That’s a Stretch: We Drive Bentley’s New and Extended Bentayga
As those familiar with the county of Cheshire, in north-west England, will no doubt be aware, Crewe is not known for its luxury. A dilapidated high street and a dirty train station sit alongside a fourth-tier football club better known for producing Premier League stars than for beating them. But while Crewe Alexandra FC might have known better days, one of Crewe’s other residents is flourishing. Just across town from Crewe’s Gresty Road stadium, the Bentley factory at Pyms Lane is producing some of the best luxury cars on the planet.
The new Bentayga Extended Wheelbase (EWB, for short) is one such car, but it isn’t exactly the kind of car for which Bentley gained its notoriety. The desirable British brand is known for its limousines and grand tourers, not its 4x4s, but the fact remains that the Bentayga SUV is among the company’s best-selling models. So this stretched version is designed to mix the attributes of an SUV, a limo and a GT car, all in one enormous vehicle.
And the EWB is certainly big. From the front or back, it looks exactly the same size as any other Bentayga, and it does indeed share height and width with the smaller car. But as the name suggests, the EWB is considerably longer than the car that spawned it. A whole 18cm, in fact. All of that length can be found behind the front seats, so the only obvious difference between the standard Bentayga and its overgrown sister is the length of the rear doors. Even so, we’d challenge most onlookers to tell the difference without seeing the two cars side-by-side.
Slide into the back seats, however, and you’ll certainly notice the difference. For starters, the back door can be operated electrically – a first in a Bentley product – for more dignified access and egress, but the most striking thing is the space. A standard Bentayga is hardly cramped, but the EWB has an extra 18cm of legroom for passengers to stretch out in, and that’s certainly easy enough. Even the tallest passengers won’t be short on space.
They should be comfortable, too, because the EWB has the same luxury features and attention to detail that help to make the ‘normal’ Bentayga so good. Everywhere you look, soft materials cosset you in an ultra-opulent cocoon, and the latest technology ensures you remain comfortable and entertained.
This is particularly true if you opt for the high-tech Airline Seats, which are now available on numerous models in the Bentley range. Using sensors to monitor your body position, the Airline Seats can adjust to ensure your body remains comfortable and supported throughout your journey.
The seats can even monitor your temperature and adjust their heating and cooling systems accordingly, and that’s before we come to the range of adjustment. Not only can the seats slide and recline, but the little detachable tablet in the centre console allows passengers to move the front passenger seat fore and aft, freeing up even more legroom if needed.
But while all this is very good news for those in the back, there’s good news for those in the driver’s seat, too, because the EWB is a staggeringly good car to drive. Bentley has fitted four-wheel steering to make up for the extra length, and that means the EWB’s turning circle is smaller than that of the standard car. And while that’s clearly helpful around town, it also means the car is more agile and more stable at speed and in corners.
Pop it in Sport mode and the results are little short of astounding. The car seems to tense up and become a proper sports SUV, albeit one the size of a pick-up truck. It can’t quite hide that weight and bulk, but it does a great job of controlling it, ensuring the body doesn’t roll too much and the nose doesn’t dive dramatically under braking. There’s also a huge amount of grip and quite precise steering, which means you can corner at unbelievable speeds. We’d stop short of calling it better than the standard Bentayga, but it’s just as good.
Flip the mode selector wheel further to the right and you find the Bentayga EWB is capable off-road, too. With special settings allowing you to set the all-wheel-drive system, traction control and throttle response to suit various surfaces, the EWB will make more than adequate progress across most terrain. It’s certainly more capable than most customers will ever ask it to be.
If there’s a catch, it’s the ride comfort. A big Bentley limo ought to waft you from A to B, but the Bentayga isn’t quite that smooth, even in Comfort mode. That just makes the car feel a little slack and loose in corners, while failing to eliminate some fidget in the rear of the car. You’d never call it uncomfortable, but it isn’t quite as unflustered as you might like. In truth, it’s better in it’s supposedly more balanced ‘B’ mode, which at least makes it feel wooshy and relaxing at high speeds.
Part of the reason for that effortlessness is the engine. It’s the same 4.0-litre V8 you get in the ‘standard’ Bentayga, and it pumps out the same 550hp. That’s fed through the same eight-speed automatic gearbox and the same all-wheel-drive system, but although the EWB is roughly 100kg heavier than its shorter sister, it doesn’t feel it. The figures don’t suggest it, either, with the EWB adding just a tenth to the standard-wheelbase Bentayga’s 0-100km/h time of 4.5 seconds and leaving the 180mph top speed unchanged.
But as well as being powerful, the V8 is also refined. It produces a muted woofle at start-up and it burbles a bit at idle, but otherwise you don’t hear it until you put your foot down. Then the EWB snarls like a muscle car, popping and crackling in gear changes and increasing the figures on the speedo with consummate ease. But when you just want to waft about in comfort, the engine remains almost silent.
That is why the EWB is so brilliant. Yes, it might be more expensive than the standard car (to the tune of around £50,000), and if you aren’t going to use the rear space then it’s probably not worth the extra money. But if you’re even going to use the back seats occasionally, the EWB is brilliant. Somehow, Bentley has managed to take its do-anything car and make it do even more. That takes quite some doing.