Can the Bentley Bentayga retain its luxury SUV crown?

Bentley has updated its Bentayga, but have some tweaks elevated the experience even further? JACK EVANS finds out.

The luxury SUV has become a mainstay of many car makers’ line-ups these days. Roll back a few years and it was practically unthinkable that companies like Bentley would introduce an SUV and yet, here we are, with the Bentayga residing as one of the firm’s most popular models. It’s now been updated, too, bringing a host of refinements to make it even more, well, refined.

But with a variety of new rivals on the scene, can the big, bad Bentayga stay at the top of the food chain? We’ve been finding out.

From the outside at least, you might not think an awful lot has changed. Sure, the rear lights are quite a bit different to the previous model, but the Bentayga’s large size and huge on-road presence continue undiminished – though it’s now a little wider and the bonnet is a touch higher up. It’s inside where the bulk of the changes lie, with a new screen replacing an older and less user-friendly display.

Photos: PA Media

Other changes courtesy of the update include USB-C charging ports and rear seats which have the option to be cooled as well as heated, boosting the Bentayga’s comfort levels even further.

There are a number of powertrain options available with the Bentayga – including a plug-in hybrid – but today we’re looking at the V8-powered version. It’s a petrol 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged unit kicking out a healthy 542bhp and 770Nm of torque, driven to all four wheels via an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox. Bentley claims that it’ll power the Bentayga from 0-60mph in just 4.4 seconds before motoring on to a top speed of 180mph.

There’s a large 85-litre fuel tank and you’ll need it, as with a claimed consumption of 21.2mpg on a good day, the Bentayga has a predictably voracious appetite for fuel.

Refinement reigns supreme in the Bentayga, just as it did in the previous version. At speed, it’s gloriously quiet; sitting in the cabin on the motorway you feel perfectly secluded from the outside world as it whisks past the window. There isn’t too much engine noise intrusion, either. That V8 engine remains largely muted at cruising speed and only makes its presence known when you accelerate hard.

But do just that and you’ll be rewarded with some fearsomely impressive performance. Given its size, the way the Bentayga shifts is quite remarkable, but it does so in a very composed, refined way. The well-weighted steering backs this up, too, while the smooth-shifting automatic gearbox matches the package perfectly. The ride quality is also excellent – it’s particularly amazing given that the car rides on huge 21-inch alloy wheels.

It’s fair to say that the classic Bentley styling has been successfully translated into an SUV shape with the Bentayga. It’s instantly recognisable as one of the brand’s cars, particularly thanks to the front-end design. This refresh has only helped things further, with the oval-shaped rear lights, in particular, giving the Bentayga a sleeker appearance.

It’s certainly not a car for shrinking violets, mind you, as its big, imposing styling is hard to miss wherever it goes. That said, in classier dark shades like green and red, the Bentayga can toe the line between over-the-top and understated nicely.

Sitting in the cabin of the Bentayga you’re able to appreciate the level of craftsmanship that Bentley offers. It feels like a noticeable improvement on the old Bentayga, too, with the new screen giving the Bentayga a far more futuristic feel inside. That said, the basics are covered off nicely; the seats are well-padded and comfortable while the seating position offers plenty of adjustability. Those in the rear of the car are well catered for in terms of leg and headroom, so you’re not going to feel short-changed by sitting in the back.

In terms of boot space, five-seater Bentayga models bring 484 litres of load area while four-seater versions bring a slightly smaller area of 392 litres.

As we’ve already alluded to, it’s the Bentayga’s on-board technology that has made a real jump. So we’ve now got a crystal-clear 10.9-inch touchscreen display in the middle which runs the latest software to make it quicker to function. There’s also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to make mirroring your smartphone on the display easier. The basic operation of the system is easy enough though not the most intuitive available today. That said, it’s quick and responsive.

This revised Bentayga succeeds in showing just why it’s proving so popular. The fundamentals remain unchanged; it’s still great to drive, effortless over long distances and supremely comfortable for both driver and passengers. The V8 engine continues to be a great fit for the Bentayga too – though we reckon many buyers will be tempted by the new plug-in hybrid.

With these small but important improvements, we can only see the Bentayga’s popularity being extended even further.

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