Bentley’s $245,000 SUV expertly straddles the line between luxury and performance.
Understated, refined and absolutely luxurious, Bentley’s foray into the SUV world now has five years under its belt. The 2022 Bentley Bentayga is the culmination of that experience. It’s a tank of an SUV that leverages Bentley’s history of making cars that are both supremely comfortable and aggressively powerful.
On first look, it’s immediately apparent just how large and weighty the Bentayga is. That’s something it shares with the rest of Bentley’s lineup. Their cars are significant. They have presence. Nothing about this SUV looks or feels flimsy, nothing about the Bentayga could be confused with any other car on the road.
However, unlike the rest of the Bentley lineup, the Bentayga is uniquely understated. The iconic circular headlights are similar to the Continental coupe’s, the grille harkens to the Flying Spur and yet, even five years in, it’s easy to look at the Bentayga and ask, “What IS that?”
That mystery only adds to the appeal, making the Bentayga – especially in the ethereal Spectre color that graced my review car – feel like a shadowy pirate ship weaving quietly and gracefully through New York City traffic. Until I stomped on the gas.
When the Bentayga first debuted, it only featured a W12 engine, even in the base model. Bentley’s been doing wonderful things with a V8 for years though and it’s nice to see that V8 performing admirably and still creating excitement here.
The 2022 Bentayga absolutely roared to life when I stabbed the gas pedal. Initially, I had concerns that a V8 wouldn’t be enough to move the Bentayga’s land-yacht ass with any quickness. Those concerns were unfounded. Zero to 60 mph here is just over four seconds. In sport mode, the Bentayga could hang with even the zippiest cars I could find in my travels, and it was a pleasure to surprise them when I did so.
While speed and handling were far and away the most pleasant aspects of actually driving the Bentayga, this is not an SUV made for a racetrack.
On the one hand, that means no borderline-uncomfortable, rock-hard suspension like that of BMW’s X lineup. Nor does it translate to the all-thought-went-into-the-engine philosophy of Porsche’s SUVs. For the Bentayga, those are wise decisions.
On the other hand, perhaps VW (Bentley’s parent company) has injected too many safety systems into the top of the line SUV. I’m all for seat belts and airbags. I rarely remember to use radar cruise control, even on long trips.
But when lane-keep assist gently but firmly pulls the (plush, heated, leather) steering wheel out of my hands because it sees the lines of the road but not the pothole I’m avoiding, I cease to support the system and much prefer my autonomy over the car, not vice versa. I’d guess the insanely expensive 22-inch Mulliner rims would side with me on this issue too.
Luckily, toggles for almost every system in the Bentayga reside in the bright, beautiful, responsive 10.9-inch touchscreen. In terms of info and entertainment, Bentley’s infotainment system delivers on both fronts but now conveniently offers up wireless connections for both Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto as well.
Switching between using full-screen Waze via CarPlay to Bentley’s own system for suspension adjustments was a breeze. The two systems worked perfectly together.
Possibly the best thing about any Bentley – and the Bentayga is no exception – is the incredibly plush interior. The seats are covered in soft, supple tufted leather that wrapped around me every time I got into the car.
Creature comforts are everywhere. Seat massagers (now with new massage modes!) and heating and cooling options changed my normally nightmarish commute into an exercise in decadence.
The enormous panoramic moon roof slid back to reveal gorgeous views of the city’s skyscrapers while the 20-speaker Naim sound system delivered robust, clear sound from both the internal radio and my bluetooth connected devices.
The result was a theatricality and grandeur normally absent from my commute, which is normally peppered with road rage and shouted expletives at cab drivers. My experience in the Bentayga very well might have lowered my blood pressure more than cutting bacon out of my diet.
The 2022 Bentley Bentayga starts at $185,000 but spec’d like the one I had with extras like the Naim audio system, Mulliner wheels and other bells and whistles, comes in at $245,000.
Most other SUVs in that top tier range are pushing a bigger emphasis on performance but without the luxury. Otherwise they’re going for supreme luxury like the Rolls Royce Cullinan, but that means forgoing the reliability that comes with the Bentley brand. Ultimately, the Bentayga is the perfect mix of both without sacrificing anything.