Now that it's 2023, this story from September 2022 is relevant. At least, that is, for our multi-millionaire friends. It's roughly about luxury seating, long-leggedness and Vancouver bear scat. To read the edited, published version, visit the Auto section.
One’s First Drive: The 2023 Bentley Bentayga Extended Wheelbase
The good news is you can almost host your own debutant ball in its rear seating area. The potentially bad news is, if your current Bentayga only just fits in your perlato sicilia marble garage, the help will need to lengthen it by 180mm. That extended wheelbase (EWB) didn’t subtract any space from the original Bentayga’s boot. The upside? There’s still room in the trunk for obstreperous employees and several weeks’ luggage.
The weird news is our Bentley hosts seem obsessed with the idea that southern British Columbia is rife with bears — to the point that our jaw-droppingly beautiful first drive up the Sea to Sky Highway and beyond becomes a bit of a tracking adventure. Which we’ll get to soon.
First, back to your debutante ball: seating is limited. The new EWB, at least in this initial public offering, comes with either 5 seats, 4 seats, or 4 + 1 seats. That 3rd option sounds like 5 but it and the 4-seater contain what our hosts call Airline Seats. No, they’re not like AC Economy Class where your chin rests on your knees. Quite the opposite. Picture something designed for Bond villains and Silicon Valley plutocrats. According to Bentley’s Director of Communications, Wayne Bruce — yes, that’s actually his name — it’s the most advanced seat ever fitted to a car, with 22 ways of adjustment, automatic climate sensing and postural adjustment. More below. It’s time to leave.
Our day began in the pinnacle trim Azure with the 4+1 combo in the back — though any trim would invoke envy in the neighbours and street gawkers. The Azure’s ride is softer than the regular Bentayga and features “the best experience especially for the rear passenger” says Bruce.
An extended length of 180mm should mean corners and tight areas are tougher to negotiate, forcing that 24-point turn England’s other legendary spy Austin Powers demonstrated in his first film. But the Bentayga’s all-wheel steering shortens your turning circle and sharpens maneuverability. In fact, Bruce says the EWB’s “turning circle is slightly smaller than the standard wheelbase car.” On the curvy highway exiting North Van, it handles well, attending to the turns like a devoted servant.
An extended wheelbase, in case you don’t follow automotive jargon as closely as the cricket, means greater distance between the front and rear wheels. That extra space ultimately means greater comfort in the back and a smoother ride. The flipside is that the feel of the road becomes distanced and the quality of the drive can be less exciting, like piloting a spa. Add to that the Bentley anti-roll system for extra stability and you have the world’s largest and most finely appointed cradle.
Lucky for us chauffeurs who still love to drive, Bentley’s engineers are on the scene — if somewhat contrarian in their use of ratings and values. Ahem: take the eight-cylinder engine beneath the bonnet (hood is such a thuggish word). It delivers peak torque of 770 Nm which translates to about 568 lb-ft, maximum power of 542 bhp which translates to 549.5 hp, and a top speed of 180 mph which translates to 290 km/h.
Those of us chauffeurs who want to continue driving didn’t challenge those peak values amid the peaks and valleys of BC. But think about those numbers.
The Bentayga EWB’s kerb (which translates to curb) weight is 395.9 stone. OK, that accurate last fact is our revenge for the previous necessary translations. In the new money, the EWB weighs 5,542 lbs which translates to 2,514 kg.
The actual point? No matter how you measure it, this car is heavy. Yet it can leap from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds. This is an SUV with the looks and amenities of a superyacht but the soul of a rocket. Bravo!
On the occasions during our day of test driving when the surrounding canyons were so steep our phones lost service, my drive partner (an Irish chap but genial enough) and I stomped on the brazenly polished accelerator and let that English lion roar, unleashing many tins’ worth of whoop-posterior.
Indeed, the experience demands adjectives we can’t afford here unless the pound drops even further, but they probably wouldn’t outdo a simple ‘WOW!’ Hence the soon-to-happen English expression, a beast in your bonnet.
Why one would ever take this rolling Savoy hotel off-roadin’ I don’t know, but one can. Part of our drive included the wild grounds of the Olympic Park outside of Whistler where we shifted into trail mode and followed a local guide up dirt tracks in a fancy convoy.
Equipping our Bentaygas with walkie-talkies, the guide pointed out scratches on trees where bears had been — plus scat which looked like mud. The Canadians on the drive were baffled by the fuss.
Later: I can confirm that this day was the only time I’ve preferred to be in the back seats in years — including the Lincoln that Matthew McConaughey favoured from rear row. Available fluted leather seats provide the sort of comfort you imagined as a child when you first heard about the many mattresses in The Princess and the Pea.
Speaking of seats and fairy tales, the EWB Airline seats boast a wellness function that detects whether your body is too cool or too warm — temperature and humidity — then adjusts, cossetting you in your chosen Goldilocks just-right state. Moreover, after you’ve spent a while in that passive position, it automatically and gently massages you so your blood doesn’t pool, dormant. Again, wow.
(Watch this publication for further explanation, coming soon in an article about some of the Bentayga EWB’s OTT features.)
All of which begs these questions: is the Bentayga EWB good value and does it stand up to the competition? Well it depends on how many zeroes populate your annual tax return, and what you’ve driven in the past.
That is, once you go Bentley, Rolls Royce, Mercedes-Benz or Range Rover, you’re likely to stay with that first choice. However, for the Bentley-curious luxury hunters: true to its name, the Bentayga EWB has longer legroom than the long wheelbase Range Rover and the Rolls Royce Cullinan, yet the EWB’s overall length is 30mm shorter than the Cullinan.
See above re squeezing it into your garage!