2018 Bentley Bentayga Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
June 1, 2018

The 2018 Bentley Bentayga takes what you think you know about physics, comfort, and speed, and quickly sets a new highwater-mark for each.

Looks alone don’t tell the story of the 2018 Bentley Bentayga.

From the outside, the automaker’s first SUV appears to fit with the stable of high-priced, high-luxury coupes and sedans. From the inside, the Bentayga relays the same opulence of the Continental and some of the ceremony of the Mulsanne.

Start up the twin-turbo, 600-horsepower W-12 and forget it all. The Bentayga marries abundant speed with excessive leather and wood in a way we haven’t seen before. Its construction requires 130 hours—six times longer than an average car—and features one of the largest single pieces of aluminum in the car business. It’s no surprise that the Bentayga earns an 8.6 in our overall rating. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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This year, the Bentayga doesn’t change much from last year. A third row is newly available, and an available appearance package adds a layer of chrome—if that’s your thing. A Mulliner specification, added last year, takes the Bentayga to new luxurious heights for hundreds of thousands on top of the already-staggering $229,000 starting price.

The small things add up in the Bentayga. A mandatory air suspension damps out road imperfections but also features an active anti-roll bar system that keeps the Bentayga so flat through cornering that engineers had to dial it back some.

The 8-speed automatic seamlessly fades into the background but manages to keep pace with a throttle so free of any regulations between driver and engine that we’d call it laissez-faire.  

Bentley offers more combinations of leather, paint color, trim, and wheels in the Bentayga than can be counted in a lifetime. Literally, in the quintillions, with 15 different shades of leather, 100 paint swatches, seven wood veneers, countless interior trim configurations, and 10 different wheel combinations.

It’s more than a wealth of options; the 2018 Bentley Bentayga is a wealth of being wealthy.  

9

2018 Bentley Bentayga

Styling

Elegant and graceful, the first SUV from Bentley manages to look at home next to any of its coupes or sedans.

The 2018 Bentley Bentayga had the unenviable task of delivering the automaker’s first SUV between corporate diktat (a shared platform with Audi) while keeping tradition with the shapes of its sedans and coupes.

It mostly delivers. We give the Bentayga points above average for a good interior and exterior, and more points for its excellence. It earns a 9 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

For the most part, Bentley kept all its hallmarks in place with the Bentayga. The SUV sports a long hood that elegantly sweeps into its roofline. That roofline drops slightly before connecting with the long rear overhangs that dramatically drape the rear tires. Those bulging rear fenders remind us of the Continental, and that’s not a bad thing.

Along the sides, Bentley has incorporated advanced manufacturing techniques to stamp that shape into the sides, resulting in one of the largest pieces of aluminum in the car business. The Bentayga’s best trick—maybe—is its superformed fenders that wrap around the front wheels and create a single, uniform front fascia.

Up front, the corporate honeycomb grille and rounded headlights speak our language: they’re reserved, but also gorgeous in their details. Bentley worked hard to hide cameras and sensors from the front view and their efforts have paid off.

Inside, the cabin is awash in luxury materials and layout. The cockpit is clearly driver-focused, with some features such as the stout shifter and piano stop vent controls instantly recognizable to current Bentley owners. The Bentayga is normally configured to seat five—although it can be specified to seat four or up to seven this year.

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10

2018 Bentley Bentayga

Performance

The 600-horsepower W-12 Bentley Bentayga doesn’t follow the same laws of physics as the rest of us.

Bentley has big plans for the Bentayga’s powertrain, but not this year.

For 2018, the Bentley Bentayga stands pat with a twin-turbocharged W-12 that makes 600 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. That’s married to an 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive that propels the 5,379-pound SUV to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds.

That’s right. That’s the weight of a heavy-duty pickup truck accelerating to a mile-per-minute quicker than many sports cars.

Almost as impressive as the speed is the way the Bentley handles it. A standard air suspension system at all four corners keeps the Bentayga shockingly flat as it corners—engineers had to dial the system back because it was allegedly too unnatural. The Bentayga gets a perfect performance score from us because breaking the laws of physics is still special to us. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Future plans for the Bentayga include a plug-in hybrid or a Supersports edition, but those haven’t yet arrived. For now, we’ll make do with the 6.0-liter V-12, which shares a displacement with previous Bentley mills, but not much else. The compact engine is wedged into the Bentayga’s nose and only pronounces its prodigious weight under hard braking or hard acceleration.

Otherwise, the Bentayga helps passengers and drivers forget about its profuse (or profane?) speed. Active anti-roll bars engage in milliseconds to keep the big SUV together in cornering like a techno corset. The all-wheel-drive system’s logic adapts to climb through snow, ice, wet grass, or stuffy social circles with relative ease.

According to the automaker, the Bentayga’s throttle mapping assumes a level of sophistication from its drivers that Bentley doesn’t dead the pedal at all to parse out its 600 hp. Instead, all 600 hp arrives with a deep stab at the throttle—every time. It’s violent enough to make any passenger’s neck sore, or make any driver smile over and over and over. Ask us how we know.

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10

2018 Bentley Bentayga

Comfort & Quality

Opulent in any trim, the Bentley Bentayga is a luxurious SUV like we’ve never seen.

The 2018 Bentley Bentayga’s appearance makes promises about its interior that Buckingham Palace would have a hard time making good on.

Thankfully, the Bentayga’s interior is downright palatial. Starting from an average score of 5, the Bentley gets points for good front seats and rear seats, cargo space is plentiful, and so is the detail on the leather. It aces comfort because anything less would be a disappointment. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

If by looking at the Bentayga you picked up some similarities with the new Audi Q7, you missed your calling as an auto industry expert. You’d also be completely accurate; the two share similar structures underneath—and that’s a good thing.

Both SUVs ride atop the same wheelbase, although the Bentayga’s track is a little wider. Front seat passengers have identical leg room to the Q7, but the Bentley’s back seat is more spacious than the Audi’s with rear passengers getting an additional 2 inches of leg room—at least on paper. In reality, the Bentley’s bigger, 22-way adjustable seats eat into leg room and make the space feel smaller. First-world problems.

For 2018, Bentley offers the Bentayga in a three-row configuration, similar to the Q7. The Audi’s third row is a kids-only affair, and car seats don’t fit in back there (in-laws are a different story). We haven’t yet been in the Bentayga’s wayback, so we can’t report on its available space. We’ll update this story once we’ve spent more time in the Bentley.

In 4+1 configuration, the Bentayga holds 15.2 cubic feet of cargo with a pass-through for long items such as skis or 17.1 cubes with the second-row bench.

The rear cargo area can be trimmed with custom-made picnic baskets, champagne chillers, or a quilted tailgate bench to watch the Hunger Games—the real thing, not the movies.

Mulliner-trimmed Bentaygas feature veneer-trimmed picnic tables, lambswool rugs, and contrast stitching inside that isn’t available on “normal” Bentaygas—if that’s a thing.

Each surface of the Bentayga is carefully considered, but somewhat busy. The stout Bentley shifter draws attention to the center console, and the mixture of woods, black trim, and stitched leather all around the cabin ooze elegance, but without restraint.

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2018 Bentley Bentayga

Safety

Don’t crash a Bentley—at least not without a lot of insurance first.

We applaud government and insurance industry groups for having the fiscal restraint to keep from turning a quarter-million bucks into bent metal and broken glass.

No Bentley Bentayga has been crash-tested and we don’t imagine that’ll change anytime soon. We’re withholding our safety score for that reason. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Bentley does its best to assuage safety concerns with a good complement of active safety features including forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking (which is disabled in Sport mode), blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, a rearview camera, night vision, park assist, and active lane control.

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10

2018 Bentley Bentayga

Features

Few cars reach the extravagant status of the Bentley Bentayga. Even fewer exceed it.

It’s hard to overstate how opulent the 2018 Bentley Bentayga can be. For more than $231,000 to start, which mercifully includes a $2,725 destination charge, the Bentayga is incredibly exclusive by price. We’ve driven testers with an Audi Q7’s-worth of optional extras tacked on.

For that high price, every Bentley Bentayga comes equipped with leather upholstery in one of 15 shades, an air suspension, four seats plus one uncomfortable hump, a panoramic sunroof, power liftgate, wood trim, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment.

That’s good base equipment (it better be), and the options are roughly limited to your imagination. The infotainment system is good, and the number of choices is somewhere in the quintillions, according to our calculators. That’s good enough for a 9 out of 10 on our features scale, but we give it the last point for Bentley being Bentley. It’s aces for features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Bentley groups most of its features into “specifications” depending on the end-users’ ideas. The packages are lumped into City, Touring, Event, All-Terrain, Activity, and Sunshine specifications with varying levels of content and prices. Some specifications are more intricate than others: City Specification adds pedestrian detection systems and parking assistants; Activity Specification, which is new for 2018, adds a small third row and a tow bar; Sunshine Specification adds double sun visors. This year, a Blackline Specification adds 22-inch black wheels and chrome exterior accents to the Bentayga.

By our count there are more than 100 paint swatches, 15 hide colors, seven wood veneers, and 10 wheel combinations from which to choose, which makes the Bentayga one of the most customizable cars on the planet.

This year, Bentley also added a Mulliner Configuration for the Bentayga that heaps on the first-world, one-percenter stuff. A bottle chiller, self-centering hubcaps, Breitling self-winding clock, two-tone trim, and Mulliner welcome lamps establish your dominance in the polo-club pecking order. Two handcrafted crystal champagne glasses cement that status.

Don’t expect to find many Mulliners for sale and if you do, expect that they’ll start well north of $450,000.

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2018 Bentley Bentayga

Fuel Economy

It weighs more than a heavy-duty truck and it’s quicker than a sports car. Did you think the 2018 Bentley Bentayga is fuel-efficient?

The 2018 Bentley Bentayga is parked at the crossroads of heavy and fast. The 5,379-pound SUV accelerates up to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds thanks to a twin-turbocharged W-12 under its hood.

None of the above is possible without gallons and gallons of fuel. As a result, the Bentley Bentayga manages 12 mpg city, 19 highway, 15 combined. It earns a 4 out of 10 on our fuel-economy scale, which is below average for new cars. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

We don’t think many Bentayga buyers will lose sleep over that, either.

If it matters, a plug-in hybrid Bentayga is in the cards soon and should be more efficient for green-minded buyers. The Bentayga is alone at the moment for ultra-luxury SUVs. A Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini SUV should be coming soon, but likely won’t be any more frugal with fuel.

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$195,000
MSRP based on Onyx Edition AWD
 
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8.6
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 9
Performance 10
Comfort & Quality 10
Safety N/A
Features 10
Fuel Economy 4
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