2023 Bentley Bentayga EWB First Drive Review: A First-Class Ticket To Luxury

First Drive / Comments

We drove the new, longer Bentayga to find out if bigger really is better.

Bentley first rolled out the Bentayga in 2016. At that point, the brand's first-ever SUV was the start of something. You can measure the industry before and after the Bentley Bentayga, much like you could with the Porsche Cayenne. It took the levels of luxury found in something like a Flying Spur and transplanted it into a far more popular body style, with a plethora of brands following suit. Today, the Bentayga is a cornerstone of Bentley's lineup. In 2021 alone, the Bentayga was the brand's best-seller, with a massive 40% of all Bentleys sold being Bentaygas.

No doubt looking to capitalize on this success, Bentley introduced the EWB (extended wheelbase) this year. In short, it's exactly what you'd want out of a Bentayga. More luxury, high-quality materials, and, of course, more legroom. To be exact, Bentley has added 7.08 inches of extra space between the axles, right where it counts.

At the media launch of the Bentayga EWB in Canada, we spent time in two variants of the EWB, the Portofino Blue ($294,715 as-tested) and Cumbrian Green ($307,220 as-tested) cars you see here, with the latter equipped with Bentley's Airline Seat Specification with two individual rear seats providing unparalleled luxury for a princely sum of $11,195. But more on that in a bit.

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First, let's get something straight. There are certain kinds of people who can afford a four-seater Bentley SUV with acres of leather inside and a six-figure MSRP. We are, regrettably, not among them. The people who are in that little circle care an awful lot about how things look to the outside world. As such, there's a bit of a brand hierarchy among the wealthy. There is also, critically for Bentley, a whole lot of brand loyalty.

Right now, at least, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan sits at the top of the "well I've got a" hierarchy. Changing that won't be easy, and Bentley knows this. That's why more than 2,500 new parts were used to build the EWB, at substantial cost to Bentley, we might add.

On top of that, while the Bentayga starts at $263,500, Bentley expects a great number of these cars will be optioned well past $300K, thanks largely to the brand's Mulliner department. Basically, it's the brand's "anything you want" division. And when you're going to spend Rolls-Royce Cullinan cash on a loaded-up Bentayga, you'd better get just that.

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Exterior: Stately And Understated

Now, with that said, let's begin evaluating the Bentayga, notions of status, brand loyalty, and others aside. How does the Bentley stand on its own? Aesthetically at least, it stands tall. Bentley added all of the "extended" bits in right at the rear passenger compartment. You'll notice it, especially in profile. The rear doors are noticeably longer (and heavier) than the fronts. Don't worry, there's a button to close them for you. The new proportions also gave way to one of the best features of the Bentayga. Thanks to the new geometry, the car's rear "shoulder" is even more pronounced. If you're asking us, it looks fantastic and ties the whole profile together. It also helps to visually shrink the door a tad.

The story is much the same at the front. This looks like a Bentley, through and through. On our drive through the mountains outside Vancouver, Bentley had a few Flying Spurs along to shuttle its personnel around (perks of the job, we suppose). Sat next to a more traditional Bentley body style, the familial resemblance is blatantly obvious.

Don't go thinking this car is shouty, however. The Bentayga likes to blend in, despite its size, especially in darker shades. Our test car's Cumbrian Green paint looked almost black in some lights and blended into the background until you really gave it a look.

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Of course, once you do, you realize you're looking at something special. Somehow, the Bentayga gives off an aura of solidity; no flimsiness here. The brightwork around the car doesn't look chintzy. It's stately, accenting the car in all the right places. That is only emphasized by the Bentayga's four-light layout, something you'll find on every car in the current lineup bar the Mulliner Batur, which precurses what future Bentleys will look like.

Speaking of, the detail within the lights is staggering. There's a fine crystalline pattern to the lights that really stands out once you're less than ten feet from a Bentayga and looks like an ornate crystal whiskey tumbler. Then, the Bentayga changes your train of thought from "oh look, a Bentley" to "oh man, that looks expensive." The lights are, undoubtedly, the best exterior feature on the car after the new, more prominent shoulder.

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Performance: Please Sir, May I Have Some More

Under the Bentayga's hood, sat just behind those headlights we like so much, lives the EWB's 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8. Bentley says the V8 delivers "supercar performance," and they're right. 550 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque rocket the SUV's 5,542-pound frame to 60 mph in a hilarious 4.5 seconds. That's faster than the original Acura NSX.

Bentley spent some time getting the power outputs where it wanted them, yes, but a larger focus has been placed on efficiency, including cylinder deactivation that lets the V8 operate as a four-cylinder under low loads.

We're going to take a moment here to talk more about spec. Both of the cars we drove were Azure models, which is the most luxury-leaning Bentayga spec rather than performance; after all, who buys an extended-wheelbase SUV for performance?

The Brits also placed great emphasis on other aspects of the Bentayga. Bentley reps told us that a majority of Bentaygas will be city cars for much of their lives, and a specific focus was placed on maneuverability as a result.

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So, after some off-roading, Bentley asked us to turn around at the top of a ski jump at Whistler. Frankly, not a lot of cars would've made it in one go. But the Bentayga's all-wheel steering works so well that the EWB actually has a turning circle smaller than that of the standard car.

There's another trick to ensure the Bentayga shrinks around you: Bentley Dynamic Ride. Basically, it's active body roll control. The system uses the car's air suspension and electronic sway bars to constantly counter roll in the corners. Normally, you'll never even notice it working. That's how good it is. Only when sat in the Bentayga's extra-large rear seats did we notice it. While another journalist hustled the Bentayga down a mountain road, we stayed flat and level in the back.

You're by no means isolated from the experience, especially at any real pace, but the system does genuinely ensure the Bentayga EWB stays flat and level during the vast majority of scenarios.

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Driving Impressions: To Drive Or Be Driven

There are two ways to experience the Bentayga EWB in motion, one of which will pull a few zeroes from your savings account. That'd be buying one and driving it yourself, thereby missing out on all that extended wheelbase opulence. Then, the other; buying a Bentayga and getting a driver. That'll take a few more zeroes out of your presumably substantial savings account.

Let's talk about the second one first, simply because it's more fun to tell someone "yo, home to Bel Air" than it is to drive there yourself. Being driven is far better with the Airline Seat Specification. The seats make full use of the EWB's additional legroom and add footrests on the front seatbacks. You can't quite lie flat, but you can get darn close. Had we not been on the clock, it'd have been a great place for a nap.

The First Edition car we drove with the Airline seats (pictured below) also came with the Naim sound system, and it's frankly one of the best we've heard in any car. It's also just about the only thing you hear. The interior is quieter than whisper quiet, and road noise simply doesn't exist.

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The majority of our driving was done in the Portofino (blue) car below, and it was a truly impressive thing to drive. The engine is absurdly powerful. Even when factoring in the Bentayga's substantial weight, the speed you pick up on a whim is hilarious.

On multiple occasions, we found ourselves speeding by some measure after what we perceived to be normal driving. The car is a thing of momentum. Thankfully, it stops nicely. The Bentayga will even do a decent Jeep impression, as a quick scramble up the back of a ski jump showed us. The off-road mode raises the ride height and makes cruising in the one place no one will ever take a Bentayga a breeze.

Despite Bentley's efforts to make the V8 cleaner and more efficient, it still sounds like a V8. Some of this simply has to be piped in given how insulated the cabin is, but we'll take it. This isn't a car you drive quickly. It's one that sits at high speed, cruising along in near total silence. The only time you really need the power is to overtake, which you'll do quite a lot of.

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That brings us to the sublime eight-speed automatic transmission. It knows when to shift, even if it'll let you do it via tactile metal paddles behind the wheel. Frankly, you'll never need them. The transmission is the last thing on your mind while driving the Bentayga. Instead, you'll be too busy fiddling with the 22-way seats and sound system.

The ride quality is supremely good, dare we say unparalleled. Almost nothing is translated into the cockpit. This is also true of the steering feel. The EWB rides so well that it's basically a cloud, earning the "Magic Carpet" cliche that'll surely be uttered by someone.

The car's active roll control and Bentley drive mode work together to keep the car totally composed. At no point does the Bentayga feel anything less than perfectly suited for whatever task you've given it, so long as you're not driving like a bat out of hell. This, frankly, just isn't the car for that past a certain point. It'll do it, but you won't really be rewarded for it. Instead, you're better off enjoying the interior.

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Interior: A Seat Fit For Kings

If you buy a Bentayga EWB and don't take advantage of the Airline Seat Specification, you're missing out. These stars of the show are arguably the most advanced seat fitted to any car. They are supremely comfortable in both, and having a place to put your feet up with the Airline Seat spec is delectable.

Even without them, the Bentayga EWB's seats have full power adjustment, including lumbar, memory function, heating, and cooling for all occupants, which can all be controlled via the detachable center screen. But Bentley offers two things that set the Airline seats apart. First, they monitor your body temperature, adjusting the heating and cooling functions to keep you at the ideal temperature. Readings are taken via the seatbelt, and the car adjusts from there.

In addition to that, Bentley takes activating massages to a whole other level. There's a specific massage function that will automatically move your body within the seat, twisting and pushing it subtly to stimulate blood flow. At no point in our journey did we feel even the slightest fatigue thanks to this system. It's incredible how much more refreshed you are at the end of a drive after using both systems in tandem.

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The front seats aren't half-bad either, with limitless adjustability and a million and a half massage functions to keep you from feeling the miles. The switchgear is incredible; everything has a tactility to it you don't get in cheaper luxury cars. If you want to know the difference between a $100K car and a $300K car, it's the little details like how the switches and rotary knobs feel.

Take the stitching. It's precise to the millimeter, perfectly laid out over leather fit for royalty. You could spend hours poring over the little details in the EWB and still come out asking for more time. Bentley's mood lighting even shines through the perforated leather now.

Now, we do have to say that the stalks on the wheel (and maybe even the wheel) are right out of Audi's parts bin. Small automakers can only do so much, but the buttons on them are at least metal for a more primo feel. Fine by us. Another Audi detail is the infotainment system, but it feels premium with a Bentley UI, and it's easy to learn, as it should be.

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Verdict: A Class Of One

Holding the Bentayga EWB to its competition is tough. The Range Rover SV Autobiography, while supremely luxe, is, depending on spec, anywhere from $40,000+ less expensive than the Bentayga EWB, which starts at $263,500. The Urus will easily arrive at that number, but that's like comparing an Aventador to a Mulsanne. The Cullinan seems an obvious choice, with prices starting at roughly $300k. However, that's before options, of which owners will select many. That leaves the Bentayga alone.

Bentley has positioned the Bentayga EWB just under the Cullinan, and it lives there comfortably, leaving us wanting for nothing. At one point, we joked about the lack of a champagne fridge. "That could be arranged," came the reply. Really, if you're wanting more opulence in your transport, you're either buying a Cullinan, which can easily hit half a million dollars after options, or you're spending double that on a private jet.

You don't need the jet, mind you; the Bentayga EWB plays that role well enough. It is supremely comfortable, quiet, and beautifully understated. It doesn't give off the same "More than you can afford, pal" vibe as the Cullinan, and it's better off for it. This may just be our favorite ultra-luxury SUV yet.

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