Loftier luxe: Refreshed Bentley Bentayga raises bar in SUV opulence

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THERE WAS a time when the SUV was a segment ultra-premium brands dared not touch with their velvet-gloved hands. Maybe it felt too much like getting their hands dirty with utilitarian ethos. After all, it’s called a utility vehicle, for crying out loud.

Those days must seem so far away now. Show me a luxe brand without an SUV and I’ll show you a missed opportunity. Thing is, it appears that a love for SUV or crossovers is a universal phenomenon that cuts across demographics. When one in three vehicles sold is a crossover, it behooves you to cover that base.

First presented as a concept car called the EXP 9 F at the 2012 staging of the Geneva Motor Show, what would eventually be the Bentayga was first revealed in 2015 (with a 2016 model year). It had been named after the Roque Bentayga in Gran Canaria of the subtropical Canary Island, and also the Taiga snow forest of the northern hemisphere. After more than 20,000 handcrafted units sold, who could fault Bentley for the Bentayga?

Now it’s time for a refresh, and Bentley has done just that. Launched live online at 5 p.m. last June 30 in the UK (midnight of July 1 here), the new (not yet all-new) iteration of Bentley’s SUV is also the first car launched under Bentley’s “Beyond100” business plan.

It banners a new exterior styling, which is said to adopt “the Bentley design DNA now prevalent across the entire model range, giving Bentley the freshest and most modern product family of any luxury car company,” according to a release. Bentley has also given the vehicle new technology “and an even more cosseting cabin.”

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Bentley pointed that its top-selling model combines “the abilities of a performance grand tourer, a luxury limousine, a spacious family car and an off-roader, (and) the new Bentayga follows its predecessor’s mantle of having the broadest brief of any car on sale today.”

Averred Bentley Motors Chairman and Chief Executive Adrian Hallmark: “From its moment of launch nearly five years ago, the Bentayga has been the very definition of the luxury SUV. Like the Continental GT, the Bentayga created an entirely new part of the market, and since we set the benchmark many others have joined the sector, but no other car can offer a breadth of ability to rival the Bentayga.”

He added that the changes in the vehicle is a result of listening to what Bentley customers (up to 70% of whom were new to the brand) want and making improvements “to the areas most important to them.” These areas were “exterior presence, infotainment system and rear seat package.”

As mentioned, the new Bentayga now fits in more nicely with the Bentley line’s design language. This was, according to the company, introduced by the third-generation Continental GT and all-new Flying Spur. “Together, the three cars form a new family that are more visually connected than ever before. The bold styling offers an imposing road presence, with every panel at the front of the car redesigned for a cleaner, modern look.”

The matrix grille has been made larger and more upright, while the new, intelligent matrix headlight features a Bentley design inspired by cut crystal glassware. “A more aggressive front bumper emphasizes the performance characteristics of the car. Heated, wet-arm windscreen wipers are introduced for the first time, with 22 washer jets in each arm.” Yes, 22 washer jets.

At the rear, it gets a new full-width tailgate with new encapsulated lamps, as the license plate has been pushed down to the bumper. It gets wide, split tailpipes suggestive of its powerful performance, while the rear track has been upped by 20 millimeters. The wheels are unique to the Bentayga.

Inside is a new center fascia and steering wheel, new door trims and all-new seats — now available with ventilation in the rear of the five-seat cabin option. Rear passengers also get more space of up to 100mm of legroom, depending on configuration.

On the handcrafted wing dashboard design is Bentley’s next-generation infotainment system with a 10.9-inch display screen and edge-to-edge graphics. “The all-new digital display includes super high-resolution and dynamic graphics which are configurable to suit driver preferences.

“The latest hardware and software bring all-new navigation with satellite maps, online search and other features. Wireless Apple CarPlay is standard for the first time, alongside the existing wired system, along with Android Auto (market dependent). Rear seat occupants benefit from the introduction of a new, larger touchscreen remote control tablet, similar to that introduced in the all-new Flying Spur.”

The UK car maker reported that the Bentayga now has USB-C data ports and a wireless phone charger as standard. Like new Continental GT models, the Bentayga gets an embedded SIM so that the My Bentley connected car features “no longer require customers to provide their own data connection.” The dedicated app, available on both Apple iOS and Android mobile platforms, is undergoing continuous development and refinement.

“The luxurious interior can be further enhanced with the application of dark tint diamond brushed aluminum trim for the first time in a Bentley, as well as two straight-grained veneers new to Bentayga: Koa and Crown Cut Walnut. Mulliner Driving Specification adds a new quilting design, and micro piping detailing is a new option for the seats.”

Initially available to power the new vehicle is a 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged petrol V8 engine putting forth 550ps and 770Nm. The plug-in hybrid and W12-powered Speed versions should follow this year.

PGA Cars, authorized Bentley distributor and service provider in the country, confirmed to “Velocity” that the new vehicle will make its way into the market soon. “It should be here by the third quarter, and discerning consumers for whom only the best will do can definitely place their reservations on this extraordinary luxury vehicle.”

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