Review: Bentley Bentayga (2016)
Unbelievable refinement and super quiet twin-turbo W12 engine. Staggering acceleration from petrol and diesel models. Beautiful build quality along with hand-built exclusivity.
Costs twice as much as a Range Rover, but not not twice as good.
Bentley Bentayga (2016): At A Glance
If you’re interested in the Bentayga then there’s a good chance you already know this is Bentley’s first ever SUV. You also probably know that Volkswagen owns Bentley, which means that the company isn’t quite starting from scratch – bits of the Bentayga are found in a raft of other SUVs, notably the Porsche Cayenne and the Audi Q7.
But the Bentayga is far, far removed from those cars – and any SUV you care to name for that matter – because in making it, Bentley set out to create, and we quote, "the most powerful, most luxurious, most exclusive and fastest SUV in the world."
To cut to the chase, job done. When it comes to high-riding comfort, nothing without wings does it with the opulence and speed of the Bentayga. It’s actually strangely compact from the driver’s seat – it doesn’t feel as gargantuan as its closest competitor, the Range Rover – and yet it still offers a greater sense of spaciousness than the Bentley Continental Flying Spur.
The breadth of the Bentayga’s abilities are the truly remarkable thing about it. There are two engines - a twelve-cylinder W12 twin-turbo petrol and a V8 diesel, with the former the flagship. Keeping such a colossal engine so quiet is one thing (diesel refinement is near unbelievable too, though not quite the same), but making this 2.4-tonne brick actually drive with a bit of involvement is another. Bentley has managed it – as well as giving the Bentayga genuine off-road ability.
It’s achieved that by combining permanent four-wheel drive with some very clever electronic trickery, the result being that, in Sport mode, the Bentayga is less house-on-wheels and more racing caravan.
The Bentayga is also awash with tech, as you’d probably hope at this price. What’s disappointing is that much of it is left to the options list – things like automatic city braking, adaptive cruise control, hands-free tailgate opening and automatic parking. In fact, the standard specification reads more like a mid-level luxury car, unless you’re willing to pay through the nose. Which you probably are.
And in any event, you’re not really paying for that stuff on the list price – you’re paying for a car that’s built to order and whose leather is picked from cows that live high up where there are fewer flies to bite them and ruin their leather (true story) and which is built largely by hand in England. Albeit using quite a lot of Volkswagen Group ingredients.
Only a happenstance of ‘monkey types up a Shakespeare’ proportions would see your Bentayga duplicated elsewhere. In that context, the price and the running costs (21.6mpg and 296g/km for the W12, 35.8mpg and 210g/km for the V8 diesel) won’t matter at all. Nor will the fact that it really is that ugly.
What does a Bentley Bentayga (2016) cost?
Bentley Bentayga (2016): What's It Like Inside?
For the greatest sense of cabin luxury you must forego some of the SUV's natural practicality and spend the £8000 or so it costs to transform the split-folding rear bench into a two-chair layout. It removes the ability to drop the seats and through-load the cabin, but it does give rear passengers their own fully electrically adjustable, heated and cooled chairs complete with a massage function.
Or you can go the other way and specify a seven-seat configuration, making this the world’s most decadent people carrier. But however many occupants you choose to grant access to your Bentayga, each will enjoy the same mesmeric sense of calm, quiet comfort.
The extent to which leather is used in the cabin borders on excessive animal consumption, with even the central pillars surrounded by the stuff – quilted and stitched around the seatbelt retainer, no less. The only bare plastic you’ll see is around the infotainment screens and behind the vents. A criticism you could level at the Bentayga is that some of the switches around the steering wheel are obviously Volkswagen sourced.
But, in the same way Real Madrid could probably put you in its midfield and still win, in the Bentayga the bits of plastic are thoroughly outshone by the array of stitched leather and lustrous wood. The colour and finish combinations available are many and varied. And there are some truly disgusting fusions possible – but the basic design and finish of the Bentayga is classic, ageless stuff.
Buttons and dials for the main functions (volume, temperature and the like) make the cabin intuitive, but the touchscreen's menus make sense too. Again, you can thank Volkswagen for that. Yet, there’s an element of eccentricity that adds real value, like the cup holders being covered by a removable wood-and-metal sunglasses case (and one that could double as a dumbbell, it’s that heavy).
As you’d expect, the Bentayga is a spacious place to be, with the legroom of a limo regardless of four- or five-seat configuration. Though not so for the sixth and seventh occupants, of course. And while there isn’t quite the headroom that a Range Rover offers, you’d have to be in the 6’6” echelons and above for that to matter.
At 430 litres the boot may seem a little low on space (the Flying Spur has 475 litres), but in reality it’s a very practical configuration. An electric tailgate is standard (hands-free optional) and the loading bay is long, flat and flush with the lip. All-in-all, this is the easiest Bentley to live with that the company has ever made.
Full-leather interior with a choice of four veneers and 15 hides, 8-speed automatic transmission, permanent all-wheel drive, Mulliner driving specification, air Suspension with Continuous Damping Control and four height settings, split-folding heated rear 4+1 seats, heated, acoustic IR front screen and acoustic side glass, Drive Dynamics Mode, choice of 17 piano-finished paints, full-LED adaptive headlamps with High Beam Assist, panoramic tilt/slide sunroof with electric blind, speed sensitive, variable ratio electric power steering, powered Tailgate and soft-close doors, 8" touch-screen Infotainment with 60GB HDD, navigation, voice Control with text-to-speech, hill descent control, touch screen remote, Bentley Dynamic Ride, Wi-Fi connectivity and LED rear lights
Child seats that fit a Bentley Bentayga (2016)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Bentley Bentayga (2016) like to drive?
With 608PS, the W12 Bentayga may be the quickest (four seconds to 62mph), fastest (187mph) and most powerful mass production SUV on the planet (‘mass production’ in the loosest sense) but it delivers that pace with disorienting refinement.
That’s partly because, with 900Nm of torque at just 1350rpm – more than any Ferrari or Lamborghini on sale – the twin-turbo twelve-cylinder W12 version is the very definition of ‘effortless performance’. The eight-cylinder diesel (another first for Bentley) falls way short on power, with just the 435PS (sheesh), but matches it for torque and still hits 62mph in under five seconds. Amazing, really.
Every Bentayga comes with adaptable air suspension with four modes ranging from Sport to Comfort, and with a standard ‘Bentley’ mode in the middle that you’ll probably stick with most of the time. The fourth option is a custom setup.
The suspension is height adjustable and for around £4000 you can add four off-road modes too, which maximize the potential of the four-wheel drive system to make the Bentayga a go-anywhere prospect. Maybe not the all-conquering countryside titan that the Range Rover is, but undoubtedly more capable than it needs to be.
Selectable driving modes are often limited to making the steering and suspension a bit stiffer - and therefore ultimately pointless - but the Bentayga features some very clever trickery that has a genuine impact on dynamics. In Sport mode you can feel the suspension locking up and the eight-speed automatic vying to keep you in the upper reaches of the rev counter.
But the trick part comes by way of electrical anti-roll bars, which instantly firm up during cornering to minimise body roll. The sytem does not turn this elephant of an SUV into a cheetah, of course, but it’s nonetheless remarkable how relatively sharply the Bentayga can behave.
Most of the time, though, the outright refinement of the Bentayga prompts a driving style as slow as can be. It’s the most leisurely SUV in the world, partly because of the opulence of the cabin, but mainly because of the wallowing ride quality and the almost complete shutout of the exterior world. Some things are impossible to quell fully, like tyre noise on 21-inch wheels, but during light load the W12 Bentayga has the hushed ambience of an electric car.
That’s all complemented by chairs that are as comfortable as they look, plus fantastic Volkswagen-engineered ergonomics and a sensible cabin layout, as well as the usual shtick of a tall MPV – great visibility, high driving position, that sort of stuff.
Bentley has also avoided the temptation to use a super-duper twin-clutch automatic gearbox and instead used a slightly slower-shifting but much smoother the ZF eight-speed automatic.
|4.0 V8||25 mpg||4.5 s||260 g/km|
|4.0 V8 D||36 mpg||-||210 g/km|
|6.0 W12||22 mpg||4.1 s||292–296 g/km|
|6.0 W12 Speed||-||-||308 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Bentley Bentayga (2016)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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