The Bentley Bentayga first arrived in the USA back in 2016, ushering in a new ultra-luxury SUV era. There were Cayennes and Range Rovers prior to its arrival, but the Bentayga offered a prestige level previously unheard of in this segment. Bentley's efforts proved so successful that the Bentayga quickly became the brand's best-selling model, prompting an extensive update. The 2021 Bentley Bentayga is so new, only the doors and roof carry over from the previous model.
Under the hood sits either a twin-turbocharged V8 or optional W12 engine, with a twin-turbo V6 plug-in hybrid model joining the lineup later on. Since its introduction, the Bentayga faces new competition in the Aston Martin DBX, Lamborghini Urus, and Rolls-Royce Cullinan, but at this price point, most shoppers won't be limited to just one vehicle for the family. With radical changes to the exterior and interior, Bentley believes this new Bentayga will continue appealing to ultra-luxury shoppers. CarBuzz spent a few days driving the new Bentayga V8 to find out whether it truly adds a special element to the SUV segment.
Since dropping the Mulsanne, Bentley has slowly started expanding its new design language. It features most prominently on the Continental GT and Flying Spur, while the Bentayga has been lagging with an older, much-criticized exterior.
For 2021, the Bentayga gets a new face, updated alloy wheel designs, and sleeker taillights. Looking at the design updates, especially the grille and taillights, you'll note the Bentayga is now more closely aligned with its stablemates. Tech-wise, it now features a more significant 10.9 infotainment screen, wireless charging, and a new entertainment system for the rear seats. The design of the interior has been updated as well.
The round air vents above the infotainment screen have been replaced with sleeker units meant to mimic the Flying B's wings. This opened up more space for the new, larger screen and space for a series of shortcut buttons underneath said screen. These buttons give you quick access to the infotainment's main features, including media, radio, phone, and navigation.
See trim levels and configurations:
When the Bentayga was first unveiled back in 2015, most people responded with a "really?" It was far from the ugliest car ever made but equally far from being labeled beautiful like other Bentley models. As is usually the case with Bentleys, the Bentayga is aging much better and this update cleans up the design tremendously. The new upright grille and sleeker, stretched back headlights and slimmer taillights look much better. It looks at its best with a black grille with a contrasting exterior hue. Continental GT-inspired LED headlights and taillights, a panoramic roof, and quad tailpipes are standard.
The Bentayga's new design hides its proportions better, but the figures don't lie. It's a big machine with a total length of 201.8 inches for the V8 and 202.5 inches for the W12 Speed. The rest of the measurements are the same across the range. The maximum width, including the side mirrors, is 87.5 inches, while the height is 68 inches. The V8 comes in at 5,326 pounds in terms of weight, while the W12 weighs 5,529 lbs. Not exactly lightweight, but around 700 lbs lighter than the (admittedly larger) Rolls Royce Cullinan. The Hybrid, however, tips the scales at a mammoth 5,838 lbs.
Bentley's online configurator is a joyous tool that will keep you busy for hours. If you don't have the time, Bentley usually kicks things off by making four suggestions that you might like. By not going that route, you can delve into the color palette, which consists of eight main categories like black, blues, greens, and so forth. Underneath each of these main selections, you'll find another ten plus examples. Bentley also offers paint to sample, so you can have any color you want. Want your Bentayga painted the same brown as the last few grains of coffee beans in that final sip of your morning coffee? Just take the cup down to the dealer, and they'll do it for you - just one of the many privileges that come with $150k plus motoring. Unfortunately, our Bentayga arrived sporting a pretty, but hardly exciting, shade of white simply called Ice.
All Bentaygas use an eight-speed ZF gearbox, transferring power to a permanent all-wheel-drive system. The Bentayga diesel was meant to be the "green" option in the range, but following the Volkswagen Group's scandal and its far-reaching effects, that particular model only lasted a year. Bentley now relies on hybridization for better fuel economy and emissions results. A 3.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged V6 powers the new Bentayga Hybrid. Combined with the 94kW electric motor, the total system output is 443 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. Bentley claims it will get to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds, but that's hardly important in the frugally-minded model.
Next in line is the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, which we sampled in our tester, producing 542 hp and 568 lb-ft of torque. This is a brilliant engine, providing a rich baritone soundtrack. The V8 can get to 60 mph in a claimed 4.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 180 mph. Bentley expects most customers to opt for the V8, and we doubt those owners will find much to complain about with the performance. For those who enjoy excess, a 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 tops the Bentayga range. The V8 sounds throatier, but you can't argue with the W12's 626 hp and 664 lb-ft output and unique whooshing character. This enormous amount of grunt gets the Bentayga to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, and it will press on to 190 mph.
Three engines make up the range of power plants here, starting with a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 developing 542 hp and 568 lb-ft, followed by a 6.0-liter W12 with two turbos, 626 hp, and 664 lb-ft, and lastly, a hybrid turbo V6 with a 3.0-liter displacement and outputs of 443 hp and 516 lb-ft when combined with a 94kW electric motor.
The W12 and V8 are relatively straightforward, using the tried and tested internal combustion method. Both use a ZF eight-speed transmission, sending the power to a permanent all-wheel-drive system. As in most iterations, the ZF eight-speed is an industry benchmark, offering delightfully smooth shifts and crisp changes when called upon by the Bentaya's knurled metal paddle shifters.
Bentley's all-new hybrid model uses a 17.3 kWh lithium battery, supplying power to a 94 kW E Motor, which produces 258 lb-ft of torque by itself. This motor is housed within the transmission, nestled neatly between the gearbox and the 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 up front. You can drive in electric-only mode for around 30 miles, at speeds of up to 84 mph. Fortunately, it's not all about efficiency. The electric motor also plays a torque-filling role, providing instant power between the gaps in internal combustion engines.
The twin-turbo V8 is the "volume" model, offering near-silent acceleration with a hint of exhaust rumble when the driver gets naughty with the accelerator. Bentley says its V8 is the driver's choice because it sounds throatier and frees up weight over the front. We still prefer the unmatched smoothness found in the W12 engine, though, which delivers nuclear thrust at the slightest hint of throttle application.
Peel back the Bentley Bentayga's chrome trimmings, bundles of leather, and sumptuous engines, and you'll find the same VW Group MLB Evo underpinnings used by the Audi Q8, Lamborghini Urus, Porsche Cayenne, and even the Volkswagen Touareg from foreign markets. No amount of brilliant engineering will ever make the Bentayga feel completely unrelated to these models, but to call it a "fancy Volkswagen" is to do this vehicle an unfair disservice. This driving experience feels every bit of its hefty starting price. Bentley's V8 engine delivers effortless performance, though it takes a heavy throttle to access. We noted the accelerator pedal requires a substantial amount of pressure before the drivetrain responds; Bentley's engineers likely programmed it this way to ensure maximum smoothness, so we consider it a feature rather than a complaint. Once prompted, the Bentayga makes the scenery pass by rapidly without disturbing the ambiance in the cabin.
Adding to the drivetrain's creaminess is a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, which improves the stop-start function and adds additional thrust. The Bentayga employs the mild-hybrid system to power the Bentley Dynamic Ride suspension, which counteracts the body to roll through the corners. This SUV truly defies physics with its handling, remaining flat and level even when hustled through a bend at obnoxious speeds. We wish Bentley would have programmed more feedback to the steering though, as the effortless nature of the rack took away some of the fun afforded by the magical suspension. A sportier driving experience can be found in the Bentayga's platform stablemates, the Lamborghini Urus and Porsche Cayenne, though those models lack the opulence and comfort found here. Higher up the price ladder, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is more plush and tranquil than the Bentayga, but at the cost of driving engagement.
Weighing over 5,000 lbs and a cylinder count that ranges from six to twelve, don't expect the Bentley to be frugal. We'll start at the top with the destroyer of fossil fuels, the W12. According to the EPA, its consumption figures are 12/18/14 mpg city/highway/combined. The V8 is better, but only just with a rating of 15/24/18 mpg. We managed 17.5 mpg combined. The EPA currently only provides combined fuel consumption figures for the hybrid. With the battery fully charged, the hybrid can do 46 MPGe, which is a significant improvement over its siblings. However, once the battery is drained and the car has to rely solely on the turbocharged V6, that figure drops to 19 mpg - just one mpg better than the V8.
Bentley understands luxury. It knows that luxury is not an overabundance of technology, a mistake many lesser automakers keep making. Technology plays a role in luxury, but interior quality, design, and space play a much more significant role. There isn't a single piece of imperfect trim to be found here. The Crewe-based manufacturer goes to great lengths to ensure its leather interiors are pristine. The hide used is sourced only from bulls because cows are too imperfect. To get a proper idea of how obsessive the company is, watch the episode of How It's Made dedicated to Bentley's factory. The front seats are sublime, offering a wide variety of adjustments and massage modes. Rear passengers are less well off, but Bentley's new rear-seat entertainment system is much easier to use and should keep the little ones entertained. Passengers above 16 years of age can simply sit back and enjoy an interior that takes days rather than minutes to assemble.
As with other elements of the car, the Bentayga offers tremendous flexibility with regard to seating. Most customers will stick with the five-seat configuration, which offers a pretty standard rear bench in the back with a substantial 40.9 inches of legroom. While these seats offer reclining and heating, they miss out on the massaging and ventilation functions found in the four-seat configuration. This option deletes the middle seat and the ability to fold the seats flat in favor of a center console but adds power adjustment and comfort. More practical-minded buyers can also opt for the seven-seater Bentayga, which adds a small but semi-usable third-row seat. No matter which configuration you choose, front-seat passengers always receive plenty of space in their leather-wrapped thrones.
As is the case with the exterior, the selection of interior colors and trims is impressive. The first selection you have to make is the color-split. You can have a full leather interior in one color or a two-tone interior. Then you choose between the 14 main hide color options and the 11 secondary hide options. You can get as funky as you like, as Bentley doesn't restrict what colors you can put together. Ten trim options are available, ranging from the more modern Carbon Fiber and Dark Tint Brushed Aluminum or the more traditional wood veneers. Other interior customization options include contrast stitching and piping, hand cross-stitching, and stitched emblems for the seats. Our tester came rocking a dark burgundy interior called Cricket Ball, inspired by the leather used on the ball for British sport and pastime of the same name.
There are three seating configurations available, and the cargo capacity depends on which one you go for. The standard five-seat format has the largest trunk, providing 17.1 cubic feet. The figures drop down slightly to 16.9 cubic feet in the hybrid. That's relatively small but likely the result of passenger comfort being a higher priority. Still, it's enough room for two large suitcases. The ultra-luxurious four-seater has 13.8 cubic feet (13.7 in the hybrid) of cargo space, while the practical seven-seater has 7.6 cubes with the third row in place. If you fold the five-seater's seats down, you can increase the cargo capacity to 62.6 cubic feet, but we don't see the average Bentley owner partaking in such peasantry. You simply send the butler ahead with a van. It's worth noting that the four-seat option loses the ability to fold down the second row, losing much of the practicality afforded by its SUV body style.
The cabin has plenty of storage as standard. You get door pockets, a storage space next to the shifter, and a glovebox. Naturally, you can add items like fold-down trays for the rear seats, a picnic set for the trunk, or some hand-crafted luggage to match the car's interior.
This segment is slightly redundant, as the average prospective customer will likely not care about the standard features but rather what can be added. In case you're interested, each Bentayga comes with power seats, front and rear seat heating, a rearview camera, keyless entry and start, remote engine start, cruise control, and a panoramic sunroof. The Mulliner specification is standard on the W12 and consists of diamond-quilted seats, more interior color options, and drilled sports pedals. From there, the sky's the limit and you really can opt for just about any feature you can imagine from massaging seats of every sort to lighting that would make a Kiss concert seem dull.
Ultra-luxury automakers such as Bentley are not always at the forefront of cutting-edge technology, but with the Bentayga, the automaker has made tremendous strides. The dashboard now houses a nicely-sized 10.9-inch touchscreen infotainment display, which features a small rotating knob should an owner wish to avoid fingerprints. Bentley shares some of its interface with Audi, which means everything is intuitive to use. Apple CarPlay is now available wirelessly, and Android Auto can be accessed by plugging in a cable. The large infotainment screen is paired with an all-digital instrument cluster, which can show a traditional speedometer and tachometer, a full-color map, and even a night vision camera.
A Bentley Signature Audio system with 590 watts comes standard with 12 speakers, though we'd opt for the Naim audio system with 1,780 watts and 20 speakers. The Naim system offers some of the clearest output we've ever tested, so it would be a shame to skip it.
Bentley issued three recalls for the Bentayga in 2019 and three more in 2020. The 2019 recalls were related to a leaking fuel line connector, seat belts not connecting properly in the third row of seven-seater models, and a side curtain airbag that may not inflate properly. These recalls continued into 2020, with no additional problems being reported. A three-year/unlimited mileage warranty covers the Bentayga.
Expensive models like the Bentayga are usually not rated by the IIHS or the NHTSA. With an impressive list of essential safety features, we estimate that it's a safe SUV. Since it uses the same platform as the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, we have a baseline standard. Both these cars have high safety ratings.
The Bentayga comes with dual front, front, and rear side curtain and front and rear thorax airbags. Traditional safety kit like a rearview camera, traction and stability control, ABS brakes, and the basic crash mitigation and detection systems. The Touring specification adds advanced driver assistance features like lane-keep assist, a head-up display, traffic assist, night vision, and adaptive cruise control.
When shopping at the Bentley price level, cars become more of an emotional decision than a practical one. To that end, the Bentley Bentayga appeals to the imagination of SUV owners that yearn for something more enviable than a run-of-the-mill Cayenne or Range Rover. SUVs often lack that "special" feel afforded by supercars and Grand Tourers, but the Bentayga seeks to bring some of that flavor a bit higher up on the road. Due to the humble underpinnings, we think other Bentley models like the Continental GT and Flying Spur still deliver a more mind-blowing luxury experience, but the Bentayga gets pretty darn close while also offering two things that shoppers love, practicality and ride height.
There are no true "direct" competitors to consider when shopping for a Bentley Bentayga. The Maserati Levante and Porsche Cayenne both aim for a sportier driving experience and cost much less. The Lamborghini Urus is similarly-priced but focuses more on speed than luxury. Finally, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan trumps the Bentayga with a softer ride and plusher cabin but is less engaging to drive and costs nearly twice as much. The Bentley Bentayga carves its own niche in the ultra-luxury SUV space, leaning more towards comfort without leaving the driver yearning for the sports car that's likely parked back at their mansion.
The most affordable Bentayga is the hybrid, with an MSRP of $180,500. The V8 retails for exactly the same amount. First Edition specification for the hybrid model adds $42,430 to the price, but it's slightly less for the V8 and Speed at $37,060. The Speed W12 has an MSRP of $249,900. These prices exclude Bentley's destination charge of $2,725. Last year, the Bentayga Hybrid qualified for up to $7,500 in federal tax credits, and while the 2021 MY's eligibility hasn't yet been confirmed, we expect the full amount to carry over.
The Bentayga model line-up for 2021 is easier to understand than ever. Instead of explaining every model's standard features, we'll work on a baseline spec, consisting of full LED exterior lights, 21-inch alloys, climate control, the new 10.1-inch infotainment system, a ten-speaker sound system, a panoramic sunroof, and Apple CarPlay. There are three engine options, each serving a different purpose and forming the basis of a three-strong model lineup: V8, Speed, and Hybrid.
Bentley's first hybrid is the environmentally-friendly option, offering some electric-only range. With a total system output of 443 hp and 516 lb-ft, it will still perform like a Bentley when you're in the mood. Hybrid models come with their unique efficiency navigation system, featuring predictive data.
The Speed is the fastest model in the range, but the V8 is more of a driver's car. As in the Flying Spur, the V8 gives the car a naughtier exhaust note. More often than not, it motivates the driver to exploit the available 542 hp and 568 lb-ft.
The Speed sits at the top, offering 626 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque from a W12 engine. It comes standard with the Mulliner Driving Specification, adding quilted seats. Other enhancements include 22-inch alloys and a Sport mode.
As with everything else on this car, there are multiple options to choose from. Exterior-wise, there's the Blackline Specification, which includes several exterior black-painted items. This specification contrasts exceptionally well with specific colors and is worth taking a look at. The Touring Specification adds all of the advanced safety kit, including night vision, adaptive cruise control, and traffic assist, to name just a few. The Smoker's Specification adds everything you need for a cigar, while the Speed is the only model available with the All-Terrain Specification. It doesn't transform the Speed into a serious off-roader but adds another setting to the driving modes and some underbody protection for greater all-surface ability.
If you have to ask how much it costs, yeah, you know the shtick. No Bentley Bentayga can be considered "affordable," so we'd throw caution to the wind and make ours as opulent as possible. That means opting for the W12-powered Bentayga Speed model, which starts at around $245,000. The V8 feels like a powerful missile under the hood of the Bentayga, but the W12 is an atom bomb. From there, we'd spare no expense opting for any bell or whistle that sounds appealing, particularly the crystal clear Naim audio system for $8,880 and the four-seat Comfort Specification. Bentley doesn't give a full list of prices on its configurator but we assume a fully-optioned Bentayga can easily surpass $300,000.
These two SUVs compete in their little niche segment, with the Lamborghini Urus catering to enthusiastic drivers and the Mercedes-Maybach taking care of lottery winners. The Rolls-Royce is a bigger car and therefore offers more legroom and more luxurious features. We particularly like the optional glass partition between the front and rear seats if you're not in the mood for interacting with the kids. It might not seem possible, but the Rolls is even more refined and quieter than the Bentley.
From behind the wheel, the Bentley dominates. The twin-turbo V12 in the Rolls struggles to compete against the V8, let alone the W12 Speed. A Bentayga is also more pleasing to drive, with the Rolls offering more of a sensory deprivation tank-like experience. At this level, neither car is terrible. They're both epic, and it depends entirely on what the buyer wants from the vehicle.
It's hard to imagine these two cars going head-to-head. Sure, both are made by premium manufacturers and retail for the same sort of money, and both utilize the same underpinnings, but that's about it.
The Bentley is a family SUV, built to be as opulent as possible. Its impressive performance figures are merely a by-product of the high-end engines Bentley uses. The Bentayga handles very well for what it is. The Urus is a Lamborghini. Lambos are ostentatious, stupidly fast, loud, and hugely entertaining to drive. The Urus is no exception. It hits all the Lamborghini targets, but it just happens to be an SUV. Both cars are magnificent, but we can't see the owner of one being interested in the other.
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