– Fastest SUV in the world
– Cabin trim and features
– Ride and handling
– A little bit expensive
– Not as spacious as expected
– Limited offroad ability
It’s stating the obvious, but any Bentley SUV was bound to become the VW-owned British carmaker’s best seller, given the precedents set by Porsche, BMW et al. Which brings us to the Bentayga, an all-new full-size luxury SUV that redefines how opulent an SUV can be.
We’ve been following the development of the Bentley Bentayga quite closely, ever since it debuted in its much-derided concept form. While that original design was hastily dumped in favour of giving the production Bentayga a familiar corporate face, it is still not quite the design success you’d hope for when you pay this much for a car, with its long overhangs and bulbous rear. However, it is genuinely unique, and bystanders were enthusiastically praising the car all around us. Design touches such as the metal grille, hidden headlight washers and full LED lighting are smartly done, although the lower bumper grilles are black plastic.
Believe it or not, the Bentayga is actually a few fingers longer and wider than the Nissan Patrol. We actually had to park the two side-by-side to believe it ourselves. However, it is much lower, to the point where it is easy to step in and out of. Motorised side-steps are optional, but not needed with the air suspension lowered.
Once inside, you’re greeted with the typical double-bubble Bentley Continental dashboard, centre-console and door-panel arrangements, resplendent in cow hide and real wood from top to bottom, with metal a/c vents, gear-shift knob and other trim bits. Our tester didn’t have the fancy self-winding Breitling dashboard clock option that costs as much as the car, but the simpler “standard” clock is also a Breitling.
While the Bentayga may be a full-sizer on paper, the cabin space is decidedly midsize, although space is still more than adequate. Our tester has the individual rear seating option, with reclining and massage functionality, although this means the rear seats don’t fold down to increase the already-big boot space. There are several storage cubbies and four cup-holders, as well as an odd sunglasses case placed over the front cup-holders.
The rear suspension of the car can be lowered by holding down a button for easier access to the boot, but takes ages for the air suspension to make any changes in height. In the boot itself, our tester had the luggage-organising barrier attachment and the foldaway bench attachment, the latter to be used as a casual place to sit when having tea while watching the sunset (or something like that). That bench contraption is overly complicated and cumbersome to use, and Range Rover does it better by just having a two-piece split tailgate instead of the one-piece upward-opening power tailgate that the Bentayga has. Anyway, skip these options and just opt for the seven-seat configuration so that you have a more useful SUV.
Tech features are plentiful, even if there are no groundbreaking party-pieces like you’d find in a Maybach. There’s a basic VW-derived multimedia touchscreen with navigation, a colour LCD between the analogue gauges, a heads-up display, an above-average four-zone auto a/c with rear vents, a strong Naim stereo, dual rear Android tablets that function as removable entertainment screens, a removable touchscreen remote for rear passengers to control the stereo and a/c, and an around-view camera system with multiple possible views to choose from, including top-down.
Safety features in a full set of airbags, ABS, ESP, tyre-pressure monitor, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot alert, but further features such as lane-departure prevention weren’t part of the options on our test car.
Powered by a 6.0-litre turbocharged W12 engine making 600 hp at 5250-6000 rpm and 900 Nm of torque at 1250-4500 rpm, the Bentayga is a rocket in a straight line, enough to proclaim itself as the world’s fastest production SUV. We managed a 0-100 kph time of 4.3 seconds during our January test, although we didn’t attempt its 301 kph top speed. For such a heavy thing at 2440 kg, fuel economy is remarkable, as we got 14.5 litres/100 km during our time with the car, no doubt because it barely needs to run above idle on the highway thanks to so much low-rpm juice.
It’s a supreme high-speed cruiser, with a smooth ride for the most part, affected by a very mild jitter on rougher surfaces due to the low-profile 285/45 tyres riding on 21-inch alloys. It’s pretty quiet, with some road noise only just becoming audible at 120 kph and beyond. The suspension automatically lowers at high speeds to improve stability.
The all-wheel-drive Bentley handles extremely well for its size, with no obvious body roll and tons of grip, taking long curves at sports-car speeds. But on tighter turns, its size becomes obvious as it mildly understeers with squealing tyres. The steering is well-weighted, even offering a bit of feedback while still being light enough for easy parking moves. The brakes are fairly strong, although they clearly struggle a bit when called on to make a full emergency stop from near-illegal speeds.
The Bentayga is promoted as a go-anywhere offroader, and even comes with a terrain-selection system and hill-descent control, but it’s not particularly great for anything other than light duty on desert sand. The overhangs are sizeable, the ground clearance is average, and the height-adjustable suspension doesn’t make a huge difference at its highest setting. With its low-profile tyres and high curb weight, the car bogs down in soft sand, requiring stomping on the throttle to power through rather than float over the dirt. There is no low-range gearing.
The Bentayga still remains the most versatile Bentley you can buy right now. Coming back to the cost, even the priciest Range Rover barely comes close to the basic Bentayga’s price, while almost nothing from the Germans can match it in a straight line. Rolls-Royce is cooking up an SUV soon which will go head-to-head with the Bentley, but at the moment, the Bentayga is in a class of its own.
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