2018 Bentley Bentayga

By May 10, 2018

The Bentley Bentayga is the first SUV by that carmaker, sharing the structure and wheelbase of the Audi Q7, but with a slightly wider track. It looks all Bentley. Its cabin, excessive in leather and wood, matches the opulence of the Bentley Continental and approaches the ceremony of the Mulsanne.

It has no rivals, although Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini have SUVs in the works. Range Rover, Porsche Cayenne, and Audi Q7 are less expensive.

The Bentayga made its debut in 2016, and in 2017 an uber-extravagant model called the Mulliner was added; it doesn’t change much for 2018, adding only an appearance package with black wheels and more chrome, and another package with a third row. Standard seating is for four, with an uncomfortable hump for a fifth passenger. But you can get it without the hump.

The Bentayga is about power. Under its long hood lives a twin-turbo 12-cylinder engine, not a V12, but rather a W12, like two V6s attached at the hip rather than lined up in a train. It makes 600 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque, using all of it to accelerate from zero to sixty in 4.0 seconds, a stunning time considering the vehicle weighs a humongous 5380 pounds. It’s all-wheel drive, and uses a seamless 8-speed automatic transmission. Its air suspension keeps the ride expectedly smooth, while its active anti-roll bar system keep the cornering amazingly flat.

The starting price of about $200,000 is also humongous and also not surprising. If you think 200 grand is a lot, try 300 for the Mulliner. It takes 130 hours to assemble a Bentayga, six times longer than most cars.

Considering that it weighs more than a big pickup truck and is faster than all but a few sports cars, its EPA fuel mileage of 15 Combined miles per gallon doesn’t sound half bad.

Bentley says that it’s planning a plug-in hybrid version of the Bentayga.

Model lineup

Onyx, Activity, Signature, Black, and Mulliner. These models run the gamut from $195,000 to $298,000. Pick your level of opulence. You can get specific about it, with a choice of more than 100 colors, 15 shades of leather, 7 wood veneers, 10 wheel styles, more interior trims than we counted.

There’s good complement of the usual active safety features, including night vision.

The packages are City, Touring, Event, All-Terrain, Activity, Sunshine, and Blackline. Bentley calls them Specifications. City Specification adds pedestrian detection systems and parking assistants; Activity Specification, new for 2018, adds a small third row and a tow bar; Sunshine Specification adds double sun visors. Also new, Blackline adds 22-inch black wheels and chrome exterior trim.

Mulliner gets self-centering hubcaps, two-tone trim, a self-winding clock, welcome lamps, veneer-trimmed picnic tables, lambswool rugs, a bottle chiller, and two handcrafted crystal champagne glasses.

Exterior

The Bentayga is elegant and graceful, and looks at home in the family. Its long hood travels to the big windscreen up to a sweeping roofline that drops back down to a long deck and dramatic rear fenders draping the rear tires. The bulging and handsome hips remind us of the Bentley Continental.

The aluminum sides are stamped by a sophisticated process; the result is one of the biggest single pieces of aluminum in carmaking.

Superformed front fenders turn into a uniform front fascia. The honeycomb grille and big round headlamps are reserved and beautifully detailed. The cameras and sensors that guide the car are hidden.

Interior

The cockpit, awash in opulence, feels appropriate for a trip to to Buckingham Palace. It’s driver-oriented, and stamped with Bentley touches such as the stout shift lever and piano-stop vent controls. The surfaces are plentifully detailed, in other words busy. The different woods, black trim and stitched leather all blend without restraint.

The front and rear seats (at least for two people) are good. The front legroom is the same as in the Audi Q7, while the rear seats provide two more inches of legroom. But that’s when the front seats are slid forward. Those 22-way adjustable seats can quickly erase rear legroom. Behind the rear seat there is 15.2 cubic feet of cargo space, with a space in the rear seatback for long things like skis.

A third row of seats is available for 2018. It’s similar to the third row in the Q7, which is for kids only.

Options include a quilted tailgate bench.

Driving Impressions

The 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 engine makes 600 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque, mated to a smooth 8-speed automatic, with all-wheel drive. The 5379-pound SUV handles its lightning-quick acceleration of zero to sixty in four seconds astonishingly well. The standard air suspension keeps the tank flat in the corners. In fact, the chassis engineers had to tone the system down because it seemed to defy the laws of physics; in testing, they said it felt downright unnatural for such a big machine to corner like a go-kart.

The active anti-rollbar system responds in milliseconds, and the all-wheel-drive system adapts with ease to snow, ice, or wet grass at the fox hunt. You feel the car’s weight more under hard acceleration and braking than in the corners. Despite its giant 6.0 liters, the engine is compact, and that helps the cornering.

As for the acceleration, the Bentayga’s brilliant response and quickness come from its aggressive throttle mapping; engineers there didn’t compromise for little-old-lady drivers. If you floor it, you’ll get all 664 pound-feet of torque, every time. It will make the driver’s face light up and the passenger’s neck snap.

Final Word

Brilliant engine, seamless 8-speed automatic, and absolutely astonishing cornering. It’s the ultimate SUV. But compare to the Range Rover, Cayenne, and Q7 before buying.

Sam Moses contributed to this review; with staff reports from The Car Connection.