2017 Bentley Bentayga W12 Road Test Review


Groundbreaking super-SUV performing on road, trail and the sales chart

What could be better? Seriously capable on- and off-road performance and the versatility of a sport utility body style are now available from one of the most respected names in luxury: enter the stunning 2017 Bentley Bentayga SUV.  We'll likely only ever see a Bentayga getting dirty at Bentley's off-road testing facility in Northern Spain, and then only in vids online. If equipped with the standard Drive Dynamics Mode system's Responsive Off-Road Setting it boasts the widest pre-programmed range of on- and off-road settings of any vehicle period, with up to eight dedicated modes made available by twisting a console-mounted dial, while its engine is even designed to pump oil at steep 35-degree angles. 

Impressive off-road and sensational on pavement

My time spent with the world's most premium SUV was limited to two on-road stints, one purely about the drive occurring during an unusually nasty downpour that I thought was ideal for a vehicle that can go most anywhere yet will be more appreciated during winter, and the second time for the purposes of taking all the photos seen here, which not only gave me a second drive in the dry, but also allowed me plenty of time to contemplate its styling in the metal and poke around inside. There's no shortage of chrome up front, while this particular example featured the Bentley Styling Specification and was therefore upgraded with a stunning carbon fibre air splitter below, CFRP half shells on mirror caps, and the same lightweight material used for the rear rooftop spoiler. 


Classic Bentley design cues abound 

The Bentayga's outward design is bold in the true sense of the overused word, yet there's a certain elegance to this SUV as well, especially the way the classic Bentley grille melds into the sculpted hood's distinctively tapering domed lines, and how the full-LED quad headlamps gently curve overtop the gracefully shaped front fenders, these latter items attractively accented with Bentley's now trademark stylized "B" engine vents just ahead of each front door. Moving rearward a lovely fender line begins down by the rockers before bending upward around each wheel cutout, forming Bentley's classic rear haunches, after which it fades away where the liftgate integrated spoiler and LED taillights converge.  Large optional 21-inch twinned five-spoke alloys rounded out the design of my second tester; these finished with 285/45 Pirelli Scorpion Verde all-seasons; the first was shod in 22s on even sportier rubber. Additionally, my first example was Beluga black with caramel brown Newmarket Tan hides, while the one used for photos is finished in classy Glacier White paint with a much livelier Hot Spur red interior. 

Interior quality, refinement and features are second to none

As one would expect the cabin is beautifully detailed, with almost every surface covered in the highest quality of contrast-stitched leathers. While my first loaner was fitted with Dark Stained Burr Walnut, my second featured Piano Black lacquered hardwood, but keep in mind near limitless trims, interior colour combos and exterior paint finishes are available. The flashier red interior contrasted the black lacquered inlays with brushed metal trim on the centre stack, whereas the door inserts boasted fabulous diamond quilted leather to mirror the seat inserts, which were also perforated for cooling. Some of my favourite elements were the optional "naim for Bentley" speaker grilles, albeit more for the system's superbly crafted sound than the sharply dressed metal covers. A total of 20 speakers include two super tweeters, nine mid-range/tweeter combos, four advanced bass speakers, a 300-watt self-powered sub and others, not to mention active bass transducers (seat shakers), all powered by 1,920 watts and 21 channels of audiophile bliss, resulting in the widest frequency range ever produced in a vehicle. Of course you can control it via steering wheel switchgear, some of this even made from knurled metal, while the beautifully stitched leather wheel does a beautiful job framing Bentley's classic dual-dial primary gauge cluster, its centre now filled with a high quality colour multi-information display that even incorporates graphic mapping for the navigation system. 


Thoroughly modern infotainment leaves nothing to be desired

Speaking of upscale detailing, the Bentayga's climate control interface is exquisitely finished with large rotating dials integrating digital readouts at centre for setting and monitoring temperatures. Just above is Bentley's latest infotainment system, which is one of the best of its type available. It comes complete with a high resolution eight-inch colour touchscreen that includes tablet-style tap, pinch and swipe capability, as well as proximity-sensing controls that pop up at the bottom of the screen when your fingers get near, plus the system is both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capable, not to mention is filled with most other features and apps.  As you can imagine some of the Bentayga's cabin finery is completely over the top, with as yet unmentioned highlights being its substantive metal paddle shifters, my first tester's optional knurled metal shift knob, the big circular metal vents across the instrument panel, the polished metal organ stops used to control them, and the wonderfully discrete black-faced Breitling electric clock at dash central. 

An optional Breitling tourbillon dash clock that will leave you breathless

Of note, that's an option, as is an exquisitely handcrafted white-faced Breitling Mulliner Tourbillon dash clock available for a cool £110,000 sterling, which converted to $183,270 CAD at the time of writing. Those into horology will probably agree it's worth every penny, especially considering the new Breitling for Bentley Mulliner Tourbillon wristwatch costs $230k CAD. Fanciful as it may be, the Bentayga is downright utilitarian in comparison, which is exactly how an SUV should be. Its front seating area, filled with available 22-way powered perches, is spacious and superbly supportive in all the right ways, while the second row of my five-seat example was even more commodious. It can be had in four- and seven-seat configurations too, the former "Four Seat Comfort Specification with Rear Centre Console" incorporating individual rear buckets that adjust 18 ways while both ventilating and massaging like my tester's did up front, although the optional rear seat package features raised footrests below.  

Otherworldly performance that defies natural laws

 While impressive the Bentayga's most advantageous benefit is its outrageously potent twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre W12 engine, a 600 horsepower beast that whips up 664 pound-feet of torque before pushing it through an eight-speed automatic with manual mode and paddles plus the aforementioned advanced all-wheel drivetrain on its way to 100 kilometres per hour in a scant 4.1 seconds and an ultimate top speed of 301 km/h. All of that power is kept in check via Bentley's industry-first 48-volt powered Dynamic Ride adaptive and reactive suspension system with variable torsional resistance, an undercarriage that instantly counteracts the hefty machine's natural inclination to roll laterally so that such body lean is nearly non-existent while ride quality is never disturbed, the majority of the Bentayga's sizeable tire tread patch kept in contact with pavement and therefore sensational handling ensuing.  All this fun is reined in with massive disc brakes at each corner, amply powerful for multiple full-force applications with little detectable fade. That it can do all this despite being a 2,440-kilogram four-door SUV, and simultaneously remain fully comfortable and serenely quiet is the dumbfounding brilliance of the Bentayga. Of course it's been thoroughly tested on the Nürburgring Nordschleife racecourse and elsewhere, so it should hold up well on your local highways and byways, let alone a nearby track if you feel so inclined. 


Powerful and luxurious yet still as functional as can be 

Speaking of tracks, a handy cargo tie-down track system was added to my loaner's beautifully detailed fully carpeted cargo hold, an area that measures 484 litres behind the 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks and under the retractable cargo cover, or 590 litres with that cover retracted, and a substantive 1,774 litres with the rear seats folded flat.  p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px 'Times New Roman'; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px 'Times New Roman'; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000; min-height: 15.0px} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} As you might expect the Bentayga is very well equipped in its most basic form, featuring 20-inch alloys, an air suspension with continuous damping and four height settings, LED headlights with adaptive cornering and auto high beams, self-synching soft close doors, a powered liftgate, a full-leather interior with a choice of veneers, heated and cooled front seats plus heatable rear seats, eight-inch touchscreen infotainment with a 60-gig hard drive, voice activation, navigation, a backup camera, text-to-speech, SD card slots, 4G Wi-Fi connectivity, a panoramic tilt and slide glass sunroof with a powered blind, and much more. Of course finding a base $266,090 Bentayga will be near impossible, with my second tester featuring enough options to push its price all the way up to $450k before taxes. 

The Bentayga is simply the best of the best

Of course, such should be expected from the world's best and most exclusive SUV. If you truly want it all, along with that tourbillon dash clock the Bentayga is the only SUV available with a $33,000 custom fitted picnic set. Despite the price of admission, the fact that the Bentayga was already mostly sold out by the time I got to drive one is clear indication that plenty of people think it delivers good value. Like that clock and picnic set, most everything about this SUV and every Bentley automobile is handcrafted, which means a Bentayga takes roughly eight times the labour to produce than the average vehicle, or 130 hours in total. Still, we can expect a turbocharged V8-powered Bentayga with a more approachable price point next year, plus a plug-in hybrid variant that improves on the current W12 model's already impressive 18.8 L/100km city and 12.2 highway rating sometime thereafter. After all is said and done, Bentley has created an SUV that can only be described as the best of the best. Nothing combines such an opulently finished cabin made from such high-grade materials with anywhere near as impressive performance both on- and off-road. If you simply must have the world's fastest, best handling, most premium SUV, your only choice is Bentley Bentayga. 


Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto 

Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press 

Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.

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