Ride and handling
Bentley’s engineers have tried hard to hide the Bentayga’s considerable mass, but in the final reckoning you can’t cheat physics, not matter how hard you try. That’s not to say the big off-roader isn’t composed and competent, but it certainly doesn’t put the Sports into Sports Utility Vehicle.
The Bentayga shares the basic chassis architecture as the Audi Q7, which means it gets the same anti-roll system. Powered by 48 Volt electrics, this set-up essentially tautens the anti-roll bars in a fraction of second, helping keep the Bentley on a surprisingly even keel through a series of corners. There’s surprising grip, too, and the Bentayga clings on with greater tenacity than you’d think possible for a car weighing the best part of three tons. Direct and accurate steering helps place the car, even if feedback is in limited supply.
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As you’d expect, there’s a raft of driver modes to choose from - Comfort, Bentley, Sport and Individual, plus another four off-road settings. ‘Bentley’ is the default setting and aims to strike the right balance between comfort and agility. On the whole it’s well judged, the air suspension soaking up big bumps and pummelling the smaller stuff into submission. Selecting Sport tautens the dampers a little without damaging ride quality, but the changes are so small that it’s best to leave it to its own devices in Bentley.
Drive briskly and the Bentayga feels decently planted, but up the pace a little and it starts to unravel a little. Body movements are kept in check better than you’d think, but it’s the brakes that suffer the most. Not only are they tasked with slowing the hefty Bentley, they’re also working hard as part of the torque vectoring system, constantly nibbling away to keep the Bentayga’s nose locked as faithfully as possible onto you chosen line. However, it doesn’t take many corners before the effort involved in keeping the Bentley pointing where you want takes its toll on the braking performance.
As a result, it’s best to take it a little easier and rely on the old tried and tested technique of slow in and fast out. Driven with this sort of decorum, you can make impressively rapid progress as you make the most of the combination of the engine’s explosive performance and four-wheel drive traction.
Speaking of all-wheel drive, the Bentley will head far further off-road than most owners will probably ever dare go. The air suspension can be raised for greater ground clearance, the various driver modes deliver grip where you’d expect slip and there’s even hill descent control. Whether you’d want to risk those 21-inch rims in the rough stuff is an entirely different matter….