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. Surprisingly though, the new Bentley doesn't have its rival the Range Rover’s sense of occasion or kit count. Yes, the Bentayga is hugely polished, but it drives too much like a top-specAudi Q7, which costs £90,000 less. Fortunately for Bentley, there is likely to be plenty of room at the top end of the global marketplace for an SUV that gives the rich a chance to demonstrate their wealth.
Bentley Bentayga W12
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.
That also explains why the Bentayga’s only engine choice is a heavily revised version of the 6.0 W12 from the Continental GT, which is itself 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’.
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 thesupercharged 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.
Most drivers are not so fortunate, but if you can afford £160k and 17mpg, step right up…
If you’re already considering forking out £161,375 on an SUV, it’s unlikely you’ll be put off by the Bentayga’s high running costs. The hefty 2,440kg kerbweight and mammoth 6.0-litre engine result in hefty 296g/km CO2 emissions, placing the car in the top tax bracket – which is just what buyers will expect.
When you factor in the high list price, the Bentley makes for a very costly company vehicle, so limo and private hire firms will probably prefer the Audi Q7 – especially as we also returned only 17.9mpg on test. That’s not much worse than the 21.6mpg Bentley itself claims for economy on the combined test cycle, but Bentley has also promised there’ll be a diesel version of the Bentayga in due course. That prospect may irk the Bentley purists, but there seems little doubt it will be appreciated by the type of users who need to put serious miles on their Bentayga as an every day driver.
With its staggering performance, and breath-taking price, you won’t be surprised to learn the Bentayga falls into the top Group 50 insurance category.
Strong demand and a long waiting list mean nearly new cars are currently selling at a premium, with First Edition versions advertised for nearly £300,000. It will be fascinating to see how the market treats the Bentayga in future, and we don’t expect it to beat the 44 to 47 per cent residual values that CAP predicts for a three-year-old, 30,000 mile Bentley Flying Spur saloon.
That means owners must expect to take quite a hit, but again that’s nothing out of the ordinary in the luxury sector. However, the bespoke nature of the Bentley brand means those owners lured into shelling out small fortunes for special interior trims, finishes and accessories could be faced with actual residual values far below those predicted for the standard model.
Undeniably ostentatious inside and out, the Bentayga is crammed with high tech features too
While the unashamedly bold Bentayga won’t be to all tastes, there’s no denying the imposing newcomer attracts attention. The raised ride height and boxy SUV proportions will be unfamiliar to fans of the brand’s traditional coupés, convertibles and saloons, but the new creation is recognisably a Bentley.
At the front, you’ll find the trademark rectangular mesh grille that’s flanked by a pair of large circular headlamps, while looking down the sides reveals large, squared-off wheelarches that take their cues from the Continental GT coupé. Move around to the rear and you’ll spot the Mulsanne-inspired tail lamps and chrome number plate surround.
Climb into the Bentayga and you’re immediately struck by the opulence of its handcrafted cabin, but it’s not perfect. For instance, the cup-holders are made from cheap plastic. Plus, the cabin lacks the
airy and spacious feel of the Range Rover – take the luxury fittings out, and you could be in a Q7 or Porsche Cayenne. Even so, the combination of lustrous wood trim, soft leather and cool metal inserts gives the interior a cosseting club-class atmosphere, while the exquisite fit and finish lifts the Bentley above mainstream premium machines.
Look beyond the old-school luxury, though, and you’ll discover plenty of cutting-edge kit, such as an intuitive eight-inch infotainment system that dominates the centre console. As you’d expect with a car costing over £160,000, it comes crammed with standard kit, including sat-nav, WiFi, soft-close doors, a panoramic roof and LED headlamps.
Of course, it is possible to personalise your car with bespoke wood veneer and leather finishes. Plus, you can add extras such as the £4,520 All Terrain spec, which brings underside protection and a surround view camera, or the £5,900 Touring Specification that bundles together safety kit such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and a head-up display.
Get carried away with the options and the price can soon rocket even more – our car had over £30,000 of extras, taking it to nearly £200,000.
Somewhat fittingly, Bentley claims its 1,920-Watt 21-channel Naim audio system is the most powerful available in any production SUV. There are 20 speakers dotted around the cabin, including a 300-Watt sub-woofer, and a pair of super-tweeters to produce the widest frequency range ever experienced in a car, we’re told.
The fully-featured 8-inch touchscreen for satnav, systems and comms has a 60G hard drive, and is supplemented by a head-up display.Image 10 of 13
Passengers are supremely cossetted, but the luggage space is tighter than you might imagine for a car this size
In spite of its large external dimensions, the Bentley can’t quite match its key rival the Range Rover for space and versatility. All things are relative though, and as you would expect the Bentayga certainly isn’t short of room or creature comforts.
Up front, the driver gets a wide range of seat and wheel adjustment, plus there’s plenty of handy storage. Luxury features include a hands-free power operated tailgate, and soft-close doors so you’ll never need to slam them.
The car is extremely hushed and refined on the move, which makes it a truly relaxing mile-muncher, although poor road surfaces can send judders and harshness into the cabin. That’s especially true if you’ve picked the largest 22-inch wheels, so on British roads at least, they’re probably best avoided.
If you're likely to want to drive the Bentayga off-road, there’s an All Terrain option kit that adds skid plates underneath to protect vital components. Even so, the Bentayga is not quite as competent an off-roader as the go-anywhere Range Rover.
From its nose to its tail the Bentayga measures 5,141mm, and it’s 1,988mm wide and 1,742mm tall. The Range Rover is 4,999mm tall and 1,0983mm wide so takes up a similar amount of road space, but it’s also 1,910mm tall, which makes a considerable difference to the car’s physical presence.
A four-seater layout with individual rear passenger chairs is an extra cost option, but in either four- or five-seat guise, there’s plenty of room. Despite its lower roofline even taller occupants will be able to stretch out in comfort.
Raising the powered tailgate reveals an open but disappointingly cramped 484-litre boot. Our car was fitted with the £2,400 retractable Event seat, which functions like the Range Rover’s split tailgate. It does eat into load space, though, plus it felt a little flimsy with two adults perched on it.Image 13 of 13
VW Group technology should help to keep Bentley’s Bentayga on the road, and you safe if you fall off it…
Bentley didn’t feature in our Driver Power 2016 satisfaction survey due to its low sales volumes, but as the brand has an emphasis on bespoke customer service and a network of 23 carefully selected dealers, owning and running one of its cars should be a pleasure rather than a pain.
The revised W12 has been well proven in other models, while much of the Bentley Bentayga’s structure and electronics are shared with the Q7 so we wouldn’t expect too many reliability or durability problems. Certainly the newcomer feels extremely solidly put together.
While sharing steering wheel controls with an Audi may not be quite what some owners expect from their Bentley, the VW Group technology sharing philosophy is definitely beneficial in relation to the Bentayga’s extensive roster of safety kit. The new Bentley comes with eight airbags, stability control and tyre-pressure monitoring. You’ll have to pay extra for items like adaptive cruise control and a surround-view camera – both are standard on the top-spec Range Rover.
While independent crash-test assessor Euro NCAP is unlikely to get its hands on a Bentayga any time soon, they have crash-tested the Audi Q7 SUV and certified it as a five-star car. There seems little doubt the Bentayga should perform as well as its Audi relation under similar circumstances.
The Bentley Bentayga comes with the marque’s standard three-year/unlimited mileage warranty, which is pretty much par for the course in the luxury sector. The Range Rover has similar cover, although Rolls-Royce offers four years on its new cars, and also has a new 4x4 SUV model on the way.
The Bentayga has 10,000-mile service intervals, or annual services if you don’t drive it that much. You can expect to have to shell out a fair chunk to get that stamp in the service record too, as other Bentleys in the line-up are offered with a two-year service package costing £2,000.