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Bentley Bentayga Review: An SUV for the Queen, or for Whole Foods

Updated Oct 24th, 2018 10:34AM EDT

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Bentley’s Bentayga is a vehicle that certainly evokes a wide range of reactions. Is it a glorified Audi Q7? There’s Volkswagen hardware buttons on the hand-stitched leather hide steering wheel, after all. It shares the same platform with the new-generation Lamborghini Urus, Porsche Cayenne, and yes, the Audi Q7.

And how about the styling? A big, imposing, beautiful and unmistakable Bentley from head-on. An almost garish blend of boring and lack of personality from the front and rear quarter panels. But god I so love the rear. And the interior? It’s classic modern Bentley with flowing veneers framed with chrome, knurled accents on everything from the clock in the dashboard, to the start button, to even the side-view mirror adjustment knob.

There has to be a herd of cattle in here and I might feel uncomfortable when my vegan friend comes to sit in it. Come to think of it, I don’t have a vegan friend in my social circle right now, but you get my point. The ethos of this car seems to be opulence mixed with practicality, and it truly shows.

Functionally, there’s a lot of the same themes and trends as previous Bentley models. The Bentley Continental GT introduced in 2002 had similar seat adjustment controls on the side of the cushion, and the infotainment system is even relatively the same shape and positioning as that first car. But that changes with the new Bentley Continental GT launching this year. You could think of the Bentayga as a wonderful bridge of the past and future.

A feeling of refined sportiness and freedom

And who thought Bentley would even make an SUV? Or Rolls-Royce? Or Lamborghini? Well, you get what I am saying. Bentley wasted no time showing the off-road capabilities of the Bentayga when the car was unveiled and the first round of press drives were offered. It wasn’t just marketing, either. The Bentayga performs in the same category as something like the Mercedes-Benz G-Class but probably just under a Land Rover Range Rover. It can haul up to 7 passengers through the deserts and dunes of Dubai, or take all of your luggage and sets of skis up to the French Alps. It can also go to Whole Foods. Or the DMV. All of it done with elegance and comfort, yet a feeling of refined sportiness and freedom.

And safety.

This might be hard to convey, but there’s a feeling of safety you get when driving this vehicle. I believe it’s a mix of the fact you’re driving a relative tank, but also these wonderful proactive safety features. A lot of them are available on other cars, too, but the way Bentley has integrated them just seems a level better. Instead of a single yellow LED in blind spot assist on the side-view mirrors that you would get when changing lanes, there’s three enormous and bright LEDs. But better yet, since the car has configurable LED mood lighting throughout the interior, you also have this incredibly bright red light in the door handle compartment. I have never seen that, and it’s oddly incredibly comforting.

Bentley Safeguard is a feature that combines active safety features for different environments. For instance, there’s Bentley Safeguard City which would autonomously brake the vehicle in the event of an unavoidable collision, while simultaneously closing all of the windows, the sunroof, changing the seating positions, and tensioning the safety belts.

There’s traffic assist when backing up, lane assist to stay in the lane

There’s a brand-new 48 volt active sway bar Bentley calls Bentley Dynamic Ride, and it can manipulate the left and right sides of the roll bars in the front and rear of the vehicle. It’s rather brilliant because it not only works around cornering, but if you go over a bump or pothole on just one side of the car, that jolt won’t be carried over to the other side of the vehicle.

Certainly some annoyances, too. You can’t control the rear climate control from the front, using the 8-inch touchscreen or front climate controls. There’s this great touch screen remote for the rear passengers to use — it pops out of the dock and even lets you control entertainment functions and see vehicle data like location and speed — but I haven’t figured out how to do it from the front. Bentley makes an iOS and Android app, and even an Apple Watch app which connect to the TSR, so I’m able to control this from any of those places, but seemingly not from the front of the car itself.

While an easy exit setting exists, it curiously doesn’t move the seat back when you open the driver’s door, it just raises the steering wheel up.

You can program driver and passenger seat settings to two memory settings in the car, but also to the key fobs. This drove me crazy at first, because I would save the settings I wanted to the first memory position, located on the driver’s door, but get into the car with the key fob in pocket, and I wouldn’t have my presets. I realized that when locking the vehicle, those settings are saved to the key fob so there’s two places and a bit of confusion.

Coming from a car with a central controller located on the center console, using the 8-inch touch screen on the Bentayga can be a chore. Mainly for the fact that, even at 5′ 10″, my arms aren’t long enough to reach the touch screen and especially the right-located control knob without straining. I’m also reasonably annoyed that Bentley is still using a resistive touch panel, compared to a capacitive one, but I believe the new Continental has fixed that at least. What’s worse, however, is that this display is made of a highly reflective material, and is angled to pick up as much of the sun’s reflection as possible. This obscures the entire panel and gets in the way or using the 360 degree camera, and using the infotainment system in general.

Whenever the camera is activated, it also turns off whatever multimedia source you were listening to.

I haven’t found a way to control my radio favorites from the steering wheel, either. I can switch between sources, and scroll though every radio station in AM, FM, or Sirius XM, but can’t just change back and forth between my 14 or so saved favorites.

The Bentayga features a bunch of connectivity options that have so far performed excellently. In order to take advantage of the connected Bentley app, you need to provide internet connectivity to the vehicle as there is no built-in cellular service. This can be done by either connecting the car to Wi-Fi on your smartphone using tethering, or by inserting a 4G LTE SIM card into the car’s hotspot location. Doing so provides not only the My Bentley app feature including streaming music services, but Google Maps for the car’s navigation. But this is also a mixed bag, as your phone has to be connected to the car’s Wi-Fi to use the My Bentley app and features, and the car’s 4G LTE, router, and Wi-Fi are far worse than using 4G LTE directly on your phone.

The keyless go mechanism could use some work as it’s not fluid like on most other vehicles. You have to wait for the soft-close door to close, give it another second, and firmly press in just the right area to get the car to lock. I could see making it harder to unlock the vehicle for protection purposes, but unlocking?

There’s no excuse in this day and age of manufacturing and engineering where Mercedes-Benz should beat Bentley in fit and finish, but it seems that they have.

Globally at Volkswagen Group, cars from different brands are starting to share more of the technology behind them, much more than before. The Bentley Continental GT, when launched in 2002, shared the Volkswagen Phaeton platform, and this trend has continued ever since. What has changed is that VW has purchased not only platform-sharing but technological ones too. Porsche used to operate in their old world and rarely shared above the absolute minimum with Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini. That’s not the case going forward, and it makes sense from a practicality and profitability point of view. What’s apparent, though, is that ignoring the hand-stitched leather — and all the Bentley accoutrements — the fact is that while this is a practical and well-made car, the sheer scale of production doesn’t let itself to addressing all of the wonderful features that larger volume production cars have come to enjoy as of late.

And, if I’m being nit-picky, the wood veneer over the center console has peeled stain where cutouts were made for the cupholder and gear shifter, the leather rear seat has a gap where the stitching wasn’t properly done, there was an issue with the fuel injector preventing the car the car from entering the auto-stop mode, and the front driver’s side carpet mat’s connector wasn’t affixed properly.

There’s no excuse in this day and age of manufacturing and engineering where Mercedes-Benz should beat Bentley in fit and finish, but it seems that they have.

Jonathan S. Geller
Jonathan Geller Founder, President & Editor-in-chief

Jonathan S. Geller founded Boy Genius Report, now known as BGR, in 2006. It became the biggest mobile news destination in the world by the end of 2009, and BGR was acquired by leading digital media company PMC in April 2010.

Jonathan is President of BGR Media, LLC., and Editor-in-chief of the BGR website.

What started as a side project at the age of 16, quickly transpired into 24-hour days and nights of sharing exclusive and breaking news about the mobile communications industry. BGR now reaches up to 100 million readers a month through the website, syndication partners, and additional channels.