at this automobile, don’t you? Go on, it’s okay.
This almost $300,000 purple Bentley Flying Spur is sort of so long as a brief faculty bus and outfitted like a non-public jet. The tip of its expansive hood is topped with the model’s flying-B emblem, which – get this – lights up. It’s a helpful function really, if solely as a result of the entrance of the automobile appears impossibly far-off from the place I’m seated behind the steering wheel.
The inside of this specific Bentley is completed in Porpoise, which I’m advised by Bentley Motors is, in truth, not made out of actual porpoises, however simply the identify for this specific shade of gray.
Maybe this automobile’s solely actual gesture towards socially accountable behaviour is the truth that it’s a plug-in hybrid. It could possibly journey roughly 35 kilometres on battery energy, with out burning a drop of gasoline.
Final yr, whereas the remainder of us struggled to remain sane, Bentley had a marvellous yr. The model’s gross sales jumped to 14,659 autos in 2021, up 31 per cent from 2020, which was itself a report yr.
In case you want extra proof that the pandemic has been excellent to these within the high tax brackets, Porsche, Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce additionally loved record-breaking gross sales final yr. For Bentley, although, the pandemic arguably got here at simply the precise time.
Between 2017 and 2020, the British luxurious model managed a meagre return on gross sales of 1 to three per cent; it was a tough streak interrupted solely by a fair rougher €288-million ($410-million) loss in 2018. (Porsche’s revenue margin via the identical interval by no means dipped beneath 15 per cent.) Plans to construct an electrical automobile and a brand new sports activities automobile have been delayed and cost-cutting started, below then-new CEO Adrian Hallmark.
Bentley hadn’t lived as much as earlier gross sales expectations, both. In 2015, firm executives have been speaking about promoting 20,000 Bentleys yearly by 2020. In actuality, the model offered 11,296 vehicles that yr.
Lastly, after a number of tough years, issues got here collectively in 2021. The luxurious market was booming. The brand new Continental GT and Flying Spur have been each in North American showrooms, commanding larger costs than ever, owing to produce constraints, based on Christophe Georges, president and CEO of Bentley Motors Americas. By July, 2021, the corporate had already turned a much bigger revenue than it had in any earlier full yr.
Georges credit three most important elements for the latest success: the booming market, the model’s recent vary of recent autos, and the “Past 100″ restructuring plan that’s seen Bentley roll out extra hybrid fashions and decide to going all-electric by 2030.
“Luxurious manufacturers in future shall be offered extra on values, not solely on the product itself,” he stated.
Whether or not it’s due to the vaguely socially accountable picture or as a result of individuals are realizing electrical autos are enjoyable to drive, rich prospects’ opinions about EVs have modified quickly. In 2020, solely 30 per cent of the model’s prospects stated they’d need an electrical Bentley. Final yr, 60 per cent stated they’d need one, based on an organization spokesperson.
Hybrid gross sales are rising too, now accounting for 2 of each 5 Bentleys offered. The Flying Spur is the second plug-in mannequin to hitch the lineup, following the Bentayga SUV.
Official vary figures aren’t out but, however in EV mode, the Flying Spur hybrid can cowl an estimated 30 to 40 kilometres earlier than the 14.1 kilowatt-hour battery is drained. If you want extra vary or extra energy, the two.9-litre twin-turbo V6 engine kicks in.
The hybrid system is much like the one discovered within the Bentayga, in addition to the Porsche Panamera and Cayenne. An electrical motor sits between the engine and equipment field, powering all 4 wheels. Complete output is 536 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque, which is considerably greater than you get within the Bentayga hybrid.
The brand new twin-turbo V6 engine can sound strained as compared with the silky 12-cylinder motor within the $279,800 Flying Spur W12, and even the $247,400 Flying Spur V8. Energy doesn’t come as effortlessly with the plug-in. However, regardless of that, the hybrid mannequin that begins at $254,800 is the Flying Spur to have, merely since you might commute quick distances with out burning any gasoline.
Options such because the Alpina B7 or Rolls-Royce Ghost are extra highly effective and extra soft, respectively, however these beneficial properties are marginal and neither rival is accessible as a plug-in hybrid. That’s a giant promoting level lately. The highest-of-the-line Porsche Panamera hybrid is faster, however much less luxurious or snug. You may also take into account absolutely electrical sedans such because the Mercedes-AMG EQS or Tesla Mannequin S, however neither of them has a cabin as good as this Bentley’s.
Plug-in hybrids are a type of center floor, however the Flying Spur provides a profitable compromise between excessive luxurious and gas effectivity. Bystanders might cringe as you waft previous with the light-up flying-B hood decoration main the best way, however a minimum of you may say you drive a hybrid.
Bentley’s discovered a small hole within the luxurious automobile market, however the firm’s future is much from sure. No person could be certain how lengthy the pandemic-fuelled luxury-spending increase will final, and shifting to an all-electric lineup over the following eight years would be the largest problem the corporate has ever confronted.
The author was a visitor of the automaker. Content material was not topic to approval.
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