We drove a $246,000 Bentley Bentayga SUV to see if it's ready to do battle with Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini. Here's the verdict.

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderOur 2018 Bentley Bentayga test car.

  • The Bentley Bentayga arrived in 2016.
  • Upon its debut, the Bentayga helped usher in the era of the ultra-premium SUV.
  • Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini both followed Bentley into the segment.
  • The Bentayga is powered by a 600 horsepower, twin-turbocharged W12 engine.
  • The Bentley SUV can hit 60 mph in 4.0 seconds and reach a top speed of 187 mph.
  • The 2018 Bentley Bentayga starts at $US195,000.

The Bentley Bentayga is one of the most talked-about cars in recent memory that doesn’t carry Ferrari’s prancing stallion or one of Tesla’s battery packs.

With global demand for SUVs unyielding, it was only a matter of time before the world’s most exclusive automakers joined in on the action.

High-end luxury SUVs have been on the market for as longs there’s been luxury cars and SUVs. These days, Range Rover is an unstoppable sales juggernaut, while the Mercedes-Benz G-Class has long shed its utilitarian upbringing to become a status symbol for world’s well-heeled elite.

But it wasn’t until the Bentayga’s debut in 2016 that the era of the ultra-luxury SUV began. This year, the Bentley SUV was joined by both the Rolls-Royce Cullinan and the Lamborghini Urus.

Read more: The Kia Stinger is Business Insider’s 2018 Car of the Year.

In late 2016, Bentley dropped off a white Bentayga for Business Insider to check out. Even though we were able to shoot photos, scheduling restraints did not afford us enough driving time to properly evaluate the vehicle. So Bentley gave us another bite at the apple a couple of months ago when it loaned us another Bentayga – a 2018 model in Rubino Red.

But this time around, we were able to spend nearly a week with the Bentayga. The 2018 Bentley Bentayga starts at $US195,000 but $US48,120 in options and a $US2,725 destination fee pushed the as-tested price to $US245,845.

Here’s a closer look at the Bentley Bentayga:

Here it is! Our 2018 Bentley Bentayga test car. A freak snow storm the night before left the roads and our Rubino Red Bentayga covered in a thick layer of salt residue.

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For an unobstructed view of the Bentayga, here’s the test car we checked out in late 2016. And it’s obvious this thing is a Bentley, you couldn’t possibly confuse it with anything else. The front fascia is punctuated by Bentley’s corporate mesh grille and spherical headlights.

Hollis Johnson

The production Bentayga’s styling is the work of former Bentley design boss Luc Donckerwolke and head of exterior design SangYup Lee. Both have since been poached by Hyundai’s new Genesis luxury brand.

Hollis Johnson

The Bentayga is built on VW Group’s award-winning MLB Evo platform which it shares with the Audi Q7, among others.


Inside, the Bentayga’s cabin is packed with all of the wood, leather, and retro metallic accents one would expect from a Bentley. Our 2018 Bentaya came with Beluga (black) leather and dark, fiddleback eucalyptus veneer.

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Our white Bentayga came with an Imperial Blue leather and dark-stained, burr-walnut interior. In both of our test cars, the interiors were exceptionally put together with top-notch materials.

Hollis Johnson

A glass roof adds a pleasant dash of sunlight to the cabin.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

In front of the driver is a digital readout flanked by a set of stylish analogue gauges. There’s also an available heads-up display so drivers won’t have to take their eyes off the road.

Hollis Johnson

The leather-wrapped steering wheel is beautifully crafted. It also bears some strong Audi DNA.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

As customary on every Bentley, an analogue clock.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

The center stack is dominated by an eight-inch touchscreen with a 60GB solid-state hard drive, gesture control, and a navigation system. The system was fairly intuitive to use and very similar to other VW Group units we have encountered over the past couple of years.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

The Bentayga’s custom 20-speaker, 1920-Watt Naim sound system blew us away. My audiophile colleague Matt DeBord called it the best sound system he’d ever encountered in a car.

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The Bentayga comes standard with seating for five. But an $US11,000 rear-seat package makes it a four-seater with the addition of a center console.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

For $US7,100, you can add a pair of rear seat entertainment screens controlled by…

Hollis Johnson

… A touchscreen remote control.

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Open up the sloping rear hatch and …

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…. You’ll find 17.1 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the rear seats.

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Under the hood of our Bentayga is a 6.0 litre, twin-turbocharged, W12 engine shared with the Flying Spur sedan and the Continental GT coupe. The engine is an absolute marvel. It’s silky smooth and possesses a seemingly endless bounty of power.

Hollis Johnson

The W12 is hooked up to a slick-shifting eight-speed ZF automatic transmission and an advanced all-wheel-drive

Hollis Johnson

According to Bentley, the Bentayga can hit 60 mph in a stunning four seconds and reach a top speed of 187 mph. Both figures would embarrass supercars of not that long ago. In fact, at the time of its introduction, it was the fastest SUV in the world. It has since been bested by its corporate cousin, the Lamborghini Urus.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

So, what’s it like to drive?

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

The Bentayga is a blast to drive. Even at 5,400 pounds, the Bentayga launches without hesitation. We loved the W12 in the Flying Spur and it doesn’t disappoint here.

There’s a lot of muscle here, and the Bentayga flexes it without hesitation. The steering was relatively sharp while the ride was luxury limo smooth. The sound deadening inside the cabin wasn’t quite monastery quiet, but it also wasn’t far off.

Bentleys are traditionally very athletic in feel and personality. After all, this is a company that built its reputation on the track at Le Mans. However, Bentayga’s overall driving experience is far from it. While incredibly fast, the Bentayga lacks the nimbleness and sporting nature of its stablemates.

The verdict!

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

The Bentley Bentayga helped create a segment of the market where none had existed before.

Objectively, the Bentayga is a great vehicle. It’s fast, powerful, luxuriously appointed, and can handle a corner about as well as one could reasonably expect for a large SUV.

But it’s far from perfect. First, the looks. Simply put, it’s not pretty. Every one of the members of Bentley’s design team I’ve met has been highly credentialed with impressive resum├ęs.

Unfortunately, the Bentayga isn’t one of their best works. Here, Bentley fell victim to the need to design an SUV that looks like a “Bentley.” Porsche has been guilty of this a couple of times while trying to make its early Cayenne SUVs and Panamera sedans look like the 911.

The Bentayga certainly looks like a Bentley. Just not a particularly attractive one. The front end is ungainly while the overall profile looks more like an overweight wagon than muscular off-roader.

And then there’s the spirit and feel of the car. The stylish interior and monster engine couldn’t inject the kind of soul and spirit we have come to expect in a Bentley.

To drive a Bentley is more than just a matter of getting to from point A to point B, it should be an experience.

The minute you climb behind the wheel, there should be no doubt in your mind that you are experiencing automotive royalty. It should make you feel special. It should make you feel like a freaking boss.

Sadly, the Bentayga falls short. It just seems to lack that Bentley mojo. The same mojo that oozes from the Continental, the Flying Spur, and the flagship Mulsanne.

Instead, it feels cold and way too VW Group corporate.

Matt DeBord agreed with my assessment and found the Bentayga disappointing. He felt the premise of the vehicle was highly cynical and simply a way for Bentley to maximise profits in a hot SUV market.

If feels like Bentley wanted to be first and they found a cost-effective way to do it by rolling out a re-skinned Audi Q7.

I’m aware it’s not as simple as that, and there’s nothing wrong with drawing heavily from the Q7, which itself is one of the finest SUVs in the world.

However, the technocratic brilliance of the Q7 makes for a best buy at $US95,000, but not at $US195,000.

Which brings us back to the Bentayga. Our verdict? There’s too much VW Group and not enough Bentley. And that just doesn’t do it for us.

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