“Owners may never drive these vehicles off road,” said engineering director Rolf Frech, “but they must know it will perform in tough conditions.”
Frech devised a million-mile test regime, the toughest yet for a Bentley, taking prototypes to five continents in the most difficult conditions “to ensure unwavering performance”.
Body and chassis
The car’s original shape was heavily revised after a different concept, shown at the 2012 Geneva show, failed to win the approval of show-goers and management at the Volkswagen Group, of which Bentley is a part.
Today’s Bentayga is lower and more ‘Bentley-like’ but is still 5.14 metres long, with a wheelbase of nearly three metres. It is slightly longer than a long-wheelbase Range Rover, but the roof is about 60mm lower - a move, designers say, that helps maintain the Bentley sporting character. The styling comparison they prefer is with the sleek Porsche Cayenne rather than the tall Range Rover.
The Bentayga uses an iteration of the VW Group’s new MLB-Evo platform for large vehicles that has already been used for Audi’s new Q7 and is coming soon in an all-new Cayenne.
Construction is described as aluminium-intensive (the Bentayga’s bodyside is the industry’s largest single aluminium pressing), but materials are a mix of aluminium, steel and composites, according to function.
The Bentayga has an all-new computer-controlled air spring system whose ride height, damping, roll control, stability, hill descent and traction are all controlled by the driver from a console-mounted rotary control. There are four selectable on-road modes and four for off-road driving.
One innovative feature is a quick-acting, 48V anti-roll system that can rapidly vary the car’s body roll control, front and rear, according to conditions. It provides both stability in hard cornering and a relaxed ride on the motorway.
The Bentayga is the first Bentley to take towing seriously. A trailer assist feature allows a driver to select a desired articulation angle between car and trailer and maintain it when reversing. A stability system applies the brakes selectively if the trailer starts to sway dangerously on the move, also cutting engine torque if necessary.
The steering is a new electrically assisted system with a variable rack and pinion, higher geared at the extremities to allow quick low-speed manoeuvring.
There’s also an electronic differential lock that uses the brakes to mimic a locked diff to tame wheelspin.
Engine and transmission
At launch, the Bentayga’s only engine offering will be a completely redesigned twin-turbocharged petrol W12 engine, claimed both to improve efficiency by 11.9% and reduce weight by 30kg.
Crewe is proud of its status as the VW Group’s centre of excellence for 12-cylinder engines and has worked hard to make the new engine (which will be used by selected Audis and VWs) more compact than its predecessor. The new W12 is 24% shorter than a V12 would be, Bentley claims, a great aid to packaging.
The new W12, which is mounted north-south in the nose, packs 600bhp at 6000rpm and 663lb ft of torque between 1250rpm and 4500rpm. It drives through an eight-speed, paddle-shift ZF automatic to a four-wheel drive system featuring a Torsen centre differential.