A big Bentley in little Britain shouldn't really work – here's why it does
By Matt Bird / Thursday, 19 January 2023 / Loading comments
Back in September last year, we tested the Bentayga EWB how it really should be done: in Canada, with time on the road and off it, behind the wheel and in the capacious rear quarters. This follow-up is to see whether a car so vast really makes any sense out of North America, and to find out if the extended wheelbase has had much impact on a car that was so good to drive in V8 S format not that long ago. Although, to be honest, was Bentley offering a four-cylinder version with a dog bed in we’d be in the queue to drive it. Say what you like about the styling, the Bentayga easily ranks among the best cars built in Britain today. Among SUVs, it is already a much-copied icon.
Even in the vast expanses of the Canadian wilderness, the Bentayga EWB looked big, so it’s no surprise to find it’s a real whopper over here. At 5.3m long and with a near-3.2m wheelbase, it fills out even generous parking spaces, despite a width that remains about the same as a standard car. In profile, the difference is readily apparent; if we assume for a moment that no car has ever looked better for a stretched layout, the Bentley SUV carries off the necessary elongation with aplomb. It’s clearly longer, but not gawkishly so. Notably, the rear doors are so humongous their operation is assisted, so maybe we really have reached peak luxury car.
The EWB is so massive that it’s all you can really think about for the first few miles, as if unqualified to be piloting a craft so enormous and valuable. Having passengers enjoy the rear quarters makes things worse, the considerable distance between you and them only serving as a reminder of its size. It does at least mean modest progress is made (like all the best chauffeurs, as you attempt to make sense of a Bentley this big. The EWB should come with ‘convoi exceptionnel’ warnings and a motorcycle escort. Still, at least it keeps your attention away from the dash layout, which, despite terrifically plush, doesn’t look or feel quite the freshest in 2023.
It says a lot about how fundamentally well-sorted the Bentayga is that, after the initial acclimatisation period has passed and you’re used to being spoken at from what seems like the other side of a room, the dimensions aren’t much of a concern. The steering and pedal response is so note-perfect that the EWB can be placed with confidence at any speed. ‘To the millimetre’ wouldn’t be accurate, but at least as well as any other comparable car. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch (no pun intended) to call the Bentayga a more satisfying steer than a Range Rover – certainly a long-wheelbase variant. The Bentley is just so polished that no excuses ever need to be made for the conditions, the type of road, or anything else.
Four-wheel steer has been so seamlessly integrated that it’s only when parking up for pictures that it’s noticed. What begins as cautious, borderline timid driving turns into unbecoming haste before you can say ‘quaff’. For such a preposterously large and heavy (and high) car, there’s more grip, more accuracy – and yes, more poise – than might ever be reasonably expected. The EWB clearly isn’t a car to shrink around its driver, but it isn’t one to disappoint whoever is working the pedals either. It doesn’t even feel much slower than a standard 4.0-litre V8.
Of course, there are compromises. Bentley can’t keep it all under wraps, especially when the EWB can be compared to recent memory of the Bentayga S. In many ways they’re insignificant margins, but with perhaps a slightly busier ride the most noticeable among them, they’re worth nothing. Without any prior experience of its smaller sibling, the latest model’s blend of sublime refinement, epic ground-covering ability and dynamic cohesion would seem peerless; but the fact remains – however foreseeable – that the ‘standard’ version is that bit more gratifying to pedal.
Naturally, you won’t care a jot about the driver if you’ve slipped into the pew behind. As John noted on the launch, it’s rare – even in long-wheelbase cars – to have so much space in a car. Bentley says there’s 180mm more knee room, and that’s believable. It’s proper business class travel – only of course it’s better than business class, this Azure-specification’s blend of sumptuous leather and immaculate veneers is redolent of a luxury hotel. Right down to the champagne flutes. This is nothing that hasn’t been done in a car before, but on Rolls-Royce could be said to rival the sheer sense of class Bentley brings to bear. Moreover, it’s hard to argue with having the acreage to roam around in (which seems the best way to describe it) safe in the knowledge that the EWB is still a decent drive if you do ever decide to climb in the front.
All of which makes the conclusion pretty simple. Those who want the finest luxury SUV out there, the one that delivers across the board more convincingly than anything else, should buy a Bentayga S. The latest Range Rover is epic, certainly – but is at most its equal. But anyone after probably the finest backseat experience out there – with a great SUV included – should get an EWB. It’s as imperious as might be expected from a Bentley flagship, even if the elongated, high-riding silhouette isn’t instantly appealing. Most examples will be destined for North America and China, of course, where the huge expense will be treated as a badge of honour, but we’d still heartily recommend that no one buy a limo-grade car in the UK without taking a seat in the Bentayga first. One of the rears, preferably.
SPECIFICATION | BENTLEY BENTAYGA EWB
Engine: 3,996cc, V8, twin-turbocharged
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],000rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],000-4,500rpm
0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Top speed: 180mph
Weight: 2,514kg (DIN)
Price: £211,300 (price as standard; price as tested £242,675, comprised of Airline Seat Specification for £8,395, Naim for Bentley for £6,860, Mulliner Drinks Cooler for £4,800, All Terrain Specification for £3,720, Four seat Comfort Specification with rear console for £2,790, 22-inch ten-spoke polished wheels for £2,000, Bentley Diamond Illumination for £1,810, Privacy Glass for £1,000
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