Bentley's Bentayga SUV was controversial at launch, with no help from its forefather, the ostentatious EXP 9F concept. But an ultra-luxe crossover is more palatable these days with competitive entries from Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin. Four years after its launch for the 2016 model year, the leather-lined ute gets a midcycle refresh with updated exterior and interior styling. It competes with other ultra-luxury SUVs including the Rolls-Royce Cullinan and Aston Martin DBX, plus top-spec versions of the Porsche Cayenne and Land Rover Range Rover.
Skeptics be damned; the Bentley of SUVs is awesome. We drove the refreshed model in the summer of 2020, and it seriously impressed. The tweaked styling is more dramatic and muscular than before—though it retains the platform's proportional limitations—and the interior updates make a big difference. This new infotainment display and digital instrument cluster elegantly modernize the cabin
Powertrains are impressive across the board, with a locomotive-grade Porsche twin-turbo V-8, a quiet and efficient hybrid, and a monstrous W-12. The 12-cylinder Bentayga Speed placed third in a four-way super SUV comparison. It impressed us with well-rounded character and excellent Continental GT-like handling, but it felt more like a heavy grand touring SUV than a high-riding supercar, which didn't help in this company.
Ride quality is good, but not quite as plush as that of a Range Rover. Off-road ability is better than you'd expect. Large wheels mean there's some impact harshness. The steering lacks feel, too. But the Bentayga looks like a Bentley, coddles like a Bentley, and effortlessly accumulates speed like a Bentley. Bentley aficionados will be thrilled.
The short answer is yes, but exactly how fast depends on what's under the hood. Most Bentaygas—about 70 percent—are fitted with a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 courtesy of Porsche. It develops 542 hp and 568 lb-ft of torque, which Bentley claims will motivate the Bentayga from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and to a top speed of 180 mph.
Those after ultimate performance in their six-figure British SUV should wait for the return of the Bentayga Speed in early 2021. That car will be powered by the same 6.0-liter twin-turbo W-12 as the pre-refresh model and will generate 626 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque. Bentley says the heavier, more expensive Bentayga reaches 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and its extra power nudges the top speed up to 190 mph.
If prodigious power doesn't seem worth the money and time you'll spend stopping to fill up all the time, Bentley will offer a Bentayga Hybrid in the spring of 2021 with a turbo V-6 working together with a 126-hp electric motor. Acceleration to 60 mph comes in a claimed 5.2 seconds, and top speed will be below 160 mph.
One of the more controversial aspects of the Bentayga at launch was that rather than riding on a bespoke chassis, the Bentley SUV was built on a Volkswagen platform shared with other vehicles. The production Bentayga is built around the modular MLB Evo platform, which also serves as the basis for the Audi Q7 and Q8, Porsche Cayenne, Lamborghini Urus, and other vehicles.
Similar to Aston Martin's Q or McLaren's MSO, Mulliner is the in-house customization department at Bentley. Bentley offers a wide variety of paint and upholstery options, but if you want something one-of-a-kind, it'll have to come from Mulliner. In addition to customization, Mulliner also lends its coach-building name to special editions including the 2017 Bentayga Mulliner, the hunting-inspired Bentayga Field Sports by Mulliner, and the equestrian-themed 2018 Bentayga Mulliner.
Some of the biggest news that comes with the 2021 Bentayga face-lift is its new infotainment system. Out goes the 8.0-inch display the Bentayga launched with; it now comes standard with a 10.9-inch touchscreen. Wireless Apple CarPlay is now standard, and Android Auto compatibility is new to Bentley for this year. Bentley has also introduced an optional 20-speaker Naim premium audio system, and the Bentayga gains the fully digital instrument cluster we've experienced in the Flying Spur and Continental GT.