What Car? says...
The Bentley Bentayga marked a whole new direction for the prestigious British brand, as its first ever SUV. When it arrived, it was a trailblazer for high-end luxury SUVs and was virtually unchallenged at its price point.
To help fend off those rivals, the Bentayga was treated to a wide-ranging update, because although it was the fastest-selling Bentley of all time, the public’s reaction to the car's looks at launch was, shall we say, rather mixed.
The exterior was tweaked to bring it in line with the Bentley Continental GT and the Bentley Flying Spur, with a larger, more upright grille, elliptical front and rear lights, a larger rear wing and a more aggressive stance. The car's 21in wheels (22s are optional) successfully fill the wheel arches.
Beneath all that new dressing, the Bentayga recipe is much the same as ever. The underpinnings are from the Q7, and under the bonnet you'll find the 542bhp twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine or the tech-laden V6 plug-in hybrid (PHEV). The V8 diesel and range-topping 6.0-litre W12 have been discontinued.
This, we need hardly tell you, is a big car, but there's an even bigger version, aimed at people who prefer spending their journeys sitting in the back seats while a chauffeur does the driving. The Bentayga Extended Wheelbase (EWB) is a stretched version, with an extra 180mm of legroom.
So, does the Bentley Bentayga still have what it takes to compete with the best luxury SUVs and stand out in this competitive class? That's what we'll be exploring over the next few pages of this review.
We'll compare it with the Lamborghini Urus, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S and the Cullinan for performance, interior quality, practicality, running costs and more. We'll also tell you which engine and trim combination we recommend.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
If you’re disappointed that the Bentley Bentayga’s flagship engine is now the 4.0-litre V8, not the discontinued 6.0-litre W12, don’t be. For one thing, the V8 sounds better, emitting a pleasingly subtle woofle from its two oval exhaust pipes, plus it sounds even fruitier if you opt for the Bentayga V8 S with its bellowing sports exhaust.
Thanks to a whopping 542bhp, you also have plenty of power. Despite this luxury SUV weighing the best part of 2.5 tonnes in V8 guise, it will sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.5 seconds, matching the Aston Martin DBX. The heavier Bentayga EQB is only 0.1sec slower.
The Bentayga Hybrid, meanwhile, uses a smaller 3.0-litre V6 paired with an electric motor to produce a combined output of 443bhp. There’s still plenty of grunt available, with a 0-62mph time of 5.5 seconds, and while performance is far more sedate in pure-electric mode, you can still glide in near silence to motorway speeds.
It's a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), and as with all such cars, it's best to keep the 18.0kWh battery topped up so that the electric motor helps the engine as much as possible. If not, you’ll be left with a small V6 working hard to haul a big SUV. You’ll end up charging quite frequently, though. The official electric-only range of 28 miles isn’t particularly impressive, especially when you consider that the significantly cheaper BMW X5 xDrive45e has an official range of 54 miles, while its closest rival, the Range Rover plug-in hybrid, will cover around 70 miles.
Of course, more performance-focused SUVs such as the Lamborghini Urus and Porsche Cayenne Turbo S are quicker still, but the V8 Bentayga never feels anything less than effortless in the way it demolishes the road ahead of you. A big part of that is down to the silky-smooth eight-speed ZF-made gearbox. When you push on, it always seems to be in the right gear at the right time, rendering the column-mounted paddles redundant.
That said, we should also point out that it can be a little hesitant around town – a problem that also afflicts the Audi SQ8 (which shares the same ZF gearbox). If you’re looking for the ultimate, smooth, chauffeur-driven vehicle, we’d advise you to take a look at the Rolls-Royce Cullinan instead.
The Bentayga’s weighty steering is precise and more reassuring than the Range Rover's quick, if light, set-up when turning in to a corner. The Extended Wheelbase version gains a four-wheel steering system that reduces the turning circle to improve low-speed manoeuvrability.
Body lean in the Bentyaga is neatly kept in check for such a big SUV. That said, if you value a truly engaging driving experience, we’d recommend the V8 S. It comes with tweaked suspension, a more dynamic stability control (ESC) tune and a revised torque vectoring system. Small dynamic tweaks, you might argue, but they all add up to deliver a surprisingly entertaining package.
The stiffer 48-volt anti-roll bars, for example, do a stellar job of propping up the body in quick bends, while the more lenient ESC allows the car to flow more naturally down a technical stretch of road. Factor in steering with a more natural weighting than the standard car and we reckon this is the first Bentayga that can confidently stand toe to toe with performance-focused rivals such as the DBX and Urus without having to make excuses.
The best bit about the V8 S package is that the tweaked suspension settings haven’t compromised the Bentayga’s wonderful pliancy. In Comfort mode, the ride is relatively sumptuous, and you only feel occasional disturbances over sharp-edged bumps. Even if you ramp it up to Sport mode, it never becomes too firm, which can’t be said of the DBX.
Refinement is more impressive than in those sportier rivals too, with very few vibrations sent into the interior. At a cruise, the engines fall silent, while wind noise is kept to a minimum, despite the car’s bluff shape.
Road noise is noticeable on optional 22in wheels (standard on V8 S models), while the standard 21in wheels are appreciably quieter. You'll hardly hear the difference between smooth tarmac and rougher concrete at motorway speeds, but over larger bumps, you occasionally experience a ‘thunk’ from the air suspension.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Inside the Bentley Bentayga, the driver is treated to a suitably luxurious driving position. The standard seats adjust in a wide range of directions and the steering column tilts and extends to match.
The front seats themselves are beautifully designed. There’s just enough side bolstering to hold you tight in the corners, plenty of lumbar support, and in Comfort Specification they come with a massage function.
As a car to while away the hours in, it doesn’t get much better than this. It’s thoughtfully designed, too. The Bentayga is easy to see out of for such a big car, and Bentley gives you front and rear parking sensors plus a rear-view camera (with a bird’s eye view) as standard. Full LED headlamps come as standard, while an optional night vision camera helps bolster visibility and displays an image onto the driver’s digital instrument panel.
The interior looks and feels appropriately luxurious, with a high level of attention to detail, including a winged centre air vent inspired by the Bentley Bacalar limited edition grand tourer and incorporating an analogue clock.
The Bentayga also has digital dials that are great at putting the most relevant information in front of the driver (the sat-nav map or music information, for example). The Touring Specification option pack adds a head-up display, which projects info such as speed, street names and distance to your destination onto the windscreen.
At 10.9in, the infotainment screen is larger than that of the Aston Martin DBX and it comes loaded with kit. A DAB radio, wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, real-time navigation and an embedded SIM all come as standard.
Although the font displayed could be a little bigger, the touchscreen itself has pin-sharp graphics, is responsive to commands and has menus that are intuitive and easy to use. We also love the way it can be controlled using the screen itself or with a number of hard keys located beneath it – something not possible in the touchscreen-based Audi Q7.
As you might expect, the materials are very impressive – from the rich leather and wood veneer to the aluminium air vents with their organ stop adjusters. There is a tremendous feeling of quality, especially in the styling on the chrome bezels and the exquisite stitching on the dashboard and seats. S also models get Alcantara inserts on the steering wheel, seats and gear lever.
There are a few clues inside that give away the Bentayga's VW Group roots, such as the indicator stalks, steering-wheel controls and climate control dials, and the interior quality of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is even more plush.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The front of the Bentayga provides all the space two tall adults could need, while cocooning the driver with a high centre console that flows into the winged dash design Bentleys have become famous for.
There are lots of storage spaces dotted around the interior and a useful tray below the front centre console with a wireless phone-charger. Opt for the stretched EWB version and there’s an additional wireless phone-charging tray cater for those in the back seats. If you prefer to plug in, there are four USB type-C sockets, two in the front, two in the rear.
As standard, the Bentayga comes with a five-seat layout, but you can also specify a four-seat layout or seven seats in three rows. The four-seat layout has two throne-like seats in the back separated by a wide centre console with built-in storage cabinets. The EWB also offers a 4+1 layout, which still gives you two full-sized rear seats, but with a long central armrest that folds away to reveal a narrow pew beneath for emergencies.
There’s plenty of rear leg room even if you’re sitting behind a six-footer, and more headroom than in the Lamborghini Urus. We’ve yet to test out the seven-seater and its rear two fold-down seats. Those wanting to fully stretch out (or are very tall) should look at the EWB and its additional 180mm of rear legroom.
The 484-litre boot you get in five-seat versions of both the regular and EWB models is generous, but it’s beaten by the Aston Martin DBX (632 litres) and Rolls-Royce Cullinan (600 litres). The Hybrid loses out by a small amount (at 479 litres), but if you opt for the four-seat configuration, it drops to 392 litres. The optional 4+1 layout on the EWB offers the least amount of space, with 380 litres. The Bentayga load bay is flat and long, and big enough for several large suitcases. A powered tailgate comes as standard, and can be opened with a foot-waving gesture beneath the rear bumper.
You also have to open your wallet for optional boot separators to keep luggage in place. In five-seat configuration, the rear seats split 40/20/40 as standard and fold down to expand the boot.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
It’s no surprise that Bentley’s self-proclaimed ‘ultimate SUV’ costs a lot to buy, but then again, so do its rivals. Although the Bentayga is based on the Audi Q7, buying a Bentley also brings with it a number of personalisation options, allowing you to create your own completely bespoke, blank-cheque specification.
That said, if you just want to ‘settle for' the standard specification, you’re unlikely to be disappointed. The list includes (but is not limited to): auto wipers, heated steering wheel, a panoramic roof, four-zone climate control and the 10.9in infotainment system. Azure introduces 22in alloys, ambient lighting, sports pedals. The V8 S adds a sports exhaust and black exterior highlights.
Of course, there’s also a long and expensive options list to peruse, including a box for the truly mesmerising 1780W (yes, you read that correctly) NAIM audio system – a must for audiophiles.
Unsurprisingly, the Bentley Bentayga Extended Wheelbase (EWB) will cost more, spec-for-spec. A Range Rover Long Wheelbase is also available for a lower list price, with a greater range of engine options and the ability to have two additional small rear seats in the boot. The EWB model range isn’t quite as versatile in this regard.
In terms of running costs, the 4.0-litre V8 engine has an official fuel economy figure of a little more than 21mpg. In real-world driving, we’ve seen it go as high as 25mpg on a motorway cruise, before dropping quickly into the teens away from it. CO2 emissions are on the high side, placing it in the top 37% bracket for company car tax.
The Hybrid version's running costs are more palatable, with an official CO2 output of just over 80g/km and an official fuel economy figure of more than 80mpg. You’ll have to charge up the 18.0kWh battery at every opportunity to get anywhere near that, though.
We managed to achieve more than 35mpg on a long journey with a fully-charged battery, dropping to the high-20s when it had depleted. As a result, the Hybrid makes the most sense for those who mostly cover short journeys.
The Bentayga is predicted to experience depreciation at a similar rate to the Aston Martin DBX and Lamborghini Urus. The Rolls-Royce Cullinan has the strongest residuals in the class because it’s produced in far smaller numbers.
Euro NCAP hasn’t safety tested the Bentayga, but the Audi Q7 it’s based on gets a full five stars. You get plenty of safety kit to help prevent an accident, including adaptive cruise control, night vision, a forward collision warning system, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assistance, rear cross-traffic warning, traffic-sign recognition, blind-spot warning and automatic emergency braking (AEB). There are also two Isofix child seat attachments on the rear outer seats.
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|RRP price range||£155,675 - £234,525|
|Number of trims (see all)||6|
|Number of engines (see all)||2|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol, hybrid|
|MPG range across all versions||21.2 - 83.1|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£4,043 / £17,158|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£8,086 / £34,316|