- Available for £77,000
- 6.0-litre W12 petrol twin-turbo, all-wheel drive
- Less bombastic 4.0-litre V8 petrol or diesel versions available
- There's a hybrid 3.0-litre too, but why would you bother?
- Some recalls done, but generally very reliable
- World's fastest, and arguably best, SUV
If you were someone who had always hankered after a two-and-a-half tonne car that could do nearly 190mph on public roads, you would have been a very happy bunny in September 2015 when Bentley formally unveiled its Bentayga at the Frankfurt show.
Three years earlier, at the 2012 Geneva show, the EXP 9F Bentayga concept had many seasoned pundits reaching for their EasyJet travel sickness bags. The final production version ended up being not that different to the concept, but it turned out not to matter, because Bentley had found a cost-no-object SUV niche that was just waiting to be filled.
Perhaps more importantly, 'tradition' as it applied to the automotive world had changed from something you chatted about over a glass of port into one of the most powerful brand-leveraging tools available. No marque was safe. Even Rolls-Royce got drawn into the SUV scramble in 2018, despite the words 'sport' and 'utility' being about as far from that brand's historic mission statement as it was possible for any words to be. In profile, with black bodywork, blacked-out windows and everything ahead of the windscreen hacked off, the Cullinan bore a disconcerting resemblance to your gran's wardrobe, but that didn't stop it becoming the fastest-selling Rolls ever, accounting for a quarter of all RR sales.
That was nothing compared to the Bentayga though. A year after its arrival it was racking up 45 percent of Bentley's global sales. By the time Bentley announced the refreshed version last June (2020), the total number of Bentaygas built had passed 20,000, more than 10 percent were sold to Middle East buyers. It all went to show that pretty much any motoring demand could and would be met by top-end manufacturers as long as there was money in it. The Bentayga demonstrated beyond all doubt that there was serious money to be made in the newly-fledged luxury SUV sector.
As regards the styling, the Bentayga had the considerable startup advantage of being in a class of one. Today, five years on, many would say that the styling has worn in quite nicely. Modestly announced by Bentley's PR office as 'the fastest, most powerful, most luxurious and most exclusive SUV in the world', the Bentayga was named after a mountain in the Canary Islands and various frozen forests in the sub-Arctic regions of North America, Scandinavia and Asia, the suggestion clearly being that these were the sort of places to which you could safely take your £160k investment. The first 608 cars were First Editions with diamond-quilted leather, ambient cabin lighting, illluminated sill plates and a Breitling watch.
To power you and your chums effortlessly across the tundra, there was an all-new, Crewe-built, 600hp 6.0-litre W12 engine (described by Bentley as the most technologically advanced 12-cylinder engine on the planet) hooked up to an all-wheel-drive chassis with 'the widest range of on- and off-road settings of any vehicle' with Bentley's Dynamic Ride and electrically activated active roll control. To reduce the herds of roaming elk you were driving over to little more than a faint rumble beneath your wheels you were wrapped in 'the world's finest cabin... engineered with precision to deliver absolute perfection'.
Pretty large claims, you might think, but in fact Bentley's gushing PR speak was not far off the truth. That first Bentayga was indeed a tour de force, the mighty W12 powerplant making light work of the car's extreme mass and the no-holds-barred interior impressing the most jaded of potentates.
In March 2017 the first diesel Bentley arrived. The 2,500kg Bentayga Diesel's 4.0-litre V8 (similar to the one used in the Audi SQ7) had two turbochargers, a lag-defeating electronic supercharger, 210g/km of CO2, 35.3mpg combined, 429hp, 664lb ft of torque from 1,000rpm, a 0-62 time of 4.8sec and a top speed of 168mph. This Diesel model also brought in the option of a seven-place, three-row seat configuration.
In the same year, 2017, a Mulliner version came out with standard features including a Breitling clock and 22-inch wheels. A year later two more petrol models were added to the range, the V8 and the Hybrid. The 4.0-litre V8 had 542hp, 568lb ft from 1,960rpm, weighed 2,390kg and had a 4.5sec 0-62 time. It also had stop-start tech and practically seamless cylinder deactivation to help it deliver a combined mpg figure of 24.8mpg.
The 2,620kg Hybrid combined a single 126hp/258lb ft electric motor with a single-turbo 335hp/332lb ft 3.0-litre V6 to produce maximum power and torque figures of 437hp and 516lb ft, enough for a 0-60 time of 5.2sec and a top speed of 158mph, with 24 miles available in pure electric mode.
At the end of 2019 came the Speed. It had 626hp and the same 664lb ft of torque as the regular W12. Its 0-62mph advantage over the normal W12 was only 0.2sec, at 3.9sec, but its 190mph top speed was 3mph more than the W12 and enough to pip the Lamborghini Urus to the title of 'fastest production SUV ever'. The Speed's price premium was £20,000, which seemed a lot, but fo your money you did get a bodykit, a roof spoiler, 22-inch wheels and monster 440mm brake discs. You also got the full-fat bark of an Akrapovic exhaust system that was almost worth the price of admission on its own. At this time the standard Bentayga was dropped, leaving the Speed as the only W12-engined Bentayga. All Bentaygas used the ZF 8HP 8-speed automatic transmission which (we presume) would have been updated to the third-generation version when it came out in 2018.
As mentioned earlier, the Bentayga was refreshed in June 2020 so we'll use that as our cutoff point for the purposes of this buying guide. That gives us four and a bit years' worth of cars to look at. Dealer prices typically start at around £87,000 but in the course of putting this story together we did see a privately-owned 101,000 mile 4.0 V8 for under £77,000 so we're taking that as our jumping-off point. Is it worth jumping into one at that sort of money, or would it be preferable to jump off a high building instead? Let's take a look.
SPECIFICATION | BENTLEY BENTAYGA (2016-20)
Engine: 5,952cc W12 48v twin turbocharged
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 600@5,000-6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 664@1,350-4,500rpm
0-62mph (secs): 4.1
Top speed (mph): 187
Weight (kg): 2,440
MPG (official combined): 21.6
CO2 (g/km): 296
Wheels (in): 20in
On sale: 2016 - 2020
Price new: £165,000 (range started from £135,800)
Price now: from £77,000
(Specs shown are for W12 version)
Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it's wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
The all-new W12 (incorporating, so we were told, absolutely nothing from the old Phaeton lump) had both direct and indirect (ie ported) fuel injection, which was a good idea if you wanted to avoid an expensive de-carbonising bill down the road. Give it the sort of death than most owners probably wouldn't and the Bentayga would squat down at the back before indecently blasting through the 0-62 run in the same time as the Continental GT Speed. Not bad for something so huge.
The warranty for the whole car was 3 years/100,000 miles, which looks a bit mean compared to the twice-as-long-and-more backup provided by humbler marques, but it was pretty normal at this end of the market (albeit one year shorter than that offered by Rolls and Ferrari). It didn't seem to be an issue for those who were buying Bentaygas new, however. If they were having problems, they weren't saying. A policy of tight-lipped discretion served Bentley and Rolls-Royce very well in the old days and many owners would have been happy to sign up to that.
There again, the rarity of complaints about the car could be down to the fact that not much went wrong with them. They weren't perfect, obviously, but they were very good. If you're looking at a used Bentayga check for any oil leaks from gaskets and from turbo oil pipes. Vacuum pipes can leak too, as can water pumps. We saw an American owner complaining about a bill for over $8,000 to fix one of those, which sounds a bit odd and perhaps not the full story. There was a recall in June 2020 on 'certain' (not sure how many) 2019-20 Bentaygas to sort out a potentially leaky fuel line quick connector.
Bentley operates an advance payment Fixed Price Servicing scheme for car maintenance costs on cars over 48 months old. An interim service under this scheme would be £799, while a major (which adds pollen and air filter replacement and a spark plug check to the interim's list of work) is £1,199. Interims are every 10,000 miles or at year 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13, whichever occurs first. Majors are every 20,000 miles or at even-numbered years, whichever occurs first.
There's also a range-wide fixed price plan for common jobs. If you're used to driving an Aygo you probably wouldn't call the prices low, but nor are they as high as you might expect and/or fear when picking up the phone to book it in. A brake fluid change is £195, a coolant change £215 and an aircon service £155. A trans fluid change cost of £795 for the V8 and £895 for the W12 perhaps more accurately reflects the Bentley experience. We're not aware of a set point at which that's supposed to happen. A new drive belt will be £415 for the W12 and £1,095 for the V8. New spark plugs are required on every third service, at a cost of £595 on the W12. All these prices include parts, labour and VAT. Dealer experiences are generally reported to be excellent.
Notionally, the Bentayga was built on an air-sprung version of the MLB chassis already used for the gen-two Audi Q7 and gen-three Porsche Cayenne, but in reality it was heavily bespoked (which isn't even a word) for the Bentley. With the W12 engine in particular it was always going to be nose heavy, but the chassis tech - which was both plentiful and cutting-edge and included an uncompromising active anti-roll system - managed to endow this hefty vehicle (up to 2.6 tonnes in the Hybrid) with a remarkable ability to flatten bumpy roads and provide a plush ride without rolling like a tramp steamer in a heavy swell.
All Bentaygas had a rotary dial to select between Comfort, Custom or Sport modes, with a factory-recommended 'Bentley' mode between Comfort and Sport. On top of those were another four off-road modes giving you a mode for pretty much every occasion. If you liked the idea of towing something at a ridiculous speed, that something could weigh up to 3,500kg, like two black rhinos in a suitable Erde trailer for example. Keep your eye on the stance of your Bentayga though as there have been issues with Bentley air suspension systems in the past, leaky legs leading to one side of the car being lower than the other.
There was a recall in 2017 for Diesels built between September 2016 and March 2017 to rectify an earthing fault that affected the power steering, which was Bentley's first electric system. It worked well in terms of accuracy, if not so much in feel. Engaging Sport mode weighted it up somewhat and added extra uncanniness to the anti-roll effect at speed but there were limitations of physics and mass that even Bentley's engineers couldn't overcome.
Still, the Bentayga handled more like a Bentley than an SUV, which was very creditable. As a bonus, even without the optional Responsive Off-Road Setting the Bentayga dealt with dirt in a remarkably efficient manner, and that was on normal street tyres too. If you were planning to site-manage the construction of your dream residence in the Rocky Mountains, an All-Terrain pack added underbody skid plates.
Under Bentley's fixed price plan, new front brake discs and pads would cost you £1,515, or £725 for the rears. Taking 21-inch 285/45 tyres as an average sort of fitment between the default 20s and the 22s, expect to pay £250-£300 a corner (fitted) for something like a Michelin Latitude Cross or a Pirelli Scorpion Zero. Conti Sport Contacts are around £340 each, with P Zeroes £380 a go.
Up to 17 standard paint colours were available to Bentayga buyers but the Mulliner personalisation programme lifted that number to closer to a hundred, including something called Light Gazelle. The big take-up of Mullinerisation means there is a wide choice of different looking cars in the used market.
Soft-close doors added a nice touch of class to the Bentayga, but the lifting systems for Bentley windows were quite complex. If you hear a hissing noise from the windows of a Bentayga you're looking at, that's the prelude to failure and to a big repair bill. The high-floored boot wasn't especially gigantic at 484 litres in 5-seat format or just 215 litres as a 7-seater but the space was on a par with the Range Rover's and the Bentley came with a button that would lower the car to facilitate loading.
You had to take Bentayga safety as something of a given as no independent Euro NCAP testing was carried out on it. Naturally it had the usual proliferation of airbags (a recall was issued on improperly-inflating side curtain bags in 2018-20 models) and you'd expect something this massive to do OK in a collision with anything smaller than a Centurion tank, but some measures that you'd think might have been included were hived off into payable option packs like City, which gave you automatic emergency braking, self-parking with pedestrian warning, traffic sign recognition and a bird's eye view camera, or Touring, which provided lane-keep assistance, night vision, head-up display and adaptive cruise.
It's become fashionable to devalue hand-crafting in cars on the grounds that humans can't really do anything better than robots, but you wouldn't know that from the human-finished Bentayga cabin. On the wrong day the diamond seat quilting and Bentley badging might seem a bit urgent, but all the seats were clothed in bull hides (to lower the chances of unsightly barbed wire damage) in a choice of up to 15 colours, and all were buttery soft in both feel and cushioning, as was the steering wheel. Alcantara came to the Bentayga for the first time in the Speed but there's something about really good quality leather that sets it apart from man-made stuff or from the nastier overpriced leather from lesser manufacturers.
The 22-way adjustable front seats didn't just have heating and ventilation, they had five different massage programmes that, like the heating and ventilation, could be localised to different parts of your body. The standard seat number was five, with an option for seven in the 2017-on Diesel, but from the end of 2019 the third row became as a no-cost option in the V8 and W12 Bentaygas as well. The V6 hybrid that you'd think might be most popular for school run use was excluded from that scheme because it needed the back-end space for its batteries. In fairness it wasn't that big a loss as there wasn't much room in the third row. You could slide the second row seats forwards to increase row three legroom for the squirts or to increase boot space if you didn't have the third row, but it seemed a shame to sacrifice even a bit of the utterly luxurious amount of row two legroom.
The seat bases in that second row were wonderfully long from front to back, providing uncommon amounts of under-thigh support, and the central fifth seat (which could be dropped down for through-loading) was perfectly useable. For even more luxury Bentley offered the option on all models of two individual rear seats with 12-way adjustment plus massage and ventilation functions. Rear seat passengers had two 12V charging ports and a neat removable touchscreen with great graphics showing climate, entertainment, vehicle data and the like. They could also have removable rear tablets in there.
Some 2018-20 Bentaygas were recalled in March 2020 to fix third-row seat belt attachment points which could come away in an accident. There was also a recall for improperly tightened seat mechanisms and instrument panel joints on cars built between March and September 2016. The rear view camera on 2018 models didn't always spark into life as quickly as it was supposed to when reverse was engaged, generating another recall.
Alongside the default walnut, seven types of hand-sanded and polished wood veneer were on offer, as were personal monograms if you weren't bothered about the depressing effect it might have on your trade-in value. The definition of the touchscreen and the action of the sat nav weren't brilliant. Nor was the apparent quality of the flat plastic buttons below the touchscreen, but the 'traditional' organ stop controls looked nice even if they were less than ideal as actual controls.
A full-length double-lensed panoramic sunroof with an opening front section and acoustic interlays was standard, but as you'd expect frm Bentley the range of available extras was mind-scrambling. Lambswool floor mats had been part of the RR/Bentley offering for decades, as had picnic hampers, but things like boot-mounted aluminium dog cages were new and the hampers were a bit more than wicker containers for plastic cutlery and plates and a gingham throw. The Linley Hamper by Mulliner was special, as well it should have been at £22,000. It was actually three handsome boxes hand-trimmed in quilted leather. Only one of the compartments was for food (and a cashmere picnic rug). Another was a cooler for your champagne and crystal glasses with 'five spoke Bentley wheel' bases, while the third contained fine French porcelain crockery, silver cutlery by Alta Robbe and Berking and a chromed Bentley Flying B bottle stopper. The whole caboodle sat on a tray docking mechanism that allowed it to be pulled forward to the edge of the tailgate.
The Bentayga was released at a time when the major national economies were in recovery after the global crash of 2008, so there was plenty of money sloshing around for high-profile purchases. SUVs were also in the ascendancy.
Against that background, a Bentley SUV seemed perfectly logical, but bending a brand like Bentley to fit into that space still required a good deal of commitment. As Bentley's largest ever investment in a single project it did look like a massive risk from the outside, but in fact it was as near to a dead cert as any new car could be.
Not everybody was a fan of the car's looks, but if that's you then the beauty of the Bentayga will be in the surprise and delight factor of the experience that it delivers. And make no mistake, it is an experience. A Range Rover SV Autobiography was about the same money as a W12 Bentayga so comparisons were inevitably made between the two, but those who expected the Bentayga to drive like a Range Rover were surprised to find that it actually drove like a lifted Continental GT, a sensation amplified by the Bentley's vertically compressed glasshouse relative to the RR's.
Which Bentayga should you have? Well, if you're in this kind of buying space you're probably not interested in hearing that the Diesel will give you everything you could realistically want in a car for UK roads. The 4.0 V8 petrol was described by Bentley as 'a perfect balance of performance, comfort and luxury', and that's a fair assessment, but as a powerfully built PH type you'll probably settle for nothing less than a W12, and why not? You've earned it.
There were 71 used Bentaygas on PH Classifieds at the time of writing. Pre-2020 gen-ones ranged from just under £93,000 for this 40,000-mile 2017 Diesel to £150,000 for this 2,000-mile Mulliner Hybrid. For about the same money as that Diesel here's a petrol V8, also with 40,000 miles. For just a thousand pounds more you could have this 32,000-mile W12 four-seater. Stealthy. Just for giggles, here's a madded-up 2018 W12 Mulliner with 32,000 miles and more bodywork than Arnie in his prime, at just under £140k.
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