The review mill has been churning lately, with some lucky journalists getting to take some test drives of the upcoming Bentley Bentayga SUV. With the Uber Luxury SUV race starting to get a bit more serious, Bentley seems to be beating everyone else, like Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, Maserati and Lamborghini, to the punch. The Bentayga pre-production model that was driven was mostly camouflaged, so we don’t get to see much of what it really looks like. But it most definitely looks like a Bentley.
The idea of this Bentayga, as well as all of the other Uber Luxury SUVs coming out, is to create a Grand Touring luxury car that can go anywhere.
It’s meant to be equally as adept at traversing the parking lot of the most luxurious country clubs in the world as well as the Sahara Desert. Its owners are meant to be able to drive it literally anywhere without having to stop. At least, that’s the idea. And judging by some of the previews by the lucky few to test drive these all-purpose luxury behemoths, it seems like Bentley might have actually been able to pull it off.
The Bentayga will definitely not be short on power to get it through the rough stuff, that’s for sure. It will be available with a V8, probably the twin-turbo 4.0 liter used in other Bentleys, or a 6.0 liter twin-turbo W12, which was the only mill on hand for testing. Power figures weren’t given out just yet, but powertrain director, Paul Williams, claims the W12 will have more than the 550hp and more than 531 lb-ft. This new W12 will also be 66 lbs lighter than the outgoing one. This is important, as that mighty W12 will need to be able to pull nearly three tons of Bentley over some pretty ugly terrain. According to some of the reviews, the Bentayga pulls like a freight train and the transmission responds perfectly, with little need for the paddle shifters. It’s also rock solid at speed and even quite adept on nasty roads.
Much like its fellow British luxury SUV, Land Rover, there will be some pretty impressive electronics and software to keep all of the Bentayga’s heft from getting stuck when the road gets ugly. There will be a few different driving modes to control everything from throttle response to terrain management. They’re pretty standard, with modes like Sport and Comfort, but there will be two additional modes as well, Custom and Bentley. Custom is pretty obvious in what it does, as it lets you tailor the Bentayga to how you want it, but I particularly like the smuggness of the Bentley mode, which tailors the SUV to how Bentley thinks its customers will like it. That’s a good mode.
The interior has been teased a bit in a video released by Bentley. Not much was shown, but the Start/Stop button and drive mode selector, which seem to be one in the same, were shown to be controlled via touch. There also seems to be a fully digital gauge cluster, miles of leather and knurled aluminum knobs throughout. Obviously, being a Bentley, the interior will be top notch and beautiful, but I wonder how it will hold up to muddy boots and the type of abuse normally associated with off-roading. It’s not likely that its owners will actually ever see a bit of muddy road, but if the Bentayga is designed to go off the tarmac, its interior should be able to hold up as its passengers get in and out. Durability has yet to be seen, though I’m assuming Bentley hasn’t forgotten the idea.
All in all, the Bentayga actually seems quite promising. According to the few journos who tested it, it can actually hang when the road gets nasty and doesn’t fall on its supremely luxurious face. If Rolls Royce wants to compete, it’s going to need the same level of duality. I know Rolls Royce said that’s it’s aiming for a similar level of off-road readiness, but any kind of progress has yet to be seen. Rolls certainly has the means to match the Bentayga, with its own twin-turbo V12 in the house and the clever know how of BMW’s xDrive. So if Rolls is to take the Bentayga head on, it’s actually going to have to be powerful, tough and off-road ready and not just put on a nice front with an all-wheel drive system. It’s going to need to walk the walk, not talk the talk, because Bentley certainly seems to have already done just that.