Bentleys have never been fragile creatures. Quite the opposite, in fact. One of the main purposes of a Flying B machine is to provide peace of mind, so the British engineers have always included less than perfect driving conditions on the menu.
In this respect, Crewe hasn’t revolutionized itself by introducing the Bentayga. Instead, the Brits are channeling their traditional ways in a manner that allows them to adapt to the SUV market boom.
Those who choose to identify themselves as purists will always cringe on the internet, but the story isn’t new, not even inside the Volkswagen Group. Porsche faced a similar situation about one and a half decades ago with the Cayenne. Nowadays, the German SUV is praised for its excellent all-rounder abilities, as well as credited for having saved the company.
We are particularly pleased of the front wings, whose styling tricks make the generous front overhang less obvious. The wings were built using aluminum superforming, a technique adopted by Bentley a few years ago for the first massive Continental GT update.
Starting with the front fascia, the apron shows similarities to that on the 2016 Continental GT. Fret not, you won’t mistake the Bentayga for a Conti. For one thing, this Bentley shares more than its MLB-Evo modular architecture with the 2016 Audi Q7 – seen from the distance, both give one the impression of high-riding station wagons rather than fully-fat SUVs.
This helps with concealing the dimensions of the Bentayga. At 5.14 meters (202.4 inches) in length, this Bentley is slightly larger than the long-wheelbase Range Rover, but since its roofline sits about 2.36 inches (60 mm) lower, Crewe’s creation looks more athletic.
Moving over to the profile, we find the largest single aluminum pressing piece (the bodyside). While the Bentayga relies heavily on the lightweight material, but high-strength steel and composites are also part of the mix.
This Bentley still tips the scales at 5,340 lbs (2,422 kg), but the carmaker explains the extensive use of aluminum has allowed it to save 520 lbs (236 kg) compared to a traditional steel body. Given the fact that a W12-powered Continental GT only weighs about 220 lbs (100 kg) less, we tend to believe them.
The wheel size ranges from 20 to 22 inches, but given the similar dimensions being offered on the Continental family, this comes as no surprise.
At the back, Bentley ditched the split tailgate of the concept, mixing the more conventional hatch with taillights that show Crewe’s traditional styling cues.
This assures the cabin is well-lit. Speaking of the interior, the design doesn’t bring major surprises. To put things shortly, the interior design language takes the elements Bentley has already accustomed us to and adds a few digital touches.
Given the fact that the main styling elements we’re referring to date from the pre-Continental GT era, it’s easy to understand how conservatory the British carmaker is.
You can choose between a conventional five-seater layout and a four-seater one. Go for the latter and the 20-way adjustable front seats will be accompanied by a pair of rear seats that are 18-way adjustable, while offering massage, ventilation and footrests.
While a seven-set version should arrive, for now, Bentley sticks to offering an extra “event seat” that extends from the luggage compartment floor. So for those of you who prefer more peaceful activities compared to those linked to the British hunting jacket mentioned in the car’s official presentation, Bentley has prepared this leather-trimmed seat – from now on, Range Rover owners will no longer be the only ones that can sit on the tail of their car and enjoy the scenery.
We’re not sure about the amount of luggage compartment space this seat takes up – the standard car offers a rather modest 15.2 cubic feet (430 liters).
The center console holds an 8-inch touchscreen, while the center console is the home of a dial that allows the one behind the wheel to choose from multiple driving modes (we’ll get to this later on).
In terms of entertainment, the aural pleasures come in three forms, with the superior one being delivered through a system signed by Bentley’s traditional partner, Naim. The system packs 18 speakers, being able to deliver 1,950 crystal-clear watts.
Rear seat passengers can enjoy a removable 10.2-inch Android tablet. However, the most impressive optional extra of the Bentayga remains its Breitling-built Mulliner Tourbillon dashboard timepiece.
We’ve heard of watches being machined in solid gold before (rose or white) or using diamonds as decorations. But we’ve never seen a car that automatically wounds the mechanical masterpiece at the center of its dashboard.
Then again, we weren’t used to car options rumored to cost $200,000 until now.
The engine, which is 24 percent shorter than a V12, makes its vehicle debut on the Bentayga. It delivers 600 hp at 6,000 rpm and 663 lb-ft (900 Nm) of twist between 1,250 and 4,500 rpm.
The main aim of the powerplant development was to sip less fuel. In theory, the new W12 is 11.9 percent more efficient than the one it replaces. With an combined fuel efficiency of 18.4 mpg (12.8 l/100 km), the Bentayga packs an 87-liter fuel tank.
While the engine can also function as a six-cylinder when all its oomph isn’t required, the eight-speed automatic also packs a coasting mode (Bentley calls this sailing).
But enough about the efficiency. The Bentayga is capable of rivaling a Porsche 911 Carrera S in a straight line. And not the old, atmospheric one – we’re talking about the heavily revised turbocharged Carrera S.
To translate that into numbers, Bentley’s SUV can complete the 0 to 60 mph sprint in 4 seconds flat, while its top speed sits at 187 mph (301 km/h). For the sake of another Porsche comparison, we’ll mention the 2016 Cayenne Turbo S stops at 176 mph (283 km/h).
Bentley has confirmed the Bentayga will be its first plug-in hybrid, while a diesel version has also been announced. The oil burner will pack Audi’s all-new 4-liter twin-turbo V8, which will also serve Ingolstadt in the SQ7.
The Bentayga will get its own range-topping versions, expected to wear the Speed moniker and pack a boosted incarnation of the W12.
In the handling department, the big news comes from the active anti-roll system. While the Cayenne features a hydraulic system of this kind, the Bentayga was fitted with electric hardware. A 48V system ensures the setup can react swiftly.
The system works together with the Bentley Bentayga’s 4-settings air springs to offer the needed flexibility.
Together with other hardware pieces, such as the throttle, engine and transmission mapping, as well as the power steering, the two systems mentioned above are part of the Bentley Bentayga’s flexible technical nature. The driver can control everything using a switch on the center console, which offers no less than eight modes.
Are you considering taking your Bentley offroading? No problem, the carmaker’s extreme 1-million-miles testing program saw Bentaygas going as far as the frozen North Cape or the Dubai Desert.
Sure, Bentley’s SUV may have the ground clearance and a set of respectable rugged terrain abilities, but don’t expect it to outperform a well-gifted Range Rover on a rough path. You can understand that by looking at its all-wheel-drive system, which packs a Torsen center diff and lets the brakes handle the rest of the potential wheelspin.
Despite extremely few Bentayga customers being expected to attempt an offroad challenge in their Bentleys, the company ensured the SUV would be prepared for this. You never know when a Middle East customer will wish to leave his Land Cruiser at home and go flying over the dunes in his Bentley.
That said, we have a feeling that the first Bentley SUV wouldn’t fair badly during a crash. The only other current car that uses the Bentayga’s platform is the second-generation Audi Q7, and the Ingolstadt behemoth passed EuroNCAP’s crash tests with flying colors and only slightly worse than the best car in its class, the Volvo XC90.
The accelerated development pace was Bentley aiming to bring its project to the market before Rolls-Royce. And Crewe has succeeded. For now, the Bentayga remains the world’s only Hypersuv, a term we’ll have to get used to by the end of the decade.