First Drive: Bentley Bentayga EWB 2022 Review
Back in 2020, Bentley found itself in something of a quandary. Its wonderful Mulsanne flagship was old and even if that has not stopped Bentleys of yore soldiering on well into their autumn years, this one had a problem. Which was that the venerable pushrod V8 under its bonnet was older still, starting life in the S2 of 1959. And it was no longer going to be able to meet future emissions requirements.
Now, there are those at Bentley who’ll tell you it could have been re-engineered for the nth time and kept going, but even they concede the cost of doing so could never be justified by the number of cars likely to be sold. So why not just replace it with another already compliant engine? Because why would you with just long product cycles, when the replacement is likely to be rendered obsolete in just a few years, and the engineering costs of adapting the car to take an engine for which it was never designed so high? Bentley will replace the Mulsanne in time, because it is hardly likely to cede the high margin, super luxury territory to its old rival Rolls-Royce forever, but when it does come, it will be all electric. And Bentley’s not ready for that yet.
So it needed something else. Not a direct replacement because, as discussed, no such thing exists, but something in which owners might equally choose to travel in the back or front. Something that’s going to cost a fraction of a genuinely new car programme and which sits in the most popular part of the market so while cheaper than the Mulsanne, they’ll sell in numbers the Mulsanne could have scarcely imagined. The decision, then, to stretch the Bentayga, was probably not long in the debating.
Of course it might have been even simpler, more affordable and certainly closer to the Mulsanne concept to have elongated the gorgeous Flying Spur saloon into limousine proportions instead. And it was discussed at Bentley, but the numbers could not be denied: the Bentayga is Bentley’s best-selling car, accounting for over 40 per cent of sales, the Flying Spur the slowest. Moreover the Bentayga’s category is growing strongly, the Spur’s steadily contracting.
One more thing: Bentley is confident that once established in the marketplace almost half of all Bentaygas sold will be this EWB (Extended WheelBase) model despite the £24,400 premium Bentley will charge for it. In the light of that, the case for its creation is irrefutable.
- Not just a stretch
- Almost surreally comfortable
- Engaging to drive
We don't like
- Not the prettiest
- No range-topping engine
- Quite expensive
It’s fair to say the Bentayga has been on quite design journey since it was launched some seven years go. For its first generation the car managed the rare and unenviable feat of somehow being both ugly yet almost entirely lacking in presence. The facelift came in 2020 and was one of the most successful such exercises of recent years – and it needed to be. It still didn’t make the Bentayga one of the most attractive SUVs, but nor did its look any longer actively count against it.
The EWB brings further improvement. The stretch in wheelbase is a considerable 180mm but every bit of it is in the rear door: from the B-pillar forward the car is unchanged, as is the rear of the car. This has two effects, other than lengthening the car. It improves the proportions by balancing the profile better, but because it is longer but no higher, the effect is to visually lower the car. It may not appear so in the pictures, but the car looks less like an SUV, more like a limo. More like a Bentley, in other words.
Like all Bentaygas, this one since on a proprietary VW Group platform, similar but not identical to those used by the likes of the Volkswagen Touareg, Audi Q7 and Q8, Porsche Cayenne and Lamborghini Urus. The 3,175mm wheelbase however is the longest of the lot, at least for now. And at 5,322mm long it is now even longer than the svelte Flying Spur; if you’re one of those who believe the length of a car’s exterior is directly proportional to the luxuriousness of its interior, this then is the new Bentley flagship.
Performance and Handling
The EWB weighs 100kg more than the standard wheelbase car, enough to add a scant one tenth of a second to the 0-62mph time, and if you can feel that even jumping from one version to the other, it is you who should be doing this job and not me.
The big V8 has always been a charming companion, better by far in almost all important regards save saloon bar bragging than the W12. It’s lighter, far easier on the ear and, when fitted to a car like this, provides all the effortless low down shove urge you need, combined with the top end bite you want.
And 550PS is more than enough here: were this a Porsche, Lamborghini or any other performance-oriented SUV, you might conclude that a 0-62mph time of 5.2 seconds was just a bit too relaxed, but not in here. This is a luxury car, realised in SUV form with just a frisson of sportiness applied. The eight speed gearbox, refined over so many generations and iterations, is as good here as you’ll find in any car.
But the chassis is merely good, not great. A perennial problem with cars that are both as heavy and, indeed, high as this is that they have to carry a great deal of spring rate to manage their mass. And even three chamber air springs, active anti-roll bars and electronically controlled dampers cannot mitigate the effects completely. It rides well, very well, by the standards of most of its classmates, but compared to its stablemate, the almost impossibly smooth Flying Spur, you can see the inherent compromises in the design.
What is impressive is that the despite the additional length and weight, the handling remains as good as ever, and for that you can thank the hugely effective all-wheel steer system and its ability to effectively shorten or lengthen the wheelbase according to requirements.
There has always been a reason to buy a Bentayga instead of the any other similarly priced luxury interior. For while Bentley’s SUV has never been the best looking car in its class, nor the fastest, or the best handling, it has always had the best interior. And now it just got even better.
There are two grades, the standard specification and the glitzy Azure trim, with higher grade, perforated quilted leather and many other features. But all eyes are on that rear cabin and the first thing to say is that there are three of them from which to choose. The base car comes with a conventional three seat layout across the back. But you can also choose a two plus one configuration, with the centre seat made an occasional perch for greater luxury of more frequently populated chairs to either side. But the real rear seat sybarites will have their EWBs with ‘airline’ rear seating for two only.
And Bentley is not exaggerating either. The option will add an additional £8000 to the price of your Bentayga, but that buys you rear seats that not only move in, wait for it, 22 directions but which will also recline some 40 degrees, which is the maximum allowable while still ensuring effective operation of the safety belt.
But the real innovation in these seats is that they come covered in sensors that monitor your body temperature, and automatically heat or cool it across six different zones to maintain your ideal level of comfort. Measurements are taken every 25 milliseconds and are accurate to within 0.1 degrees centigrade. Think of it as being to conventional seat heaters and coolers as full climate control is to basic air conditioning. It will also massage up to 177 different pressure points many times over a three hour period. And if there’s no one ahead of you, you can push the front seat forward to allow maximum sprawling space. Even without that, Bentley says the dimensions of the EWB’s rear cabin are now broadly comparable with those of a Rolls-Royce Cullinan. Which should be enough for most.
Technology and Features
For now, and perhaps surprisingly, there is just one Bentayga EWB available, fitted with the ubiquitous Bentley/Audi/Porsche/Lambo 4-litre V8 motor. In this form it develops 550PS, small beer indeed compared to the 670bhp it produces under the bonnet of the Urus Performante. Those looking for a plug-in hybrid version will be happy to learn it is coming and we believe in the not too distant future, but Bentley is not saying when. Nor is it clear if it will be the old 3-litre single turbo V6 engine that’s been used in the standard wheelbase Bentayga for a while now, or the rather more efficient twin turbo, 2.9-litre variant already used by the Flying Spur.
Sadly those hoping for a return of the titanic 6-litre W12 motor will be disappointed: it’s not been available in the Bentayga at all recently and will soon cease production altogether. The good news is that it will be replaced by a plug-in hybrid version of the 4-litre V8 with an output believed to be close to 700bhp, but as Bentley doesn’t even admit to it being prepared for the Bentayga, it’s hard to be more specific than that. But in any event, deliveries are sure not to start until 2024.
Those thinking that creating the EWB would involve little more than fitting a new section of roof, longer doors and some more interior trim should be advised that over 2,500 components were changed in the process. Interestingly, and for the first time on a Bentayga, four-wheel steering is provided as standard, in the hope that might go some distance to neutralising the decrease in natural agility any increase in wheelbase naturally brings.
Bentley says the Bentayga EWB is so changed, so different to the standard Bentayga that it deserves to be thought of as a new model line altogether. We would not go that far, nor even close to it. It is a Bentayga from stem to stern, with a bit more added in between.
But it is none the worse for that. What is pleasing about the EWB is the way Bentley has gone about maximising the opportunity that increased interior space provides. Which means that while it is gratifyingly little changed as a thing to get in and drive, if you swap seats and just in the back, you’ll find the environment presented to a rear seat passenger has been utterly transformed.
We’d still have a Flying Spur because it is beautiful and comes with better ride and handling, but compared to other SUVs the EWB’s case is compelling, because it is the only car offering both a badge that lifts it above the mass market premium brands and such opulent luxury for a starting price of less than £200,000. Seven years after it was launched, this is the best Bentayga yet and as sure-footed a vindication of Bentley’s policy of continuous improvement as you are likely to find.
This score is an average based on aggregated reviews from trusted and verified sources.
|Engine||4.0-litre twin-turbo V8|
|Torque||569lb ft (772Nm)|
Reviewed by Andrew Frankel