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Bentley tries to sell us a 2.5-ton luxury SUV as ‘sustainable’

Is something as opulent and luxurious as this really good for the environment?

Is the Bentayga Odyssean Edition an attempt at British humor from the crew at Crewe? PHOTO FROM BENTLEY

The British sense of humor is world-famous. From Monty Python to Mr. Bean, the inhabitants of the United Kingdom know how to make people laugh and often do so with very direct and visual displays of goofiness. Sometimes, however, British humor puts on a more discreet mantle, and sneaks around the pages of a document in a less obvious fashion.

Such an example of almost subversive silliness can be admired in the latest press release to come from Bentley. At least we think it must be some sort of gentle satire. Surely nobody would be bold enough to try and sell the world a 2.6-ton, 462hp luxury SUV as being ‘sustainable’? Or would they?

Yep, it's still a Bentayga on the outside, other than the special badging. PHOTO FROM BENTLEY

The machine in question is called the Bentayga Odyssean Edition. It’s limited to just 70 pieces, and the emphasis of this palace on wheels, according to the PR department at Crewe in England, is indeed on that most overused of buzzwords in the automotive world these days: sustainability.

The narrative starts with the fact that the Odyssean uses Bentley’s hybrid powertrain where an electric motor powered by an 18kWh battery and a dinosaur juice-fueled 3.0-liter V6 join forces to unleash planet-friendly 462hp and 700Nm onto the world.

This bunny-hugging giant can travel up to 45km/h in purely electric mode, but we suspect a single-spirited stomp onto the accelerator would destroy any eco credentials quite quickly. Zero to 100km/h in 5.3 seconds and a top speed of 254km/h require more than fluffy words. They require raw, planet-ripping power.

At least the ultra-rich who can afford this will be feeling good sitting inside an interior made with more sustainable materials compared to other Bentaygas. PHOTO FROM BENTLEY

So, let’s ignore the gigantic powerplant under that ginormous hood for now, and take a look inside instead. There, environmentally conscious passengers can get comfortable on 22-way electrically adjustable, heated, and ventilated seats covered in sustainable leather while admiring the wood veneer that now uses 90% less lacquer than other high-gloss versions.

The Koa wood for these decorative pieces was presumably flown in totally sustainably from its native region of Hawaii. At least the tweed-covered panels found elsewhere in this rolling lounge are actually environment-friendly, and were made from 100% British wool.

To make sure this opulent tractor doesn’t end up in a ditch while its pilot daydreams of saving planet earth, Bentley has kindly fitted it with its Touring Specification set of driver-assistance programs. From adaptive cruise control to lane assist and a function called Bentley Safeguard, this Bentayga has everything you need to stay on the road and well away from anyone who may point out how silly it really is.

We’re quite sure Bentley knows full well that there is positively nothing sustainable about this humongous machine, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely pointless. Sure, to point out that they used a little less paint to decorate the interior is outright silly, but it’s actually good to see car companies starting to care more about things like this. Especially luxury firms that could probably get away with not giving a hoot.

In all seriousness, why limit these eco-friendly changes to limited-run models? PHOTO FROM BENTLEY

This also isn’t the first Odyssean Edition. Bentley did one based on the Flying Spur before, and all of it is part of the brand’s road map toward electrification of the full model lineup by 2030. Already, 50% of the manufacturer’s model range is electrified, and the first fully electric luxury barge is due to hit the road in 2025.

It probably makes sense then to slowly get the usually petrol-loving clientele used to the idea of less noise and more green thinking. The firm is even using some clever tech to get posh pilots into the swing of things. In EV mode, for example, it uses predictive data from a navigational database to make the accelerator pedal vibrate slightly when the driver approaches a junction or when a speed limit decreases. This is meant to help the driver save electricity and educate him in the art of moving this behemoth in an efficient manner.

Can a huge city tank like the Bentayga ever be truly sustainable or even remotely green? Probably not. But can a company like Bentley get rich people to think about issues like sustainability more by incorporating them into their products? Probably yes. It may seem pointless for a low-volume carmaker to try and be green, but buyers of these vehicles are often titans of industry and successful business people in a variety of fields.

If they can get excited about the idea of driving a hybrid and being nicer to the planet, then that might translate into other parts of their lives and their work. Wishful thinking, maybe, but even without all of that, having hugely polluting V8 and W12 engines replaced by at least marginally cleaner hybrids is certainly a good thing. So, well done, Bentley, have a sustainable, organic, free-range glass of champagne to celebrate.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.