Bentley Bentayga Extended Wheelbase First Drive Review : Extended Play

Vancouver, Canada - When Bentley released the Bentayga, its first-ever luxury SUV back in 2015, it really did not seem to be in want of more space.

Yet here we are today, at the launch of the 180mm-longer Bentayga Extended Wheelbase (or EWB for short, no we're kidding, it most assuredly isn't short!)

It may not look it, but the new Bentayga EWB features 2500 new parts and took a 9-digit investment to bring it to fruition.

At 5.3m in length, the EWB is a rather long SUV, but thanks to the adoption of rear-wheel steer, has its turning circle reduced by 60cm (from 12.4m to 11.8m).

Not only does this endow the EWB with the 'tight-confines manoeuvrability' of a shorter-wheelbase car, rear-steer also confers better stability and agility to the luxury posh-roader.

At the heart of the Bentayga EWB is the familiar twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 with cylinder deactivation.

It is mated to an 8spd ZF auto transmission that sends the drive to a permanent all-wheel-drive system with a central torsen differential and rear e-differential.

From standstill, the 550hp / 770Nm Bentayga EWB is no slouch and it'll blast briskly to 100km/h in just 4.6secs (a negligible 0.1secs slower than the standard Bentayga V8).

The V8 boasts a sportier soundtrack than the W12 and we can appreciate a muted V8 overture to accompany the acceleration.

Our planned route out of Vancouver takes us to the Whistler mountain resort and the Bentayga EWB is simply superb on this undemanding stretch of Highway 99.

In the 'Bentley' driving mode (marked by the 'B'), the balance between driving pleasure and ride comfort is superbly judged.

We've found that this 'Goldilocks' mode, which started with the current Continental GT and is available across all the models, is a perfect all-rounder to cope with a diverse range of driving conditions.

On this well paved highway, switching to Comfort mode barely improves ride but penalises driving connection.

Conversely, selecting Sport penalises comfort for nary any benefit in the steering or handling, which leaves the Bentley 'B' mode the best choice.

But when the road becomes choppy, comfort mode really quells the ride and affords astonishing serenity to onward progress.

Any reduction in driver connection is really a moot point on these uneven roads and some might say, for such a vehicle like the EWB in the first place, given its role as plus-sized plush-roader.

However, on smooth, meandering parts of the highway especially north of Whistler, toward our second destination at Seton Lake, Sport mode proves to be better than 'B' mode, offering better body control and feeling more positive at the helm.

With two and a half tonnes of weight to sling around it is not sportscar material by any stretch of the imagination but neither was it ever meant to be.

However given the gargantuan size and mass, the Bentayga EWB is surprisingly agile, helped no doubt by the rear-wheel steer system which promotes agility, reduces understeer in tight turns and adds stability during cruising.

The added length only pertains to the rear cabin, leaving the rest of the body untouched. With the stretched rear cabin area, the Bentayga EWB looks better proportioned as it gains a sleeker profile.

Other distinguishing features are the new vertical vane front grille, new-design 22-inch alloy wheels and a panoramic sunroof, which is repositioned a little further aft in the roof panel.

Given the added cabin length and the 22-way adjustable rear seats, Bentley offers a new party trick called the Airline Seat Specification, which bolsters the usual features that follow having generous legroom.

It is not applied to both rear seats but only for the seat diagonally behind the driver’s seat, because it requires that the front passenger seat be pushed all the way forwards in conjunction with the reclining of the rear seats. The rear seat behind the driver can only recline.

It is more than just a gimmick as the added comfort lulls whoever is in it to sleep thanks to the tuning of the ride comfort that the EWB offers.

Often rear ride comfort is overlooked but Bentley clearly has expended effort to ensure the rear ride quality is commensurate with its billing.

Apart from the 2+2 layout, various rear seat configurations are offered, including a 5-seat and 4+1. However, only the 4 and 4+1 configurations can be specified with the 'Airline Seat'.

Additionally, there is a new quilting pattern to choose from for the leather upholstery and the stylists have devised a new feature called trans-illuminated leather finishing to further widen an already mind-boggling array of choices for finishing and upholstery.

Now, coming back to the first question as to why introduce the Bentayga EWB, we can now see its raison d'être.

The newfound spaciousness and accompanying feature-set for the rear cabin gives it a sense of grandeur that did not grace the original Bentayga.

Moreover the stretched styling improves the appearance of the Bentayga, especially in silhouette.

With practically no penalty to its performance, the Bentayga EWB gains a good lift in drive experience, as it blends comfort and handling in a manner befitting the Bentley name.

The added agility and positivity at the helm makes it genuinely difficult to decide whether to drive or be driven in this Bentayga.

In short, this EWB version should have been the Bentayga from the outset.

STORY Gigi Erdna
PHOTOS Bentley

Bentley Bentayga Extended Wheelbase

Engine 3996cc, V8, twin-turbo
Power / rpm 550hp / 6000rpm
Torque / rpm 770Nm / 2000-4500rpm
Transmission 8spd auto
0-100km/h 4.6secs
Top Speed 290km/h
Fuel Consumption TBA

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