The Bentayga represents a strong first SUV effort for Bentley. Explosive performance, agile handling and strong refinement are major strengths, as is the ability to tailor the car’s looks and interior.
Bentley has gone bold with its first ever SUV. Claiming unrivalled performance, handling, off-road ability and luxury, the Bentayga promises to raise the bar for upmarket off-roaders. It shares a fair chunk of its underpinnings with the current Audi Q7 SUV, as Audi is one of Bentley’s sister companies in the VW Group.
There are two engines to choose from in the Bentayga. For the purest Bentley experience of all, you can opt for a heavily revised version of the 6.0-litre W12 that we’ve seen in the Continental GT. This engine is a version of the W12 engine VW introduced in the record-breaking Volkswagen Nardo W12 Coupe that averaged 183mph for 24 hours around the Nardo, Italy test track in 2001. Production versions of the W12 have since appeared in the Audi A8, VW Phaeton and VW Touareg, as well as the Continental, so you might say that it’s tried and tested. That said, redesigned cylinder block and heads attest to the Bentayga engine’s ‘newness’.
For real-world use, though, the sensible option is the diesel. It’s a V8 unit with close links to motors already used by Porsche, and it pushes out a ludicrous amount of torque and power - while also adding a couple of hundred miles to the distance you’ll be able to travel between filling stations.
The Bentley Bentayga launched with a limited run of £230,675 First Edition models, but here we’ve tested the standard £161,375 version. The big SUV is primarily a four-seater, although you can specify a three-person rear bench, and is largely modeled on the EXP 9 F concept that Bentley revealed at the Frankfurt motor show back in 2012.
The Bentayga’s body-in-white is put together at the Volkswagen Group’s SUV factory in Slovakia, which is where its Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne and VW Touareg sister models are also built. However, while the aforementioned trio roll of the Bratislava Plant production lines complete, the Bentayga bodies are shipped as aluminium skeletons to Bentley’s factory in Crewe for final assembly.
The engines are assembled at Crewe, the bodies completed, and the peerlessly-crafted leather and wood interiors are stitched, sawn and polished there too, ensuring the Bentayga can boast genuinely bespoke finishes that are worthy of the famous British marque.
Monstrous performance is the Bentayga’s most obvious strength, and it handles like a car half its size
In a bid to ensure its first SUV is up to scratch from behind the wheel, Bentley has tapped into the vast off-roader knowledge bank of owner Volkswagen. The Bentayga is based on the same MLB architecture as the Q7 and next-generation Cayenne, so composed and agile handling should be standard.
There’s barely any wind noise, and the air-suspension’s soft ride means it handles bumps with supple composure, although broken surfaces send a shudder through the cabin.
In a corner, however, the Bentley responds with the poise and agility of a car half its size. You can choose from Comfort, Bentley, Custom and Sport driving modes, and in the latter, the air springs tense up, plus the Dynamic Ride roll control function keeps the car flat and stable. Yet our car struggled when braking hard. The combination of torque vectoring and the hefty 2,440kg kerbweight meant the all-disc set-up wilted under the exertion of even moderate use.
Turn off the beaten track and the Bentayga will take some serious mud-plugging in its stride. It’s not quite as accomplished as a Range Rover, but the combination of variable ride height, sophisticated four-wheel drive and hill descent control allows you to explore places few other luxury cars can reach.
It’s the Bentley’s twin-turbo 6.0-litre W12 that’ll grab your attention first. Boasting an eye-popping 600bhp and 900Nm of torque at just 1,350rpm, it bestows on the Bentayga amazing performance. Quick shifts from the eight-speed auto box meant it sprinted from 0-60mph in just 4.1 seconds, which is one second faster than the supercharged V8 Range Rover we tested it against. Yet in other respects, the W12 is a model of unflustered refinement. It’s near silent at idle and when cruising, while pushing hard only results in a muted growl.
The V8 diesel’s power output may look a bit weedy by comparison, at just 435PS. But in many ways, this motor is even more sophisticated than its petrol stablemate. It uses 48-volt compressor technology to help spin up the turbocharger at low revs - and as a result, it manages to match the W12’s ludicrous 900Nm of torque from just 1000rpm.
Fortunately Bentley has done a good job of modulating the throttle and power delivery, so it’s easy to make smooth and very rapid progress. The acceleration time is a little slower than the W12’s, at 4.8 seconds from rest to 62mph, but believe us when we say it does not feel slow.
Once you’re up and running, that enormous surge of torque means the V8 diesel is likely to be every bit as fast from point to point. In case you’re interested in bragging rights, incidentally, the V8 diesel Bentayga is also the fastest diesel SUV in the world, with a top speed of 168mph.
It’s quiet, too; Bentley has managed to engineer in a bit of V8 burble when you’re pushing the engine hard, but at a cruise you’ll barely hear it at all. Continue Reading..