Car reviews - Bentley - Bentayga - V8
Greater presence, vast customisation options, stonking V8, huge space, improved cabin tech
Room for improvement
Some interior elements lack both elegance and ergonomics, plug-in hybrid still some way off, styling still not completely resolved
Mid-life nip-and-tuck for Bentley’s SUV makes it more harmonious, more high-tech
14 May 2021
If you were in the camp that thought the idea of a Bentley SUV was too gauche to consider, then the global success of the Bentley Bentayga has certainly proved the doubters wrong.
With more than 20,000 global sales under its belt, the Bentayga has become Bentley’s best-selling model in almost all markets … except Australia, that is. Here, 57 per cent of the Bentley faithful favour the Continental GT coupe, which is perhaps why this comprehensive mid-life Bentayga facelift is so important.
First drive impressions
Externally, while the 2021 Bentayga still lacks the muscularity and unadorned elegance of Bentley’s original 2012 ‘EXP 9 F’ SUV concept, it has moved some distance towards bridging the gap.
The pinched front-end, insipid grille and uninteresting tail of the original 2015-20 Bentayga have all been completely erased. In their place, the 2021 version sports a wider, more upright grille, deeper side intakes, and matrix LED ‘cut-crystal’ headlamps, all inspired by the design language of the new-gen Continental GT and Flying Spur.
The ’21 Bentayga’s rear end looks even more different, with new oval tail-lights (again in a ‘cut-crystal’ design) featuring sequential indicators, a scalloped tailgate with central Bentley lettering, and the numberplate location moved to the bumper, as well as 20mm more rear track width to give the new Bentayga a tougher stance on its huge wheels.
Inside, Bentley says the design changes were driven by feedback from previous Bentayga owners – 70 per cent of which were new to the brand.
There’s an obligatory multimedia refresh – headlined by a larger 10.9-inch, high-resolution ‘landscape’ touchscreen that spans the entire dash centre, capped by new-design air vents intended to mirror the Bentley wings, rather than the traditional round vents (as per the outer dash type) used on the previous Bentayga.
There’s also a revised steering-wheel design, revised doors trims, all-new seats (with fan-cooling now in the rear), and a new fully digital instrument pack that offers either Classic or Expanded formats (the latter replacing the right-hand ‘virtual’ dial with either maps or information).
The 590-watt Bentley Signature Audio features 12 speakers but an optional Naim for Bentley version expands the speaker count to 20, and brings active bass speakers under each front seat, as well as super-tweeters in the A- and B-pillars.
Wireless Apple CarPlay is now standard, along with wired CarPlay/Android Auto, and there’s a larger 5.0-inch touchscreen remote for rear passengers, similar to that fitted to the new-generation Flying Spur.
A dark tint diamond-brushed aluminium trim debuts, as well as two straight-grained veneers new to Bentayga (Koa and Crown Cut Walnut).
There are also two new exterior colours – Viridian (a dark metallic green) and Patina (a mid-tone off-white) – to add to the vast number available (seven standard, 56 extended, bespoke on request).
For now, only the facelifted Bentayga V8 is on sale in Australia (customer deliveries began in November 2020), and there are two versions – the regular model (for $364,800) and a ‘First Edition’ Bentayga V8 (for $448,219) that combines a large number of otherwise-optional features into one package.
These include Bentley Dynamic Ride suspension with an active anti-roll system, plus Touring Specification (that adds long-distance, high-speed features like Night Vision and Bentley Safeguard Plus).
The First Edition also gets Mulliner Driving Specification, which includes 22-inch black-painted and diamond-turned directional alloy wheels, and sports pedals.
A new W12-engined Bentayga Speed is set to follow during the second quarter of 2022, and a plug-in Bentayga Hybrid an unspecified time after that.
Given that it shares its MLB Evo platform with the Audi Q7/Q8, Lamborghini Urus and current-gen Porsche Cayenne, it’s probably no surprise that the 2021 Bentayga V8 has many similarities with its Volkswagen Group cousins.
Among those is what lurks underneath its bulging bonnet – a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8, developed by Porsche, producing identical outputs to a Cayenne Turbo (404kW at 6000rpm and 770Nm from 1960-4500rpm), tied to an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission driving all four wheels.
In terms of pure numbers, the 2341kg Bentayga V8 weighs considerably more than a 2175kg Cayenne Turbo, though when there’s that much grunt propelling SUVs as large as these, it’s no wonder there’s ultimately minimal performance difference.
Bentley says the Bentayga V8 is good for 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds, which is marginally adrift of a Cayenne Turbo (4.1 seconds), though the Brits claim the Bentayga can out-fox the Porsche when it comes to top speed (290km/h versus 286).
None of that matters in the real world, though, where the Bentayga’s much barkier exhaust crackle clearly establishes its intent to make a statement.
In comparison, the equally ballistic Cayenne Turbo sounds much more dignified and composed. Personally, we prefer the former – the Bentayga has balls and isn’t afraid to flash how big they are.
The cabin treatment of the new Bentayga treads a similar line. Undoubtedly slick yet, in some areas, almost charmingly old-world, the Bentley’s cabin exudes the sort of flashy luxury and colourful glamour that’s expected by most of the people looking to buy one.
We’re not sure that Bentley’s own switchgear (which we love) is in complete harmony with much of the shared Audi stuff – the Cayenne’s interior is entirely Porsche’s own, right down to the window switches and column stalks – but there’s no doubt you’re driving something special. And expensive.
Behind the wheel, the Bentayga does a herculean job of disguising its bulk. At 5125mm long, 1998mm wide and 1742mm tall, it’s a beast, and even its enormous 285/40ZR22 Pirelli P Zero tyres seem casually in keeping with the overall look.
And while those huge wheels don’t contribute to a magic-carpet ride – even with the adaptive air suspension set to Comfort – there’s enough connection between driver and chassis to transcend any P&O analogies when hustling the Bentayga along.
Not that 30km is much time to get to know the Bentayga V8 well, but it’s enough to know it points confidently, corners easily, rides with discipline and performs like it’s possessed.
As for what is surely the expected function of any SUV – space – the Bentayga has mountains of it. Superb front seats, a completely new rear seat (available in either two buckets or a bench that’s adjustable for length) with expanded legroom, as well as an optional third row, are just what the breeders are looking for in leafy heritage suburbs.
Despite thick pillars, there’s tremendous vision, and on our test car, all the doors proved self-closing if you didn’t quite nudge them enough.
My favourite opener, though, is the newly attractive electric tailgate that opens by pressing the ‘B’ in the Bentley badge and reveals a superbly trimmed, seductively spacious luggage area that even smells like a Bentley.
The Bentayga’s body might be manufactured in Germany (in Zwickau) but anyone familiar with that aroma will instantly know the remainder is crafted in Crewe.
Across the first four months of 2021, Bentley sold 26 Bentaygas in Australia – representing a 63 per cent increase over the same year-to-date period in 2020.
That puts the Bentayga behind the Lamborghini Urus (30 sales) but ahead of the Aston Martin DBX (20 sales) in volume.
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