The Bentley Bentayga, in making the Range Rover seem cheap, invented the luxury SUV sector in 2015. Since then, it’s become the best-selling Bentley by far, and the inspiration for a select group of rivals including the Lamborghini Urus and Rolls-Royce Cullinan. But the well-heralded 2020 arrival of another one, arch-rival Aston Martin’s DBX, has seen Bentley get its response in early. Here’s the heavily revised 2020 Bentayga.
Although more than 20,000 customers clearly disagree, there are some who have been quite rude about the Bentayga’s design. The revised car aims to address this, with every panel in front of the windscreen redesigned, highlights being the more upright grille, sportier bumper and cut-glass LED headlights. It’s all-new at the rear too, with a full-width tailgate gaining lovely oval lamps.
Inside, this is a big car (longer than a DBX, surprisingly) that some felt not quite big enough in the back. So, Bentley has redesigned the seats, creating more legroom, and also offers an indulgent four-seat option. It’s indulgent in the front too, with an overhauled, more hand-crafted dashboard and a brilliant new infotainment system.
The 2020 Bentayga launches in a single V8 version. The W12 Speed is coming, and there will also be a hybrid on the way (but a repeat of the diesel is unlikely, for obvious diesel-demonising reasons). With the Aston Martin DBX now rolling off the production lines, we spent 24 hours in a new Bentley Bentayga V8 to see how this big British SUV battle is likely to fare.
Driving the 2020 Bentley Bentayga
The latest Bentayga still has the somewhat heavy-handed creases in the side panels – fixing those would be formidably expensive – but overall, thanks to the new front and rear designs, it does look more dignified. The bigger grille makes the old car’s nose look pinched. The beautiful headlights are works of art, and the rear end is immeasurably better. It’s a facelift that won’t pass you by unnoticed.
The interior has the wow factor too, mainly because it feels so rich and luxurious. The materials are as indulgent as ever, but the layout has been simplified thanks to the all-new 10.9-inch central touchscreen. It now looks less like a Volkswagen hand-me-down and a genuine high-end system, complete with tactile buttons and a brilliant high-resolution display.
With wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the interior isn’t cluttered by trailing cables, but the stock system is a smart enough experience for smartphone mirroring not to be the default. The array of buttons and chrome-dipped knobs below all have a lovely click, and the crowning glory is a new piece of clock-embedded air vent art on the top.
The deeply-bolstered new seats are as comfy as the old ones, although the driving position does still feel a little ‘short’, with the pedals positioned in a slightly more sit-up way (dare I say van-like?) than the sportily-stretched DBX. Immediately obvious is the extra rear seat space, which is now as lavish as you’d expect, and the little multi-function tablet screen that controls essentials such as heated seats and climate control is a talking point.
The view down the bonnet, central spine prominent, is feel-good. So too is the 4.0-litre V8 beneath. It sounds good from the moment it starts and its rich, creamy nature makes it yet another great modern V8 that we should enjoy while we can. It’s an engine that’s proud to be a V8, with all the character you could ever want. Oh, and I love how the exhausts gently throb at tickover, like an American muscle car.
Two turbos give it an effortless feel and ample acceleration despite it weighing nearly 2.5 tonnes. The eight-speed automatic is lush, although sometimes it can be slow to change down, which dulls on-the-move surge until it does. When revved through, though, boy, does the Bentayga shift. It’s at its best above 4,000rpm, where it has indecent effervescence and a naughty, rather NASCAR engine note.
Surprisingly, I was rather disappointed with the rest of the drive at first. The ride felt a bit too knobbly, the steering nervous, and the Bentayga showed a surprising tendency to tramline and chatter on even smooth-looking roads. I couldn’t get comfortable and relax with the steering, and the ‘bitty’ feel didn’t seem particularly luxurious. At least it magically didn’t roll or lean other through corners.
It wasn’t for a few miles that I realised the problem. The central drive mode controller was in ‘B’ mode – B for Bentley, which apparently sets everything up as the engineers prefer it. They’re clearly better drivers than me: I flicked it to Comfort and everything was immediately better. Steering was looser, the ride breathed, and it all felt less nervous and more luxurious. The ride still thudded at times, but that’s inevitable with wheels this big.
The Bentayga now had the high-end feel to match its interior materials and ambience. There’s a layer of luxury apparent throughout, from the feel of the steering wheel to the UX of the infotainment system. It feels big and commanding too, with the go-anywhere confidence of all large SUVs; it’s easy to imagine owners using this as their go-to daily.
It’s less convincing as a sports SUV, and can’t replicate the incomprehensible switch from luxury to trackday warrior that the DBX offers. Bentley will need a new vehicle architecture for that, one less rooted to a £50k Volkswagen Touareg and more custom-built and bespoke. But as a pleasingly luxurious drive, it still convinces. It’s easy to see why more than 20,000 people have been won over.
Verdict: 2020 Bentley Bentayga
The latest Bentley Bentayga is a prettier, more bespoke machine than before, with an even nicer interior and enhanced practicality to back up its SUV credentials. It’s ultimately bettered by the Aston Martin DBX, which provides a route map for the development path needed for the next-generation Bentayga. But as a well-rounded update to make the most of what it has at the moment, Bentley’s done a fine job.
It certainly gives plenty for owners of the pre-facelift model plenty to justify a repeat purchase come trade-in time.
2020 Bentley Bentayga specs
- Price: £146,700
- Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8
- Power: 550 hp
- Torque: 568 lb ft
- Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
- 0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
- Top speed: 180 mph
- Fuel economy: 21.2 mpg
- CO2: 302 g/km
- Weight: 2,416 kg
- Length / width / height: 5,125 / 1,998 / 1,742 mm
- Boot capacity: 484 litres