The Bentley Bentayga takes the terms ‘performance’ and ‘luxury’, ramps them up to the extreme, and then attaches them to an SUV. It’s Bentley’s first car in this class, and as such it’s an extremely polarising model. Is it a triumph of modern engineering and proper Bentley to boot, or is it a cynical attempt to cash in on the growing global SUV market at the expense of the British brand’s rich heritage?
Whatever the Bentayga is, it’s certainly not a half-baked effort. In fact, it might be Bentley’s most advanced car to date. This near-2.5-tonne beast may have a cabin stuffed with as much fine leather and wood as a gentleman’s club, but it also has performance to rival serious sports cars. There’s even a modicum of off-road ability – not exactly a Bentley hallmark – and a reassuringly hefty price tag to match.
The Bentayga may not be a classic Bentley in spirit – in fact, we’d be very surprised if owners are ever let out of a side turning – but in engineering terms, it’s up there with the best, and sits pretty much in a class of one at the top of the luxury SUV pile.
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Image 11 of 34Bentley Bentayga in detail:
Performance and 0-60 time > Staggering pace from such a huge car; 0-60 time rivals even sports cars
Engine and gearbox > Choice of W12 petrol or V8 diesel, both mated to smooth auto gearbox
Ride and handling > Impressive, but there’s no disguising the size and weight of this monstrous car
MPG and running costs > ‘Frugal’ is a word that doesn’t feature in the Bentayga’s dictionary, but diesel will do 600 miles between fill-ups
Interior and tech > Shades of Audi Q7, but stuffed with enough leather, wood and technology to make up for it
Design > It’s difficult to call the Bentayga pretty, but ‘imposing’ certainly covers it
Image 12 of 34Prices, specs and rivals
The Bentley Bentayga is, perhaps understandably, priced out of reach of all but society’s top earners. A starting price of £135,800 gets the ball rolling, but for most owners that’ll just be a jumping off point for even greater expense. For instance, you’ll need to cough up an extra £30,000 if you want the stonking W12 petrol engine, while it gets even more extreme if you begin to peruse the expansive options list. That said, most Bentayga buyers will let their accounts worry about the price lists, and are unlikely to baulk at a £22k Naim stereo upgrade. The dash-mounted Breitling clock may raise a few eyebrows though – it’s machined in solid gold and costs over £150k (on top of the price of the car!).
Rivals? Not many. The elite may consider the Bentayga alongside more traditional luxury cars like a Rolls-Royce Ghost or even Bentley’s own Mulsanne. But we think it’s more likely to appeal as a luxury option for those who need genuine practicality for outdoorsy pursuits. After all, the children’s riding gear can be awfully muddy, and the family Labrador can’t ride in an enclosed boot either.
The Range Rover offers the most compelling alternative – a long-wheelbase SVAutobiography fitted with a 550bhp V8 engine starts from £167,280, offering comparable performance and luxury to the Bentayga. In fact, some might argue that it provides a better luxury experience. The Range Rover does after all ride on its own platform, while the Bentayga – no matter how powerful and expensive – shares a great deal of its components and oily bits with the considerably humbler Audi Q7. The Range Rover also offers a far more imperious driving position, while it’ll show a dirty pair of heels to the Bentayga off-road.Performance and 0-60 time
Four seconds. That’s a 0-60 time you might think belongs to a low-slung sports car, or perhaps an entry-level supercar. But to apply it to a car weighing well over two tonnes seems impossible. Yet thanks to its 12 cylinders and duo of twin scroll turbos, the 6.0-litre W12 model will leave a Porsche 718 Cayman or Audi RS3 trailing in its not inconsiderable wake.
It’s then capable of going on to a frankly ridiculous 187mph top speed, which is pretty pace for a car that shares it footprint and kerbweight with the average two-bedroom cottage. Plump for the diesel model and you’ll have the honour of driving one of the fastest oil-burners around. 4.0-litres of V8 – the same block as you’ll find in the Audi SQ7 – makes 429bhp and a truly colossal 664lb ft of torque. 0-60mph takes 4.6 seconds, while top speed is 168mph.
Image 23 of 34Engine and gearbox
There are only two engine choices in the Bentley Bentayga for now – a 6.0-litre W12 petrol engine or a 4.0-litre V8 diesel. We may see a smaller, V8 petrol in the future, as in the Continental, which could become the engine of choice.
No matter which unit you go for, out-and-out muscle is the name of the game.
Both engines are mated to the same smooth ZF 8-speed gearbox, which sees service in everything from the Range Rover Sport to the BMW 1-series, so there’s no cause for concern there – it’s smooth and quick-shifting and, more importantly, can handle the 600+lb ft of torque that both engines produce.
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Which engine you choose depends where your priorities lie. A diesel engine in a supposed ‘luxury’ vehicle may seem like sacrilege – and owners of the Bentayga aren’t likely to have more than a passing interest in fuel economy anyway. No, where the diesel wins out is range. It’s not very glamorous filling up at the local Esso, and stopping every 350 miles in the W12 is bound to become tiresome on a cross-continental cruise. The diesel on the other hand can manage almost 600 miles on a tank, theoretically nearly halving your fuel stops and making for a much more relaxed, and faster, journey.Ride and handling
Bentley’s engineers have tried hard to hide the Bentayga’s considerable mass, but in the final reckoning you can’t cheat physics, not matter how hard you try. That’s not to say the big off-roader isn’t composed and competent, but it certainly doesn’t put the Sports into Sports Utility Vehicle.
The Bentayga shares the basic chassis architecture as the Audi Q7, which means it gets the same anti-roll system. Powered by 48 Volt electrics, this set-up essentially tautens the anti-roll bars in a fraction of second, helping keep the Bentley on a surprisingly even keel through a series of corners. There’s surprising grip, too, and the Bentayga clings on with greater tenacity than you’d think possible for a car weighing the best part of three tons. Direct and accurate steering helps place the car, even if feedback is in limited supply.
As you’d expect, there’s a raft of driver modes to choose from - Comfort, Bentley, Sport and Individual, plus another four off-road settings. ‘Bentley’ is the default setting and aims to strike the right balance between comfort and agility. On the whole it’s well judged, the air suspension soaking up big bumps and pummelling the smaller stuff into submission. Selecting Sport tautens the dampers a little without damaging ride quality, but the changes are so small that it’s best to leave it to its own devices in Bentley.
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Drive briskly and the Bentayga feels decently planted, but up the pace a little and it starts to unravel a little. Body movements are kept in check better than you’d think, but it’s the brakes that suffer the most. Not only are they tasked with slowing the hefty Bentley, they’re also working hard as part of the torque vectoring system, constantly nibbling away to keep the Bentayga’s nose locked as faithfully as possible onto you chosen line. However, it doesn’t take many corners before the effort involved in keeping the Bentley pointing where you want takes its toll on the braking performance.
As a result, it’s best to take it a little easier and rely on the old tried and tested technique of slow in and fast out. Driven with this sort of decorum, you can make impressively rapid progress as you make the most of the combination of the engine’s explosive performance and four-wheel drive traction.
Speaking of all-wheel drive, the Bentley will head far further off-road than most owners will probably ever dare go. The air suspension can be raised for greater ground clearance, the various driver modes deliver grip where you’d expect slip and there’s even hill descent control. Whether you’d want to risk those 21-inch rims in the rough stuff is an entirely different matter….MPG and running costs
The Bentayga is predictably costly to run. Everything – from premium petrol to the first-rate servicing it requires – costs extra, but that’s not really a problem for most Bentley owners, is it? Very few of these cars will be bought by penny pinchers, and so owners will be willing to pay whatever it takes to keep their ultra-luxury SUV in fine fettle.
Fuel economy will be an alien phrase to most Bentley buyers, but owners of the W12 can expect mpg figures in the late teens in real-world driving – compared to Bentley’s official figure of 21.6mpg. CO2 emissions are a similarly hefty 296g/km, which is enough to put the Bentayga firmly in the highest road tax bracket. That means you’ll have to shell out £2000 in first year road tax, and then £140 a year thereafter – plus a further £310 for the first five years owing to the high list price.
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Opt for the diesel and things become rather more palatable. A combined fuel economy figure of 35.8mpg is positively frugal, while CO2 emissions are two bands down on the W12 at 210g/km – attracting a £1200 first year road tax fee. Regardless of engine, the Bentayga slots into the top Group 50 for insurance – though we suspect most owners will have these garaged, which could keep premiums reasonable.
Interior and tech
The Bentayga is as ostentatious inside as it is out – clamber inside and you’ll find swathes of quilted leather, incredibly intricate wood veneers and handcrafted details all over the place, as you would in any Bentley. It’s all very lovely, but try not to prod too hard or you may find certain features remind you rather too much of the Audi Q7. The cupholders, for example, are made from cheap plastic, while the infotainment is straight out of a high-end Volkswagen in look and feel.
That’s not to say the cabin doesn’t work well, but it lacks the bespoke nature of something like a Range Rover – ignore the lustrous materials and organ stop ventilation controls and you could quite easily be in an Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne or even – whisper it – a Volkswagen Touareg.
At least you won’t be wanting for technology. Bentley has thrown the book at the Bentayga, and almost everything you’d want comes as standard – sat-nav, wifi, soft-close doors, full LED head and tail-lights and plenty more besides.
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Of course, you can personalise your Bentayga, specifying your interior finish with as much precision as you like. Choose a bespoke wood veneer and leather colour – even split the front and rear seats with different finishes if you so fancy. On a more sensible note, we’d probably spec the surround-view camera system, as the Bentayga has very expensive bumpers to ding, while adaptive cruise control will make those trans-continental road trips all the more relaxing.Design
The Bentayga is based on the same platform as the Audi Q7, so its basic proportions are fairly similar. The scalable nature of the VW Group’s MLB platform means it’s a significantly larger car, though – and at two metres in width (without mirrors!) it commands a significant road presence. That’s aided by monstrous 20 or 21-inch wheels and of course the huge chrome Bentley grille up front.
Styling is inspired by the EXP F9 concept, but we’re glad to see that it’s been toned down from that car. Traditional Bentley styling cues – the quad headlights, the classic grille – combine with modern touches like the LED taillamps, which proudly display a Bentley ‘B’ when illuminated. You’d be hard pressed to call the Bentayga pretty, but it’s definitely imposing, and that’s what really matters to a lot of buyers.
Image 5 of 3410 Nov 2017