Bentley was clever in spotting a gaping hole in the SUV market above the ubiquitous Range Rover and filling it with its Bentayga super-luxury SUV. This car has now been usefully updated and features a smarter look and a much improved interior. It's available with a petrol V8, with Plug-in hybrid power or even in wild W12 Speed guise. Either way, it can go properly off-road and packs some impressive statistics.
While some may be surprised to see Bentley producing a SUV vehicle, those who've kept an eye on the market have had plenty of time to get used to the idea. We had our first hint at what would become the Bentayga way back in 2012 with the EXP 9 F prototype. Here, elements like as the engine and overall size gave us a good indication of what was to come, though much has changed visually since the first controversial concept was shown. Taking on board criticisms from press and potential customers alike, Bentley have made sure they put the 'sport' into their SUV. All the available petrol engines aim to give best-in-class performance, while the styling looks very Bentley-orientated. Underneath, there's architecture shared with the MK2 model Audi Q7 and the third generation Porsche Cayenne. If the Q7 is anything to go by, that bodes very well indeed.
The first engine alternative is a 550PS 4.0-litre petrol V8. It makes 62mph from rest in just 4.4s on the way to a maximum of 180mph. Or, if you prioritise efficiency, there's a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol Plug-in hybrid model which has 449PS and an all-electric driving range of 31 miles. Go for the flagship petrol-engined W12 Speed model and you get a 6.0-litre 12 cylinder unit with 635PS and 900Nm of torque. Despite this variant's prodigious 2,422kg kerb weight, 62mph from rest takes just 3.9s - faster than a Porsche 911 Carrera. Flat out, you'll be doing 190mph, a figure way beyond any of its competitors. On all Bentaygas, to make sure that this big brute doesn't embarrass itself around corners, there's a fast acting 48v electric anti-roll bar system. Unlike conventional fixed anti-roll bars, this allows the Bentayga to remain supple over bumpy roads whilst still resisting roll around the twisties. It also ensures the big Bentley has plenty of ability off the beaten track even if most owners will probably never try it out. There's even the ability to raise and lower the car on its standard air suspension, perfect to make hooking up a horsebox or speedboat that much easier.
The Bentayga has been subtly updated to bring its look into line with Bentley's other moder recent models - in fact every panel and the front and the rear of the car is different. The key frontal change is the new larger, more upright matrix grille, which pushes the new LED matrix headlamps further apart, raising them 30 mm higher. These headlamps are elliptical - for the first time on a Bentley. They include the marque's now-signature cut crystal design, which makes them appear to sparkle even when not lit. At the rear, like the Continental GT, the Bentayga now features elliptical tail lamps for the first time. The lattice pattern offers a unique jewellery-like appearance when illuminated, with a deep, three-dimensional glow. This is still one of the largest SUVs on the road. At 5.14 meters long, it's bigger than even a long wheelbase Range Rover, although slightly lower to give a sportier feel. Step inside and you can really tell why the Bentayga weighs so much despite the high tech chassis. Everywhere you look, there's acres of leather and wood covering every surface imaginable, while if something looks like metal, it will be. The sweep of the dashboard is said to echo the wings of the Bentley badge and certainly looks very attractive - assuming you've chosen a tasteful colour scheme. This revised model features new door trims and a revised steering wheel, plus a redesigned centre fascia and digital instrumentation cluster. These are complemented by rescultped seats that further improve on the industry-recognised benchmark for seat comfort. Infotainment has now been brought up to date with the adoption of a bigger and brighter, high-resolution 10.9-inch centre-dash touchscreen, with an anti-reflection and anti-glare coating and much improved touch functionality. Three seating configurations are available in this Bentayga. Apart from the standard five-seat layout, an optional four-seat configuration features two individual rear seats separated by a centre console. A further three-row, seven-seat configuration offers more practicality and flexibility. As before, a removable 10.2" Bentley Entertainment Tablet can be provided for rear seat passengers. Out back, there's a 430-litre boot.
Bentley describe the Bentayga as the "fastest, most powerful, most luxurious and most exclusive SUV in the world". It should therefore come as no surprise to hear that it'll cost a pretty penny to purchase. The hybrid version costs around £140,000, while the standard V8 petrol model is around £165,000. The W12 Speed is around £185,000. And, as with all Bentleys, this is only the beginning. You can pick between a three person bench or two individual seats in the back with a wide centre console. On the subject of seats, you can even get an' eventer package' with a fold-out bench in the boot. There's also an offroad package, three levels of hi-fi and fully adaptive cruise control with auto brake. Those who really want to push the boat out can opt for the full Mulliner treatment and even a Breitling Tourbillon clock in the dash. Standard kit includes a panoramic glass roof, electric massage seats, Bluetooth infotainment with sat-nav, plenty of leather and wood, air suspension, climate control and a very bespoke interior feel. Safety features include the usual airbags, ABS, stability control and brake assist. Optional items include a rear crossing traffic warning, road sign recognition and a parking assist system.
If you have to ask yourself whether you can afford to run a Bentayga, don't bother reading any more of this section. The WLTP figures for the petrol V8 make sobering reading for eco-minded folk seduced by this SUV; a combined CO2 reading of 302g/km and a combined consumption figure of 21.2mpg. Bentley folk will probably be more concerned about how often they'll have to brush their brogues on dirty filling station forecourts; quite frequently is the answer. The quoted WLTP driving range for the V8 is 397 miles. As for the W12 Speed version, well don't expect more than about 15 to the gallon, even on a good day, necessitating a giant 87-litre fuel tank - you certainly wouldn't want to have to fill one up. You can do much better though, by opting for the 3.0-litre petrol Plug-in hybrid version. This delivers combined emissions of well under 100g/km, has an electric driving range of nearly 30 miles and can be re-charged in just two and a half hours. Across the range, the three year manufacturer's warranty is an unlimited mileage one.
You can see why it took the Bentley brand so long to get around to originally bringing us this car, but they didn't wait too long before improving it. Of course, there'll always be people who'll sneer at the concept behind this kind of super-luxury SUV - as one writer put it, 'never again need you be stuck up a creek without a china dinner service'. Still, if you can get over your prejudices and appreciate this model for what it's managed to achieve, there's lots to like here. Contrary to what some people might tell you, it's very much its own car, very much unique and, best of all, very much a Bentley. Which if you'd like one, will be exactly what you'll want to hear.