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First drive: Bentley Bentayga 2020MY. Image by Bentley.

First drive: Bentley Bentayga 2020MY
The updated version of the best-selling super-luxury SUV in the world is here – so what’s the ‘new’ Bentley Bentayga like?

 



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Bentley Bentayga V8 (2020MY)

5 5 5 5 5

Bentley updates the sheriff of the prestige SUV frontier, the Bentayga, just in time to potentially see off the challenge from a new hombre who is moseying on into town, the Aston Martin DBX. It's V8-powered guns drawn at high(-driving position) noon, folks.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Bentley Bentayga V8 (2020MY)
Pricing: Bentayga 2020MY from £146,700, car as tested £184,690
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmission: permanent all-wheel drive with Torsen centre differential and open rear diff with Electronic Diff Lock, eight-speed ZF automatic
Body style: five-door prestige SUV
CO2 emissions: 302g/km (VED Band Over 255: £2,175 first 12 months, then £475 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 21.2mpg
Top speed: 180mph
0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
Power: 550hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 770Nm at 1,960-4,500rpm
Boot space: 484 litres (five-seat configuration)

What's this?

If you'll forgive us the bizarre Wild West-themed intro, it's arguably Bentley's most successful model, ever, substantially revised for the 2020 model year. More than 20,000 examples of the Bentayga SUV have been lovingly hand-crafted for an eager, upmarket audience since it first shocked onlookers with its, um, idiosyncratic appearance in 2016 and last year alone, it accounted for 45 per cent of Bentley's global sales. Now, admittedly, the glorious Continental GT has a bigger set of 'numbers' on it in terms of units sold, but it has been available for the best part of two decades now - not just four years, as with the Bentayga.

So, for all those who decried the bulky British SUV when it arrived back in '16, saying Bentley shouldn't be building such a vehicle (sounds just like Porsche and its painful birthing process of the original Cayenne in 2002, doesn't it?), then surely there's a bit of humble pie due to be served up. However, as much of a hit as the Bentayga has been, it no longer has things all its own way. When it arrived, it blasted through the SUV world's glass ceiling demarcated by the long-serving Range Rover and opened up a whole new hyper-luxe niche. It pioneered into a new frontier, if you will, although we'll mercifully stop short of hollering 'yeehaw' at this point.

Anyway, it is a niche which has since been filled by a whole raft of rivals (leaving the poor Rangie some way down the prestige SUV pecking order now, it has to be said), although we'll save talking about those for the driving section to come. So, returning to the 2020 model year Bentayga, what has happened to it? Well, first of all, the model line-up has been streamlined. To, er, just one choice, the V8. Fear not, Bentayga fans, two more of the pre-facelift drivetrains found in the Bentley SUV will make their way into the 2020MY shell in the not-too-distant, namely the V6-powered plug-in Hybrid and the mighty W12-propelled Speed. However, the 'regular' W12 has been dropped, outflanked in purpose by both the V8 and the Speed, while the marque's short-lived dalliance with derv has ended, as the Bentayga Diesel is no more.

It's therefore the aesthetics you want to focus on. Inside, not much needed to be changed - as the Bentayga has always had one of the all-time great passenger cabins - but, somehow, Crewe has managed to improve it. Chief alterations are the 10.9-inch infotainment screen with the latest graphics, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, the inclusion of the majestic Flying Spur's gorgeously weighty and removable control pad for rear-seat occupants, new air vents in the centre of the dashboard (due to those human-machine interface alterations already mentioned) and a wireless smartphone charging pad joining the roster of standard equipment. Four-, five- and seven-seat configurations can be specified but no matter which one you go for, the Bentley's interior is magnificent. Sure, the column stalks from an Audi A3 live on, but they work fine and feel good, so other than that there's absolutely nothing to fault.

On the outside, there are new colours, new designs of alloy wheel and minimal cosmetic alterations. Oh no, hang on a sec - no, that last statement is a total lie. Look at the 2020MY Bentayga! There's no way you could mistake it for a pre-facelift car, no matter how casual a glance you afford its form. The front is different enough, its now-elliptical headlights being lifted up and apart to frame a larger Matrix grille that gives the SUV a leaner appearance, but it's round the back where the blatantly obvious cannot be ignored. Oval taillight clusters from the Continental family are drafted in and necessitate the relocation of the rear number plate into the bumper. Where that plate used to sit between B-shaped lamps on the bootlid, there's now a winged emblem atop wide-spaced 'BENTLEY' lettering and so maybe it's the fact that these eyes had already become accustomed and more mellow towards the pre-facelift Bentayga anyway, or maybe it's just that the design is a lot better and more cohesive now, but we're happy to say this is a superb-looking SUV. Its appearance is neatly tied in with other Bentley products in the range, it's less gawky and not as reliant on 22-inch wheels to make its visuals work (although our test car was on 22s... ahem), it's arguably a tidier piece of penmanship than any other SUV up in its elite bubble. Out-and-out handsome? Yeah. Maybe it is, actually. And who'd have thought, if asked four years ago, that anyone would ever say that about a Bentley Bentayga, eh?

How does it drive?

The rootin'-tootin' intro at the top of this piece might look a bit sparse on rivals for the Bentayga V8 2020MY, but here's why we're making this a two-SUV shootout between the Bentley and its super-fresh Aston Martin rival for outright supremacy in this sector. Number one, Aston itself admitted the vehicle it is squarely aiming to steal sales from with the DBX is the Bentayga, above all else. Number two, these two British leviathans have so much in common - both hand-built, both from exotic marques with long and enviable histories that are peppered with daring motorsport exploits, both powered by 550hp biturbo 4.0-litre V8s, both capable of running 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and on to circa 180mph (the Aston can do 181mph, if that bothers you), both in and around the 750Nm ballpark (the Bentley is 70Nm to the good here, though, as the Aston tops out at 700Nm), both costing something like £150,000 (again, the Bentley is nosing ahead as it is, er, more inexpensive, to the tune of £11,300 - although whether such a saving matters to the people who can afford such things is probably a moot point), both aiming to blend supreme luxury and refinement with enough of a dash of handling elan as befits their parent companies.

And it's that last comment which brings us onto point number three, which is that - of all the rivals you can list as a rival for the Bentayga - none of them are really as close a match as the DBX. Both the Lamborghini Urus and the Porsche Cayenne Turbo are closely related to the Bentayga, using the same platform and twin-turbo V8 engine, but the Lambo is more brash and overtly sporty, while the Porsche - excellent though it is - is considered a level 'below' the Bentley, a fact which is obvious given its price and also the fact the 550hp Turbo is almost at the apex of the Cayenne range, with the bulk of the other models sitting beneath it, while the V8 Bentayga is entry-point to its own particular line-up. Then there's the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, a vehicle from a company which views 'sportiness' as somewhat unseemly, to the point the Goodwood outfit didn't even want to call the Cullinan an 'SUV' at first but rather a 'high-sided luxury motor car'. And the Maserati Levante? The BMW X7? The Mercedes-Benz GLS? Nah, not really.

So, aside from the demented outlier which is the Mercedes-AMG G 63, which is a divergent beast to anything mentioned here, it looks like a straight fight between the Bentayga and the DBX for class honours. We reckon the Aston is the marginally more attractive vehicle on the outside, although the Bentley has obviously significantly improved in this area with its facelift, but the Bentayga clearly has the superior cabin. And when it comes to driving, they go about their business in subtly different ways.

In the hard-to-master balance between unmitigated comfort and dynamic agility, the Bentley errs towards the former over the latter, while the DBX goes the other way. This means that the Bentayga V8 is more what you expect of a 2.4-tonne hunk of luxury that towers 1.75 metres off the ground: there's loads of grip, good body control, simply masses of torque and easily accessible V8 power (the Bentley's automatic gearbox is a gem), and just the pervading feeling that you're frantically trying to corral a lot of fast-moving metal and leather when you apply the brakes. In fact, it's stopping power that's arguably the Bentayga's weakest point, as its discs can overheat pretty quickly if you start working the majestic drivetrain hard on challenging roads.

In this regard, the DBX is the slightly more rewarding vehicle, mainly thanks to the fact it is around 200 kilos lighter. But we're talking incredibly fine margins here, because the Bentley has always been and still is a remarkably involving thing to command, considering its size and opulence. For instance, the Bentayga's steering is wonderful. It doesn't matter whether you have the SUV in Comfort, Bentley or Sport modes, it's always exceptional to deal with while managing to convey different weighting and response in the various settings. Then there's the damping and the air suspension, which lets the Bentayga run on 22-inch wheels without ever once tramlining through ruts nor skittering on washboard surfaces; this is an SUV that hunkers its contact patches into the road surface and then refuses to let go, no matter what comes its way.

So it's a highly enjoyable performance SUV in the right conditions and we are now also convinced that the V8 motor is the right engine for the Bentayga. On the roads, you don't notice any of the supposed power deficit to the 635hp Speed and of course the 4.0-litre engine sounds utterly terrific as it goes through its repertoire of revs. Better still, when you throttle it back and drive it more sedately, the clever cylinder deactivation technology and long gearing means the Bentayga can achieve nearly 27mpg on a motorway run; considering all aspects of its physical make-up, that's a quite phenomenal return.

And it's while the Bentley is going about regular driving duties that you realise that, as brilliant a first effort as the DBX is, the Bentayga is still the luxury SUV to beat. As an overall, rounded package, it is magnificent. The ride quality is always serene, always composed, while the acoustic refinement in the cabin is second to none, bar possibly that pesky Roller (which costs from quarter of a million quid, remember). In short, the Bentayga manages to feel like a high-class SUV and like a true Bentley in equal measure, and that's an accomplished achievement from the engineering team behind it.

Verdict

With its raft of midlife updates and appreciably altered appearance, this 2020MY Bentley Bentayga V8 is not only the best example of this upmarket British SUV we've yet tried, it's also the best top-end SUV that's currently on sale, blending the ultra-sophisticated side of its character so effortlessly well with a chassis of rare dynamic talent in the world of two-tonne-plus machines. Seems like it's still the undisputed sheriff in this particular town, then.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

5 5 5 5 5 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 12 Aug 2020









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2020 Bentley Bentayga V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.2020 Bentley Bentayga V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.2020 Bentley Bentayga V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.2020 Bentley Bentayga V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.2020 Bentley Bentayga V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.

2020 Bentley Bentayga V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.2020 Bentley Bentayga V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.2020 Bentley Bentayga V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.2020 Bentley Bentayga V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.2020 Bentley Bentayga V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.








 

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