COTY 2022 —Bentley Bentayga S Review
In an increasingly crowded (and divisive) super-luxury SUV market, the British marque brings a sense of sporty majesty.
Look, I know everyone has to make an SUV these days, even Ferrari, but there are some brands that I still just can’t accept in that shape, and the top two would be Rolls-Royce and Bentley. Those names, those marques, mean a certain something, a style, a presence, a feel and a look, and that look is not shaped like something distantly related to an Audi Q7.
So, with those personal biases out of the way, I’d like to point out that the Bentley Bentayga S has some of the best looking wheels I’ve ever seen on a car, a truly super-slick piece of design. Sadly, the rear of the car is not quite as cool or clever, and the overall shape has a touch of London taxi about it.
Things are lot better inside, however, where Bentley’s designers have cleverly made it feel smaller and sportier than it is, wrapping both driver and passenger in little individual cowls that make it seem like they’re each slotted into single-seat racers.
Overall, the driver’s seat does feel special, with a fantastic and classy steering wheel, a lovely metallic gear lever, lashings of carbon fibre and a proper timepiece at the top of the dash. There’s even an appropriate amount of leather scent in the air.
The Bentayga did suffer by being on the same COTY as the Range Rover, which does everything that it’s trying to do, but in a slightly bigger and better way. Both vehicles have an admirable ability to waft over the landscape as if it’s barely there, and there’s something majestic about how the Bentayga rides. And it’s a sensation that’s familiar from more typically shaped, more focused Bentleys.
At low speeds, then, or while cruising, all is pleasant in the Bentley, and the experience can be brought to life at any moment by simply selecting Sport mode or just tramping on the throttle, because the exhaust sound is properly impressive, like a troupe of British marching band brass players have just been electrocuted mid-exhalation. It’s gravelly and truly excellent, a 4.0-litre twin turbo V8 that sounds like it’s enjoying itself and its accompanying 404 kW/770 Nm.
Unfortunately, things get a bit out of hand once you up the pace in the Bentayga, which feels like it wants to impress you, but is hampered by a slightly confused ride quality. Indeed, there’s something a bit marshmallowy about the way it handles at times, before settling again to feel more connected to the road.
The impression I had was that there’s an actual Bentley somewhere beneath you, but you’re driving it from some kind of softly sprung throne above it, possibly on its roof.
The other issues are that there’s some porpoising under hard acceleration—the nose rears in the air with surprise if you push it hard—and the fact that there’s a bit of a delay between thought and action, one that feels a bit like old-school turbo lag.
You mash the throttle, not much happens at all for a moment, and then everything happens simultaneously. It’s amusing once the acceleration happens, but that delay does cut into your sense of fun (and keeps its zero-to-100 km/h time to just 4.5 seconds).
The Bentley Bentayga S, then, is a very good car, but not a great one, which is why I actually exhaled a swear word when I discovered the price tag, which is a very hefty $450,200. Even more alarmingly, the version we drove, which included such options as “Paint Protection” for $8,243.95, would actually cost you $543,757.75.
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