2023 Bentley Bentayga Review: No Longer the Only Uber-Luxury SUV

Luxury SUVs existed before the Bentley Bentayga, but when the production model debuted in 2015 at the Frankfurt auto show, with a $229,000 price tag, it ushered in a new era of opulent all-wheel drive transportation. Since it has been followed into the fray by Lamborghini (on the same Volkswagen platform), Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin and soon Ferrari.

These uber SUVs, including the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, Ferrari Purosangue and the Bentayga, still offer powerful twelve-cylinder engines, in addition to the first-class airline-style seats, concert sound systems and capability over at least a medium amount of terrain.

The two-row Bentley Bentayga now offers a twin-turbocharged V8 and a hybrid V8 along with the twelve cylinder. The new Bentayga EWB (Extended Wheelbase) is only available with the twin-turbo V8 but adds extra space in the rear cabin.

That cabin, cavernous and with either 13 or 17 cubic feet of cargo space behind the seats, starts with Bentley's signature diamond-stitched, leather-wrapped seats. In the Bentayga they're heated, cooled and have a massage function. They have adjustments for almost every part of the seat including back and lower bolsters, headrest and under knee support. Over smooth roads, the cabin is pin-drop quiet.

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The dashboard features knurled chrome knobs for adjustments, and perforated, accent-stitched leather, and ambient lighting in any color to warm up the cabin. What Bentely does better than most is the tactile feel of the controls. Heavy-feeling climate and tuning knobs exhibit a satisfying "click" as the numbers change. The plastic buttons feel less expensive.

The 10.9-inch infotainment system looks great but is slower to react many less pricey vehicles. The Apple CarPlay screen is inset, which is useful allowing access to the native system functions, but the icons are small and hard to pinpoint when driving. Wireless smartphone integration is available and was easy to set up.

2023 Bentley Bentayga EWB First Edition

For 2023 Bentley introduced the extended wheelbase Bentayga with 7 extra inches of length. It can be had in five- or four-seat configurations. It's only available for the first 12 months production and comes with First Edition badging outside as well as special logos on the veneered fascia and embroidery on the seats. It has an option for handcrafted metal overlays just 0.075 millimeters thick applied to the fascia and doors.

The First Edition model (a $11,250 option box) also adds 22-inch, ten-spoke wheels and bright lower bumper grilles. The quilted seats, mood lighting, a heated steering wheel, and jeweled caps on the fuel and oil fillers are also standard. Doorjamb treadplates light up when the doors are opened (and mirror puddle lights come on when a driver walks up) while LED lights in 30 colors shine through perforations in the leather trim for a cool, sparkling effect. Premium sound with 1,720 watts of power over 20 speakers is also included. The optional Bentley Rear Entertainment system has 10.1-inch screens that can be streamed to from back seat passenger's phones.

2023 Bentley Bentayga EWB First Edition
The 2023 Bentley Bentayga EWB is filled with chrome knobs and leather trim. Bentley

Bentley notes that in addition to those included features customers can still choose from 16 standard exterior colors or more than 60 options through its Extended Paint Range.

On the road the Bentley is a serene drive, unless that drive includes rutted or potholed roads, in which case the ride is still smooth, but there are some noises from the suspension in the cabin. The 22-inch wheels hurt here, where less of the jolt (and audible report) is absorbed by the sidewall.

Drive modes for Comfort and Sport change up the steering effort, shift points and throttle sensitivity, and really change the character of the vehicle. Even with the V8, as opposed to the twelve-cylinder, downshifts are loud coming up to a stoplight and takeoffs are expectedly speedy. Upshifts from the eight-speed automatic are also seamless in Comfort mode and slightly more aggressive in Sport.

The twin-turbocharged V8 delivers 542 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque, enough to propel the Bentayga EWB to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds. It has a top speed of 180 miles per hour and everything about the powertrain works in harmony. If a driver wants to speed it up, they can put it in Sport mode and use the paddles to quickly shift through the gears. They can alternately put it in automatic and Comfort mode; even with a little suspension noise the Bentayga is still a cocoon.

2023 Bentley Bentayga EWB First Edition
The 2023 Bentley Bentayga EWB comes with LEDs in the doors panels. Bentley

The Touring Specification ($8,815) adds safety features like adaptive cruise, head-up display, lane assist night, vision and traffic assist, but it somehow still feels a step less advanced than many of its less expensive competition. The lane keeping wasn't as smooth as a Mercedes. The adaptive cruise left more space than required.

Sometimes luxury automakers get complacent with their power, comfort and interior tech, and leave the newest safety features by the wayside. If the Chevy Suburban can have hands free cruise control in Super Cruise, this Bentley should at least have perfect lane centering.

The new Airline Seat Specification ($11,195), with 22 ways of adjustment, allows the rear passengers to select their desired temperature from seven different levels, and the seat senses passenger temperature and humidity. It can then cool or warm the passenger automatically. Passengers can set their base level from -3 to +3.

Additionally, the seat makes micro posture adjustments while traveling to minimize fatigue. The company consulted with a chiropractor on 177 individual pressure changes over a three-hour drive.

2023 Bentley Bentayga EWB
The 2023 Bentley Bentayga EWB has a top speed of 180 mph. Bentley

The 2023 Bentley Bentayga competes above the Mercedes-Benz GLS, Audi Q7, BMW X7-level starting with the Bentayga Hybrid at $167,000. The non-hybrid V8 starts at $191,000 and the Bentayga S is $223,000.

The twelve-cylinder 2023 Bentley Bentayga Speed starts at $263,000, right near this EWB version with a price of $263,500. The First Edition option is $11,250. The four-seat layout with rear center console is $3,720.

Those prices seem eye watering, but it's right in line with the competition. For instance, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan starts at $341,500. The Lamborghini Urus is closer at $221,500 while the Aston Martin DBX comes in at $192,000. The soon-to-arrive Ferrari Purosangue will top them all with a price of $398,000.

Any of these SUVs will bring the speed supercar owners want along with the capability to go further than the road allows, but $200,000 is still a lot less than $400,000, even for those playing in this rarefied air. In that regard, the Bentayga might be the best deal, all things included, as long as a buyer can get past the tech. If that's a deal breaker, Cadillac has an Escalade, Mercedes-Benz has the GLS and BMW has the X7, all for about half the price of these luxury SUVs.