As the big beasts of the luxury automotive world fight it out for domination of the asphalt jungle, Britain’s Bentley has been on a lockdown work-out to muscle its way to the fore with a more toned version of its top-selling Bentayga.
And well might it, as UK arch rival Aston Martin takes up the challenge with its new DBX SUV, and Germany’s Porsche stakes its claim in the ring with its new Cayenne GTS.
I’m one of the first to drive the refreshed Bentley Bentayga – in Covid-19 compliant conditions on UK roads – having previously driven the other two. So let battle commence…
Bentley’s bruiser revamped: The Bentayga has been given a mid-life facelift to prepare for the arrival of the Aston Martin DBX. But is a new look enough to keep Bond’s choice SUV behind it in the queue?
Step inside the new Bentayga – the first was launched just five years ago – and you know and feel immediately that this is a big beast.
It is created on an epic scale. It’s a bruiser. It dominates. It feels Bentley big, though luxuriously so. As a driver, you feel both powerful and empowered.
And that’s even before you fire up the engine with a deep, throaty and satisfying growl.
Even the fine leather work gives off the heady aroma of a mint, freshly-opened wallet.
For everyone else outside, however, the most noticeable thing about the new Bentley Bentayga will strike you when you’re following behind one, which will be most of the time, as you’ll rarely have the chance to get in front of one.
It’s hind quarters and rear hatch have been totally restyled to create more space and impact.
That’s not by accident. Bentayga has been given a significant make-over and upgrade to make it look and feel fresher and even more dynamic following feedback from its wealthy customers.
With over 20,000 of its bulbous SUVs sold since it launched in 2015 and making up 45 per cent of global brand sales last year, the Bentayga is ripe for an exterior facelift.
Bentayga is an SUV of epic scale. ‘It’s a bruiser. It dominates. It feels Bentley big, though luxuriously so. As a driver, you feel both powerful and empowered,’ says Ray Massey
Over 20,000 Bentaygas have been sold since it launched in 2015. Last year it made up 45% of Bentley’s global sales
It might look different from the outside but under the bonnet it features the same 4.0-litre twin-turbo-charged 550-horsepower V8 petrol engine linked to an eight-speed automatic gearbox
There are also a host of interior and hi-tech tweaks and improvements – including more comfortable seats and greater rear passenger legroom.
The car I drove at launch in a fetchingly bright Orange Flame paintwork – no-one would fail to see me coming.
The range is priced from £146,700 – an increase of £7,100 on the outgoing V8 SUV model costing from £139,600 – first customer deliveries are happening around now.
However, my fully-loaded Bentayga riding on 22-inch wheels was fitted with more than £50,000 of added options – more than enough to buy an additional premium 4X4 ,executive saloon or a decent sports car – which bumped the price as driven up to £197,110.
These extras included: an upgraded ‘First Edition’ spec (£31,820) with lots of enhanced trim details including illuminated tread-plates, bespoke embroidery, and a ‘Naim for Bentley’ premium audio system; a trendy ‘Black specification (£14,980) with 22-inch five spoke black-painted alloy wheels and gloss-black tailpipes; and an ‘all terrain’ spec (£3,610) with underfloor protection, responsive off-road settings and a luggage management system.
There’s no change under the bonnet, though. It continues to be powered by the existing powerful 4.0-litre twin-turbo-charged 550-horsepower V8 petrol engine linked to an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
That gives it the thrust to accelerate with gusto from 0-to-60mph in just 4.4 seconds up to a top speed of 180mph.
‘Sport’ mode was particularly invigorating with Space-X style lift off, with ‘Bentley’ for normal running, ‘Comfort’ if you’re feeling really relaxed, or just customise your own setting.
It has a range of 397 miles with CO2 emissions of 302 g/km and fuel economy: 21.2 mpg, in the ball park of what I was achieving.
When suitable, it can de-activate four of its eight cylinders without compromising the drive.
No slouch: The Bentayga might be big and weigh neigh-on 2.5-tonnes but it can still accelerate with gusto from 0-to-60mph in just 4.4 seconds up to a top speed of 180mph
The restyled ‘face’ of the new Bentayga features new elliptical LED headlamps – the first time seen on a Bentley – which sits about 30mm higher on the more dominant sweeping bonnet
While our man was impressed with the overall makeover for the Bentayga, he didn’t take kindly to the budget-feeling auto gear shifter
But here’s my biggest, and arguably only gripe.
Bentayga looks, feels and drives monumental and sturdy. But when you reach down to select ‘D’ for drive – or ‘R’ for reverse – the silver central gear-selector feels a bit a bit cheap to the touch and, dare one say, naff?
Given that, apart from the steering wheel, this is one of the most fundamental tactile touch-points a driver will have with his or her Bentayga,
Will it fit in my garage? Facelifted Bentley Bentayga
Range priced from: £146,700
First deliveries: now
Width (including mirrors): 2222mm
Engine: 4.0-litre V8 , 32-valve dual twin-scroll turbocharged petrol
Power: 550PS/ 542 bhp.
(Plug-in hybrid and 6.0 litre W12 Speed versions to follow)
Gears: eight-speed automatic
Top speed: 180mph
0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
0-100mph: 9.9 seconds
Range: 397 miles
CO2 emissions: 302 g/km.
Fuel economy: 21.2 mpg
I was a bit taken aback and genuinely surprised. I’d never noticed it before. I was expecting something really solid and even made of metal. But the lever feels like plastic with a large Bentley badge on top. How did they let that through? Saving weight? Lighter materials? Technical reasons? Cost cutting? It’s just out of kilter with the rest of the vehicle.
The restyled ‘face’ of the new Bentayga features new elliptical LED headlamps – the first time seen on a Bentley – which sits about 30mm higher on the more dominant sweeping bonnet.
Every panel at the front and rear of the car has been redesigned for a ‘cleaner and more modern look’ that exudes elegant muscularity and confidence. The matrix grille is bigger and more upright to look more ‘assertive’ and the front bumpers made more aggressive.
At the restyled rear there’s an all-new full-width tailgate in which new elliptical and jewellery-like tail-lights (carried across from the Continental GT) have been set. The licence plate has moved down into the bumper to allow more prominent ‘Bentley’ lettering above.
Larger oval-shaped split sport exhaust pipes echo the design of the rear lamps.
An extended roof-spoiler makes the vehicle look longer and more athletic and the vast panoramic glass roof lets light flood in.
The restyled cabin includes a more contemporary interior, new door trims and steering wheel, a redesigned central fascia and digital instrument cluster with improved high resolution graphics, and new more comfortable and sculpted seats giving more support, especially around the shoulder area.
The new digital driver’s information panel is similar to the third generation Continental GT and new Flying Spur from which it takes its ‘inspiration’ to maintain a Bentley family feel.
A bigger and brighter high-resolution 10.9-inch infotainment touchscreen has anti-reflection and anti-glare coating. Apple CarPlay is now standard along with Android Auto.
The next generation head-up display helps improve navigation with a three-dimensional display and satellite maps.
The head-up display can also now project traffic information, street and names and distance to destination.
The central pair of traditional ‘bullseye’ centre vents have been replaced by a sculptured single vent.
A long pocket along the side of the centre console carries smaller items, such as a mobile phone.
A wireless inductive phone charger with signal booster sits directly in front of the gear lever.
Every panel at the front and rear of the car has been redesigned for a ‘cleaner and more modern look’ that exudes elegant muscularity and confidence
The matrix grille is bigger and more upright to look more ‘assertive’ and the front bumpers made more aggressive
Customers can choose from three versatile seating configurations: standard five-seat; an optional four-seat with two individual rear seats separated by a centre console; and a three-row, seven-seat set-up for maximum practicality and flexibility.
The five-seater features an all-new seat frame which doubles the travel of the rear-seat recline angle and now also has the option of rear-seat ventilation, previously available only on the four-seat cabin.
The four-seat Bentayga enjoys a 30mm increase in knee room in the upright seated position, increasing to nearly 100mm in the reclined position.
Rear seat passengers enjoy new, larger five-inch touch-screen remote control tablets, similar to that introduced in the all-new Flying Spur.
Visibility is improved thanks to new heated, wet-arm windscreen wipers introduced for the first time with an array of 22 washer jets in each arm. Bentley notes: ‘The system means no distracting spray and dramatically improves the cleaning of the glass.’
Each headlamp contains 82 powerful LED elements and there are three adaptive headlamp settings depending on location: Town operating below 30mph projects a short wide beam for urban areas; Country for between 30mph and 60mph lifts to a narrower beam, and Motorway rises and intensifies the beam.
Driver and passengers can arrive at their destinations feeling more refreshed thanks to onboard air ionisers to remove contaminants from the air and improve customer ‘wellness’.
A 20mm increase to the rear track width repositions the wheels in their arches to improve the car’s stance and driving.
A plug-in petrol-electric hybrid version and a 190mph 6.0-litre W12 Speed – the fastest SUV in the world – are to follow.
Is the Bentayga better than the Aston Martin DBX and Porsche Cayenne GTS?
Bentley’s refreshed luxury SUV faces intense competition on price, spec, performance and illusive star quality from some deadly rivals.
Aston Martin’s elegant new DBX priced from £158,000 is propelled by a more powerful version of the firm’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine already used in the DB11 and V8 Vantage sports cars.
Linked to a 9-speed automatic and developing 550 horse-power, it accelerates with gusto from rest to 62mph in just 4.5 seconds up to a top speed of 181mph, where permitted.
Bentayga’s refresh comes just as Aston Martin’s all-new DBX crossover hits UK shores. We published the first drive report on the car earlier this week
Porsche’s Cayenne GTS is another substantial and flashy SUV rival to the Bentley – also featuring a 4.0-litre V8 motor up front
Porsche’s mighty and agile Cayenne GTS SUV – with industrial size and quality internal hand-grips should passengers feel the need to hang-on – is powered by a 460 horsepower 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 linked to an 8-speed Tiptronic S automatic gearbox that pushes it from rest to 60mph in 4.2 seconds up to a top speed of 168mph.
Prices start from £85,750 and you can pay a £3,000 premium to get your hands on the more stylish – but less practical – Cayenne GTS Coupe.
While both the Bentayga and the Porsche Cayenne GTS – both part of Germany’s giant Volkswagen Group – feel like big cars oozing raw power, the Aston Martin DBX, although sharing a similar footprint and dimensions to its rivals and with that ever-present link to James Bond, feels the more elegant and refined of the three, though no less accomplished.
The DBX – on which Aston Martin has bet the company and its future – is also a big car, but it somehow fools they eye. It looks and feels more of a beauty, less of a beast.
So will beauty kill the beast? Or vice versa?
At the end of the day, the customer will ultimately decide.
More beauty than beast: Ray was more taken with the performance and appeal of the DBX than the Bentley. But with 20,000 customers already, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Bentayga continue its sterling sales form
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