by Karl Furlong
When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, announced their desire to step down from their senior roles within the royal family, traditionalists with an appreciation for order and historical convention were more than a little perturbed. And back in 2015, when the Bentley Bentayga debuted as the British marque's first-ever SUV, it was also a huge departure for the maker of ultra-luxurious and stately cars, for an often more mature elite who tend to be set in their ways. Thankfully, the break in tradition hasn't set off the destruction of the Bentley brand - in fact, today the Bentayga is one of the marque's most popular models with its sales jumping by 18 percent last year. Among the Bentayga's many notable attributes are its exquisite cabin, the combination of powerful V8 and W12 powertrains, and a stellar mix of driver engagement and sublime comfort. While not all within the monarchy will agree, the Bentayga is proof that traditional values can be upheld in newly imagined ways - the majestic Bentley is without a doubt one of the kings of the SUV world.
The Bentayga range has expanded in recent times, with the addition of a V8 model and a plug-in Hybrid model (reviewed separately). With this in mind, Bentley goes into 2020 without any major changes to the range.
Once you've entered a realm of luxury above the best that Mercedes-Benz and BMW can offer, it seems that presence takes priority over beauty. So, although the Bentley's unusual circular headlights, giant diamond-mesh grille, and rather bloated proportions don't combine for something that is especially ravishing, the SUVs sheer size and the glitzy detailing - let alone that revered badge on the hood - ensure that you'll never go unnoticed. Standard features include full LED adaptive headlamps, LED taillights, a panoramic roof, and twin-quad exhaust tailpipes on the V8 model. The Design Series model gets unique 22-inch Mulliner Paragon alloy wheels and a black gloss radiator matrix grille, while the W12 model has a bright chrome matrix grille.
Casting a considerably large shadow, the Bentley Bentayga is 202.4 inches long, 78.7 inches wide excluding the side mirrors (87.6 inches with the mirrors included), and with a 117.9-inch wheelbase. Depending on the specific variant and suspension settings, the Bentayga's height varies between 67.8 and 70 inches. The maximum ground clearance works out to 9.6 inches. Curb weight ranges from 5,264 pounds for the V8 in four-seater configuration to 5,545 lbs for the W12 when equipped with seven seats. This makes the Bentayga up to 700 lbs lighter than the even more comfort-oriented Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
Once you start spending in excess of $150k for a car, you gain access to a few privileges that most of us will never experience. One of those is Bentley's seemingly endless range of color choices and combinations for the Bentayga - you can choose from over 100 shades. Do you like green? Well, the Bentayga provides nine different shades of green alone, including British Racing Green 4 and the striking Radium by Mulliner. You can also choose from a selection of duo-tones by Mulliner. For example, you can have the hood and upper half of the SUV's body in Onyx (black) and the lower half in Orange Flame. While these color combinations would come off as garish on many other cars, they somehow work with the Bentayga's elaborate bodywork. Of course, you can also go for something simpler like Royal Ebony by Mulliner, making for an especially mean look. The options really are endless.
Equipped with either a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 or a 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12, no Bentayga is anything less than a seriously brisk performer. The V8's outputs are 542 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque, allowing it to cover 0-60 mph in just 4.4 seconds. Like all other Bentayga models, the V8 sends power to all four wheels. The W12 has outputs of 600 hp and 664 lb-ft in the Bentayga and an even more muscular 626 hp in the Bentayga Speed. The standard Bentayga W12 will hit 60 mph in four seconds dead on its way to a top speed of 187 mph, while the Bentayga Speed is the fastest model and can accomplish 0-60 mph in just 3.8 seconds, along with a top speed of 190 mph. While it isn't quite the fastest SUV on the planet, it comes pretty close. Both the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid and the Lamborghini Urus can hit 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, but neither of these SUVs are as stately or luxurious as the Bentayga.
With a towing capacity of 7,716 lbs, the Bentayga outclasses the BMW X7 in this area, although an Infiniti QX80 can tow more. Still, neither of these SUVs are as opulent or exclusive as the Bentley and, for what it is, the Bentayga's performance is exceptional.
Initially introduced only with a giant W12 lump, the Bentayga range was expanded with the addition of a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 in 2018. The smooth motor generates 542 hp and 568 lb-ft of torque and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Progress is as silky smooth and effortless as you may expect, while efficiency is enhanced thanks to the V8's ability to deactivate four cylinders under the right conditions. Despite the Bentayga's weight, the V8 never feels taxed, even with a full load of passengers out on the highway.
You know you want the 6.0-liter W12, though, which somehow seems to be an ideal match for the big SUV. There are reserves of power and torque that you'll never really exhaust, and 600 hp/664 lb-ft feels as impressive as it reads. In its element at moderate throttle openings, the big Bentley can also hustle with the best of them when you floor it. The Bentayga Speed is even more of a beast - with Sport mode activated and the full 626 hp unleashed, it'll leave most cars easting its dust away from the traffic lights. Passing power, as you would expect, is excellent.
Just because the Bentley is an ultra-opulent SUV doesn't mean it shouldn't be enjoyable from the driver's seat, too. This is the philosophy employed by the British marque and it's one we appreciate. Those considerable proportions haven't blunted the driving experience to a point where you'd be inclined to doze off behind the wheel as the steering is direct, the grip excellent, and a torque-vectoring system is employed to enable surprisingly high cornering speeds. There isn't much feedback, but few Bentley buyers will be looking for this.
Ride comfort is superb thanks to the standard air suspension with continuous damping control and four different height settings. Although perhaps not as isolating as the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, the Bentayga still manages to dispense with bumps and road scars long before they reach the quiet cabin. On the W12 models, you also get Bentley's Dynamic Ride that utilizes a 48V electronic active roll control system, which has the dual benefit of greater axle articulation off-road and reduced on-road body roll.
To suit the driver's mood and the conditions, the Drive Dynamics Control system allows you to choose between Comfort, Sport, Custom and Bentley. Comfort will be the default choice most of the time, but we're pleased that Sport mode really does tighten up the suspension when you want to let loose on a twisty road. The Bentley isn't a complete flop when taken off-road, but neither is it a Land Rover. It does, however, seem especially impolite to risk damaging the Bentayga's gleaming paintwork and alloys by going off-road.
A big brute of an SUV isn't the best choice for thrifty motoring, and the Bentayga is no different. The V8 model is, however, reasonably efficient on the highway with its EPA-rated estimates working out to 14/23/17 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. The 6.0-liter W12 returns 12/17/14 mpg. With a gas tank size of 22.5 gallons, the V8 should manage a combined cruising range of approximately 382 miles. By comparison, the W12's range drops to 315 miles. The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is even heavier on fuel, with economy estimates of 12/20/14 mpg.
It would take quite some effort - and lots of cash - to equip your home office to a standard that feels as plush, warm, and premium as the Bentayga's cabin. You get an array of wood trim, chrome accents, and endless swathes of leather, and it all feels as indulgent as it looks. The front seats are both comfortable and widely adjustable, but Rolls-Royce does a better job of making rear-seat passengers feel special. There are some unique touches like treadplates embossed with the Bentley name and the available Bentley central analog clock, but the eight-inch touchscreen is a modern touch in an otherwise classically styled cabin that can seat up to seven occupants.
Depending on the chosen configuration, the Bentayga can either seat four, five, or seven people. By default, the Bentley is a five-seater with a traditional rear bench for three, but this can be replaced with a pair of captain's chairs. A seven-seater option adds a third row with two seats.
Comfort levels generally start off at a supremely high level but taper off disappointingly as you work your way from the front to the back. The driver and front-seat passenger have good legroom and headroom, while these seats are well-cushioned and have plenty of power adjustment. Along with an adjustable steering wheel and a clear view out, most drivers will be happy with the setup. The second row of seats aren't nearly as plush as the bench itself is rather flat - the middle second-row seat is also firmer than ideal. Right at the back, the optional third row will be extremely cramped for adults, with only minimal legroom. These are best folded away for greater luggage capacity and reserved for small children or emergencies.
There's no shortage of choice when customizing the Bentayga's stunning interior. There are up to 15 different leather colors to choose from. These include traditional shades like Burnt Oak and Saddle, along with more exuberant hues like Damson (a dark purple), Hotspur (red), and Imperial Blue. By using Bentley's configurator, you can also choose between different color splits and a secondary leather color as well. A tasteful variety of veneers includes the V8 model's Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus and the carbon fiber Diamond Weave in the V8 Design Series. The W12 gets a choice of Burr Walnut, Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus, Dark Stained Burr Walnut, or Piano Black veneers. Premium touches like a leather headlining and embroidered Bentley emblems on the seats add to the luxurious atmosphere.
With three seating configurations, cargo capacity varies fairly widely across the range. If you want the biggest trunk available, go for the standard five-seater which has 17.1 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. It's not exceptional for an SUV, but is still enough for two large suitcases, a set of golf clubs, and a couple of soft bags. The four-seater version has 15.2 cubes of space behind the rear seats, but the seven-seater only has 7.6 cubes behind the third row. A square trunk shape, no load lip, and an air suspension that can lower the vehicle's body all help with the loading of heavier items. By folding down the five-seater's rear seats, total cargo capacity works out to 62.6 cubic feet.
In the cabin, there's space for storing small items in the glovebox, in the door pockets, and inside a compartment situated just in front of the shifter. Again, other SUVs are superior in this aspect, but the Bentayga is reasonably practical.
Along with the quality materials are a host of convenience features to pamper the driver and passengers. Standard items include power-adjustable front seats with memory, a rearview camera, front and rear seat heating, keyless entry, cruise control, a universal garage door opener, remote engine start, a panoramic sunroof, and parking sensors both front and rear. On the Bentayga W12, the lavish Mulliner specification is standard and adds drilled sports pedals, diamond-quilted seats, and a wider range of interior color choices. You can also specify extras like retractable running boards, power rear window shades and rear-seat picnic tables.
Like your grandmother who hasn't fully embraced touchscreen mobile devices, the Bentley's infotainment system feels old-school - and that's because it is. Both the graphics and responsiveness of the eight-inch touchscreen now lag behind the systems in much cheaper SUVs like the Audi Q7 and the BMW X7. Nevertheless, the system packs in standard navigation, satellite radio, voice control with text-to-speech, MP3 and CD compatibility, Bluetooth connectivity, USB ports, a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, and two SD card slots. There's also 60GB of hard disk storage, but while Apple CarPlay makes an appearance, Android Auto does not. The audio system is also a letdown with just ten speakers fitted as standard. You can upgrade to the Bentley Signature Audio system or an 18-speaker Naim for Bentley unit, but neither are particularly special. A rear entertainment system is also available.
There appear to be few serious problems affecting the Bentley Bentayga. According to the NHTSA, the last recall affecting the SUV was for a rearview camera that could have an obstructed view when initially engaging reverse. The recall applied to 2018 models.
The Bentayga is covered by the brand's three-year/unlimited-miles warranty.
The Bentayga is based on the same Volkswagen Group platform as the Audi Q7 and the Porsche Cayenne, so we expect this to be an extremely safe vehicle in the unfortunate event of an accident. It's just as well, since both the IIHS and NHTSA have not officially evaluated the Bentayga for crashworthiness.
Along with a full suite of airbags (dual front, front and rear side curtain, and front and rear thorax), the Bentayga also gets a rearview camera, traction control, and daytime running lights (along with full LED adaptive headlamps with high-beam assist). You can access a range of driver-assist safety features by opting for the City or Touring Specifications. The former includes a top-view camera, city safeguard, reversing traffic warning, park assist, traffic sign recognition, and pedestrian warning. The Touring Specification adds lane assist, traffic assist, a head-up display, night vision and adaptive cruise control.
We have no hesitation in recommending the Bentley Bentayga to shoppers looking for a super luxury SUV. The supremely built cabin, incredible refinement, and powerful engines take the effort out of cross-country expeditions, the Bentayga effortlessly swallowing up the miles without breaking a sweat. Inside and out, it feels like a true Bentley, just one that can occasionally head off-road and that gives you an ego-boosting view of other road users. Yes, a Mercedes-Benz GLS is around half the price of the Bentayga, but it offers nowhere near the Bentley's exclusivity. The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is even more expensive and is much better for those sitting at the back, but it also doesn't involve you in the driving experience in the way that the Bentley does. We wish that some of the on-board tech didn't feel so old, but other than this, the sublime Bentayga will make its driver and passengers feel like a million bucks.
The Bentayga range starts off with the Bentayga V8 at an MSRP of $168,300, excluding tax, licensing, registration, and a destination charge of $2,725. Next is the Bentayga V8 Design Series at $203,200, and that rounds out the V8-engined variants. The latest available price for the W12 model is $235,700, while the range is topped by the Bentayga Speed which will set you back $240,400.
The Bentley Bentayga is available in four trims: V8, V8 Design Series, W12, and the Speed. The V8 models are powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged engine with 542 hp and 568 lb-ft, while the W12's 6.0-liter twin-turbo produces 600 hp and 664 lb-ft. The Speed uses the same W12 engine but gets a bump up in power to 626 hp. Regardless of the model, the transmission is an eight-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive is standard.
The base V8 gets standard power-adjustable front seats in leather, 21-inch alloy wheels, full LED adaptive headlamps, climate control, a ten-speaker audio system, an eight-inch touchscreen as part of the infotainment system, a panoramic roof, Apple CarPlay, and an Eliade headliner. The stylish V8 Design Series adds 22-inch Mulliner Paragon alloy wheels, a gloss black matrix grille, dark tinting for the outside lights, carbon fiber Diamond Weave veneer trim, and an Alcantara headliner. The mighty Bentayga W12 has large oval exhaust tailpipes, an increased choice of trims and leather colors, and the Mulliner Driving Specification which includes diamond-quilted seats. Finally, the Speed gets the body-color Styling Specification, 22-inch Speed wheels and enhanced Sport mode software.
Bentley's available packages are designated as specifications, with each bundling together a host of luxury, safety, or styling upgrades. The Mulliner Driving Specification is standard on the W12 but optional on the V8 and adds 22-inch wheels and upgraded interior trim. The Blackline and Black Specifications endow the Bentayga with a more menacing look, courtesy of black-painted wheels and black exterior trim in place of the default brightware. The Black Specification also adds carbon fiber trim to the outside.
To access Bentley's available driver aids, you'll have to go for the City or Touring Specifications. These provide increased visibility and warnings of the vehicle's surrounds via features like a top-view camera, park assist, night vision, traffic sign recognition and pedestrian detection.
For warm summer days, the Event Specification adds a tastefully trimmed rear event seat that folds out of the back of the big SUV. Along with tailgate downlighters, it's perfect for taking in the sunset while everyone else tries to peer through their dirty windshields. The Sunshine Specification boasts a double front sun visor and power-operated rear side window blinds, while the All-Terrain Specification enhances the Bentayga's ability to tackle the rough stuff with driving modes for Sand and Mud & Trail.
If none of these packages are quite to your liking, you can always choose from the long list of standalone features like mood lighting, Lambswool rugs, a rear entertainment system, a hands-free tailgate (which really should be standard), and the classic Breitling clock.
There's no bad buy in the Bentayga range as each model has plenty to offer. However, considering that the V8 model isn't far off the pace of the W12, it represents a significant cost-saving, plus it allows for more flexibility when adding on options. If money is no object, the Bentayga Speed is hard to resist. It's one of the fastest SUVs in the world and yet still provides exceptional comfort and refinement - we'd have ours with the City/Touring Specifications and the rear entertainment system. As for the paintwork and interior color options, well, that's entirely up to your taste.
These two grand SUVs tower above everything else, at least in terms of price and prestige. The Cullinan is even better at catering to rear passengers' every whim, with much more legroom than the Bentayga and the availability of extravagant touches like a glass partition between the luggage compartment and the rear passengers, because who wants to hear their Louis Vuitton suitcase sliding around? The Rolls wafts along even more serenely, while its 6.75-liter twin-turbo V12 engine will (almost) make you forget about the starting price of well over $300k. It's when you get behind the wheel yourself that the Bentley Bentayga starts to carve out a lead. It's not only faster, but more precise and communicative, too. Plus, the Bentayga's broader range makes it more accessible. Neither is better than the other - they're just built to please different buyers.
We've yet to see a Lamborghini Urus and a Bentley Bentayga parked alongside one another, but it's hard to imagine two more divergent interpretations of a high-end SUV, especially considering that these two share the same parent company. The Bentayga is all old-school opulence and glitzy detailing while the Urus appears to be something from the future with its abundance of slashes and taut bodywork. At 3.6 seconds to 60 mph, the Urus is faster than the Bentayga Speed, but not by much. Initial impressions indicate that the lower Urus is the much more dynamic, agile performer, just as you'd expect from a Lamborghini. The Italian car's high-tech interior is also more advanced than the Bentaygas, and design-wise, they're polar opposites. The showy and charismatic Urus will appeal to a younger-at-heart clientele, while the more restrained Bentayga has an air of quiet confidence about it that will no doubt continue to impress a more conservative buyer. Both are phenomenal SUVs.
Check out some informative Bentley Bentayga video reviews below.