Autocar’s first experience of the new and heavily revised Bentley Bentayga gives a good impression of the level of disruption the Covid-19 pandemic has inflicted on the very top of the car industry.
We drove the car in South Africa back in early February, with the plan being for it to accompany a story that would coincide with the car’s official unveiling in April. But then the coronocrisis struck, which is why you’re only reading about this story now – and why you’re not seeing masks or social distancing in the pictures.
The Bentayga has been a resounding hit for Bentley, representing 45% of the brand’s global production last year. For much of its life, it had its segment to itself, but the arrival of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, Lamborghini Urus and (soon) Aston Martin DBX means its case is being sharpened by a sizeable mid-life facelift.
At the front, it gets a broader radiator grille and ‘cut-glass’ elliptical LED headlights inspired by those of the Continental GT and Flying Spur, changes intended to move the car’s visual mass lower. The rear has bigger changes, with a new full-width wrap-around tailgate flanked with oval lights and the numberplate moved downwards. (The outgoing car’s lights were split by a smaller boot aperture.)
Changes in the cabin are less obvious, with many of them intended to improve usability. The most significant difference is the arrival of a larger and higher-resolution 10.9in dashboard touchscreen, which is backed up by smarter and faster hardware that now supports wireless Apple CarPlay integration. As vehicle line director Chris Cole put it as we drove the prototype in South Africa: “We can’t really justify not offering something you can get in a Golf.” Revised seats have also increased passenger space.
Powertrain choice is set to decline in the UK, with confirmation that the familiar W12 engine that powered the Speed version will no longer be offered in Europe, although it will continue in some other territories. In the UK, the new Bentayga will be launched with the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, which produces the same 542bhp and 568lb ft as in the outgoing car. A development of the existing plug-in hybrid will follow, powered by a 3.0-litre V6, which the company promises will be the most fuel-efficient Bentley yet.
Other mechanical changes are limited, with the most substantial being a 20mm increase in rear track, intended to improve the linearity of responses between front and rear and accompanied by some subtle tweaking of control system settings.