When crossovers started gaining popularity after 2010, they were mostly chosen over regular sedans and hatchbacks for their practicality and comfort, while still being easy to drive thanks to unibody construction. Unlike pickup truck-based SUVs at the time, crossovers were dynamically sorted, blurring the line between a typical station wagon and a larger SUV.
Soon, this gave rise to more performance-oriented crossovers that were fun to drive and came equipped with high-performance engines. Nowadays, most manufacturers have at least one fast SUV in their lineup, and the market is lapping them up fast.
The first mainstream performance SUV was the GMC Typhoon back in the early 1990s. Because of their popularity, Bentley decided to launch the Bentayga back in 2015, offering up all their qualities in SUV form. Being part of VAG, the Bentayga is underpinned by the same platform as the Lamborghini Urus and Porsche Cayenne, giving it the dynamics to match the potent W12 powertrain. As expected with a Bentley, the Bentayga is as opulent as its other rivals. Rear seat passengers are also in for a treat with Bentley Bentaga’s rear-seat entertainment system that includes massive 10-inch displays.
In the olden days, Bentley was known for putting luxury above all else and competed with Rolls-Royce as the pinnacle of luxury brands. They were also known for their racing pedigree, winning several endurance races. After the brand was bought by Volkswagen in 2003, the company started concentrating on performance once again with the Continental GT and Flying Spur. After its launch in 2015, the Bentayga quickly became the best-selling model for the company, selling more than 4,000 units annually.
Like the rest of the lineup, the Bentayga focuses on performance and brings a lot of the racing pedigree Bentley is well known for. Tipping the scales at more than 5,000 pounds, the Bentayga is on the heavier side, but it has more than enough performance to haul that weight around thanks to three capable powertrains including an efficient hybrid, all of which produce well over 400 hp.
To keep the Bentayga on track, Bentley has included a lot of advanced technologies. Chief among these is the Bentley Dynamic Ride system, which calculates and reduces body roll during corners by increasing steering wheel response, stiffness of the dampers, and other parameters according to the speed and lateral acceleration, making the Bentayga feel a lot lighter than it actually is.
Bentley’s engineers have done a lot of research and tuned the system to tackle various types of terrain from fast tracks like the Nurburgring to high-speed runs on the autobahn, and even the frozen lakes of Sweden for slippery conditions. All of which help the Bentayga tackle any terrain you throw at it. The Bentayga also benefits from a 15% stiffer chassis compared to competitors.
With sport mode engaged, the effect is amplified and stiffens everything up further, allowing the Bentayga to stay composed on a racetrack. The suspension is also lowered by 15mm to further reduce body roll. Like most modern vehicles, the Bentayga uses various sensors that continually monitor several aspects like acceleration, yaw rate, steering angle, throttle position, traction, and more to balance performance while still being predictable.
For 2022, Bentley introduces the S model with plenty of sporty design elements, a sport-tuned suspension, 22-inch wheels, and a sport exhaust system.
At its launch back in 2015, the Bentayga was available with an all-new twin-turbocharged W12 engine producing 600 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque. The engine was also capable of shutting down 6 cylinders when needed to improve efficiency. Thanks to the impressive performance, the Bentayga was the fastest production SUV in 2016. In addition to this, the Bentayga also uses a 48V electrical system to control all the assistance and body-roll control features including an active anti-roll bar.
The W12 was capable of propelling the Bentayga to 60 MPH in just 4 seconds and onto a top speed of 187 mph. Bentley later introduced the Speed model in 2019 which increased the W12 output to 626 hp. The Speed model was also the fastest SUV in the world at launch, clocking 190 MPH, and reaching 60 MPH in just 3.8 seconds. It also features several other exterior upgrades like a rear spoiler, sporty bodywork, massive 22-inch wheels, and an upgraded interior.
Later in 2018, Bentley introduced a more affordable 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8 option that produced 443 hp and 568 l-ft of torque. This engine is shared with many other models in the VAG lineup including the Lamborghini Urus, albeit in a higher state of tune. However, there were some changes to the Bentley engine like the inclusion of an oil dipstick, switchable hydraulic mounts, and the absence of a stop-start system.
A 4.0L V-8 turbodiesel was also briefly available that produced 429 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque. As of today, customers looking for efficiency will have to opt for the Hybrid model that combines a turbocharged V6 and an electric motor for a combined output of 443 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, similar to the now-discontinued turbo diesel engine. The 12.7 kWh lithium-ion battery pack also gives it an all-electric range of 31 miles.
As expected with a massive W12 engine, the weight is higher at the front. To compensate for this, Bentley has made the front end a lot stiffer than the V-8 model. The Speed model also gets several other upgrades including an improved sport mode.
With the second generation model in 2020, the Bentayga received a three-row configuration, making it a lot more practical than before. But, the standard 5 seater configuration was ditched for a 4 seater setup with two captain seats in the middle row. The three-row configuration is available at no extra cost.
Overall, the Bentley Bentayga still holds its reputation as being one of the fastest production SUVs on the market. It manages to do everything you throw at it while still offering luxury and opulence Bentley is well known for. As an all-rounder then, the Bentayga is an excellent choice if you have the budget for one. However, for track days and high-performance events, it still can’t match other models in its lineup like the Continental GT.