If bigger is better, then best must be city buses with quilted leather, polished chrome, and lacquered wood on every visible surface.
Not opting to build 48-passenger daily drivers, Bentley took a subtler approach for its first ever SUV.
Despite a long-time coming, the 2017 Bentley Bentayga is here now to serve carbuyers not normally accustomed to waiting for anything. Offered in basically one trim, but with a dizzying array of feature combinations, the big SUV throws physics and budgets by the wayside. Want to go faster than most sports cars in a cushier throne that has eight different massage functions and tow 7,500 pounds? Bentley has your steed if you can part ways with a cool quarter-million dollars, give or take.
The new Bentley Bentayga earns a stellar 8.6 out of 10 overall on our scale thanks to superlative performance, comfort, and features—in fact, they're all aces. How did we get more than a point away from perfection? Did you think a twin-turbo W-12 would be fuel efficient? (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Styling and performance
Elegance is the order of the day, and the Bentayga has it in abundance. Like its sedan and coupe counterparts, the Bentayga sports a long hood that's made longer by a gently sloping windshield that arcs into the vast roofline. The roof drops into a fast rear window and connects with a long rear overhang that drapes the Bentley's wide rear fenders.
Along the sides, Bentley has made a dramatic effort to translate the corporate shape into aluminum stamping along the sides, resulting in one of the largest stamped pieces of aluminum in the car business. Beyond the impressive machine work, the Bentayga's body-in-white reveals one of the Bentayga's more beautiful—yet subtle—design features, which is its superformed fenders that drape over the front wheels into a uniform front fascia.
Up front, the four circular flush headlights bookend the massive honeycomb grille and relatively tall nose. The Bentayga succeeds in hiding sensors and cameras from view in the front and rear and large inlets feed the massive twin-turbo W-12 planted over the front axle.
Bentley made great strides in the back to bring together the taillights for an integrated look, despite being split by the automatic liftgate. The rear haunches are connected through the tail's "horseshoe" design, which also sports a small kammback similar to the rear end of the Continental GT.
In all, the exterior succeeds in bringing Bentley into the SUV era without compromising much from the automaker's design playbook. Next to a Continental, the Bentayga is certainly at home. Next to an Audi Q7—we'll get to that in a minute.
Inside, the cabin is awash in luxury materials and layout. The cockpit is clearly driver-focused, with some features such as the stout Bentley 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.
There are no fewer than half a dozen different interior materials competing for your eye's attention inside: wood veneer meets leather meets brushed aluminum meets piano black meets Bentley's pearl and black "B" meets another touchscreen. It reads even busier in person and shrinks the interior space despite the car's wide 66-inch stance.
Bentley initially offers the Bentayga with a twin-turbo W-12, although a diesel version is on sale in other parts of the world. The 48-volt electrical structure may lend itself to a Bentley with a plug in the near future, although executives are mum about that version. The all-new 6.0-liter W-12 in the Bentayga is the same displacement as Bentley's other W-12, but is all new and lighter by more than 65 pounds.
The W-12 produces 600 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque to propel the 5,300-pound sled up to 60 mph faster than many sports cars. It's mated to a seamless 8-speed automatic and a new all-wheel-drive system from Bentley that can be configured to handle snow, ice, wet grass, or towering Middle Eastern sand dunes. The result is a 0-60 mph time of fewer than 4 seconds and a top speed of 187 mph—the fastest of any current SUV.
Perhaps more impressive than the outright speed is the way the Bentayga carries it. An all-new 48-volt super-capacitor system controls active anti-roll bars that keep the Bentayga alarmingly flat and composed with minimal body roll in the corners. According to Bentley engineers, the system was dialed back to provide a bare minimum response to drivers about side-to-side weight transfer. If you're curious about how much weight the Bentayga is managing side-to-side, stamp on the throttle or brake to shift the weight from front to back instead—the Bentayga heaves and pitches like schooner on choppy waters.
Indeed, the Bentley's performance is disarming for two very different reasons. First, the Bentayga's motions are so well controlled that it's easy to forget how heavy and high the SUV sits off the ground. Second, laissez-faire throttle mapping trusts drivers to modulate their own right foots without much intervention from nanny controls; mash the throttle and unsuspecting passengers could have very sore necks. Yes, it's really that ferocious.
Comfort, safety, and features
The Bentayga is structurally related to the Audi Q7, even though the automaker is hesitant to acknowledge the relationship. The connection is evident in the numbers; the Bentayga's wheelbase is 117.9 inches, same as the Q7's, although the Bentley's track is slightly wider. Both the SUVs' heights are nearly identical, as are most of the front seat dimensions.
In back, the Bentayga sacrifices cargo capacity for 2 more inches of rear leg room for riders. Although the Bentayga sports more than 40 inches of rear seat leg room, the second row can be somewhat cramped for long legs pressed up against the front seat's large buckets. A coming extended wheelbase version would be the pick for anyone looking to be driven in the Bentayga, rather than behind the wheel themselves.
Almost down to each individual stitch, the Bentayga is exceptionally crafted for comfort. Power adjustable front and rear seats are made from soft, quilted hides that move in 22 different directions to accommodate most body types, and fit almost better than a tailored suit. The seats aren't only exceptionally comfortable, they're also very secure with plenty of side and thigh bolsters.
Although the Bentayga is an SUV, the cargo area only measures 15.2 cubic feet in four-seat configuration; 17.1 cubes with a rear bench. A rear pass-through for skis or long items attempts to make up for the lack of a split-folding rear bench in four-seat models, but the pass-through cover is the only hollow surface in the car.
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.
The Bentley does its best to distinguish itself from the structurally similar Audi Q7, but its dimensions are inescapable and the comparisons are inevitable. Bentley trims the Bentayga in customary opulence, but whether the Bentayga has become a very nice version of the Q7 is entirely dependent on how hard you squint.
Unlike the Q7, the Bentayga doesn't have a complete set of crash data and will likely never be crashed by any major safety rating organization. Bentley bundles in a suite of advanced safety systems such as forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking (which is disabled in Sport mode), blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, rearview camera, night vision, park assist, and active lane control.
We don't advise testing the Bentayga's standard complement of airbags—at least not without a generous auto insurance policy.
The Bentayga starts at $231,825 (including $2,725 destination) and features a long list of customizable features that includes more than 100 paint swatches, 15 hide colors, seven wood veneers, 10 wheel combinations, and so on. If our high school algebra serves us, the number of possible combinations in the Bentayga reaches into the quintillions, which means no two cars could ever be alike.
Bentley offers the Bentayga in a number of "specifications" that include off-roading, urban, or touring configurations that maximize comfort, capability, or speed. Among our favorites on the order sheet are the audiophile-grade Naim stereo with 1,800 watts and 19 speakers, electrically retracting tow hitch, lambswool rugs, or rear touchscreens for entertainment.
Our touring specification Bentayga clocked more than $43,000 in optional extras that pushed the price tag beyond $275,000.
Even with the ultra-high price tag, Bentley has revised its production targets to meet expected demand. According to executives, the Bentayga could increase Bentley's overall sales by more than 50 percent in coming years.
- 2017 Land Rover Range Rover
- 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS Class
- 2017 Audi Q7
- 2017 Maserati Levante
Most of the Bentley Bentayga's competition hasn't yet arrived: Lamborghini, Mercedes-Maybach and Rolls-Royce will all offer SUVs to compete for ultra-luxury money. Until they do, Range Rover's Autobiography model should give some Bentley buyers pause, even if it looks like a relatively plain Range Rover from the outside. Mercedes-Benz's GLS will be the shell for a coming Maybach, even though the current model is luxurious enough on its own. Audi's Q7 is structurally related, although it doesn't include Bentley's massive engine or suspension wizardry—but you can buy three of them for about the same price our tester. Maserati's Levante is the only other near-competitor, although it doesn't pack the same number of creature comforts.