Impressive to drive, lovely to sit in, gloriously OTT
Um, gloriously OTT. It's hardly demure in a crowd
What is it?
It’s the Bentley Bentayga, take two. What you see here is a heavy facelift of the first gen SUV that launched in late 2015. Over 1,000 new components. Most importantly, it’s better looking now. While the overall shape is the same as before, the details have been fiddled with in some areas and overhauled in others. It’s much more appealing as a result, tauter of line and with more finesse in the detail. The first Bentayga was ungainly at best, this one is… acceptable.
What else is new?
A 20mm increase in the rear track improves the Bentayga’s stance while neatening its handling, there are new alloy wheel designs and spangly new headlights that use cut-crystal to make them sparkle even when they’re not lit. When they are, their intensity changes with the speed you’re driving to avoid dazzling other road users while still illuminating secluded country lanes.
Why is it a big deal?
The Bentayga is a deeply important car, and not just for the couple of thousand people its manufacture employs in northwest England. It made up almost half of Bentley’s sales in 2019, while 70 per cent of Bentayga buyers are new to the marque. And, we’d imagine, a lot younger than the Bentley norm.
In fact, sales continued to rise during the Bentayga’s fourth year on the market. With roughly 4,000 sold a year, it accounts for over a third of the ‘luxury SUV’ sector that also includes the Aston Martin DBX, Rolls-Royce Cullinan and of course the new Range Rover. The ‘luxury’ half of its equation is more pertinent than ever now the Bentley Mulsanne is dead, too. Suddenly the Bentayga SUV and Flying Spur saloon have an extra job on their hands, together attempting to fill the literally vast void the venerable old limo leaves behind.
Thus the Bentayga’s had a proper smarten up inside, and its rear quarters are larger and more relaxing if you plump for the especially posh four-seater. New to the range is the extended wheelbase EWB model. An extra 180mm of length added to the rear passenger compartment, taking the total to 5,305mm.
Can I have it with seven seats?
You can have the regular Bentayga as a seven-seater (rugby practice one-upmanship gets no bolder), but the EWB is focused on luggs-ury, so no boot-based chairs there. Instead you’ll want it with four seats (an extra £2,790 over the standard five seats) and ideally the ‘Airline Seat Specification’: footrests, extended lounging capability, picnic tables and the rest for £8,395. Bentley expects most EWB models – which start at £211,300 – to be specced close to £300,000.
What does a regular Bentayga cost?
About £50,000 less – although with the EWB you’re not merely paying more for the extra legroom, but a lift in standard equipment, too. Pricey to buy, pricey to run. Bear this in mind when they hit the second hand market, where the old adage ‘if you can’t afford to buy it new, you can’t afford to run it used’ has probably never rung truer. More on that in the Buying tab.
What models are available?
Broadly speaking there’s a choice of three powertrains: twin turbo 4.0 V8, twin turbo 6.0 W12 or hybrid 3.0 V6 – although not all are yet available in both regular and EWB bodystyles. The flagship Bentayga Speed has a mighty 626bhp, but we’ve actually found the 542bhp V8 to be nearly as fast and significantly less thirsty. The Hybrid does a particular job, having enough pure electric range to allow emissions-free urban trips, but the technology isn’t cutting edge – it doesn’t permit fast charging, for instance and the V6 itself sounds too reedy and isn’t as thunderous and well-mannered as the bigger motors.
What’s it like to drive?
We shouldn’t have to point this out, but the Bentayga is not a sports SUV. Instead it’s a big, luxurious, very nicely upholstered and trimmed heavyweight SUV. Although it’s come in for criticism, the Bentayga feels a natural brand extension of a firm that’s always built big, heavyweight, sturdy cars. Roll-control technology has made it very capable around corners, but this is still not an SUV that likes to be hustled. The big lad will put his hands on his knees and wheeze at the end of a good road. But cosseting, hushed, smooth riding and cushioned, it makes you feel safe and secure in a way not much else can match.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
Quite often, our reviews of big, posh SUVs – especially the quick ones – involve us having to leave our reservations about the sheer point of the things at the door. The Bentayga battered them out of us before we even got the chance. It’s a force of nature, but an annoyingly irresistible one, helped by just how long, wide and heavy Bentleys are in the first place.
Ultimately we don’t think it’s quite as bespoke and beautifully finished as a Conti GT coupe or Flying Spur saloon but this, don’t forget, is also Bentley’s entry-level model. It can be specced to perform whatever role you envisage for it (well, luxury four seat chauffeur car or leather clad family hauler) and Bentley’s brand values are well matched to the SUV. It’s not trying to defy physics, just trying to be a high-rise luxury car. It does that very well. Whether you’re experiencing it from the front or back seats.