It’s not every day that we wake up to being greeted by a Bentley. The British luxury car maker has a 95-year-old reputation for providing impeccable luxuries in their vehicles, often tending towards pampering you worth every penny that you paid for. It is this that I woke up to on a rather extraordinary Monday morning, and went out on a drive.
The purpose was to find out the type of technology that resides in a car that enjoys such star status as the Bentley Bentayga. And find out, we did, while still marvelling at the ominous roar of the W12 engine every time we fired it up.
The infotainment system
As with every car we drive, we get straight to the central infotainment display and begin fidgeting around with every single tab that we can tap on. Then comes the range of services that are tucked neatly into the multifunction display in the instrument cluster, followed by all the controls around the steering column, and then we look around the rest of the car for all the tiny, unique elements about it.
The Bentley Bentayga does not really hide much of its features into tiny elements that you may never use. In fact, what makes this luxury SUV commendable is its simple layout of the buttons. On the central display, the firmware greets you with a host of eight icons that house all the bells and whistles of the Bentayga. These include, wireless and physical device connections, multimedia playback, exhaustive audio settings, vehicle dynamics, satellite-based navigation, and much more.
Unlike many infotainment systems that tuck in the radio and music player into a solitary tab, the Bentayga dedicates a solitary tab to the FM/AM modulator. You get a digital interface with 10 presets, laid out in an analogue format that falls in line with how the rest of the car is. You can easily switch between FM/AM modes, and use the chrome dial to the right of the display to sift through the channels.
Tapping on the next option, ‘Car’, brings us to what is the most elaborate of all options in the Bentayga’s infotainment software. This is the window to access almost every element of the car, most of which remains customisable. The five sub-tabs here are Vehicle Overview, a tyre pressure gauge, terrain information for off-roaders, assist systems and general settings. The vehicle overview gives a glimpse of your present suspension height, an assisted gauge that denotes ‘low’, ‘normal’ and ‘high’ riding heights and a driving mode gauge that tells you whether your car’s suspension, transmission and powertrain is balanced to be neutral, comfortable, performance-oriented, custom-configured, or chosen from one of the four Bentley driving modes that are customised for rocky, wet, snowy and sandy terrains.
The next sub-tab is a tyre info section that shows tyre pressure, and the size and type of the tyres - we had our Bentayga running on oversized 21-inch diamond-cut all season alloys. An interesting section here is the car’s computers gauges the current drive mode and the tyre in use to show the maximum speed at which it is ideal to drive with the present combination. For instance, with the 21-inch all seasons and in the very modest Comfort mode, our Bentayga was good to travel at up to 230kmph.
Moving on to terrain information, you get inclination data for both x and y axes, a digital compass, suspension height, driving mode, and mean height from sea level. All of these can be used by the driver to then gauge the terrain’s nature and make micro adjustments to the vehicle while off-roading. The penultimate sub-tab houses settings for the assist systems - a digital speed limiter, park distance control alert sound levels, Bentley Safeguard status (which gets deactivated in terrain modes), and more. The last tab houses settings for all peripherals about the car, including individual climate zones, seat configurations, lighting, sound, wireless connectivity, etc. Every setting here is explained briefly, and the neat list interface makes figuring out settings quite smooth, and going beyond the options, you also get service status reminders, including oil level checks, service status details and more.
The next tab is ‘Smartphone’, that shows options to enable Android Auto or Apple CarPlay when you connect your phone via USB. We didn’t really feel like using either here, as the native infotainment firmware was more elaborate and intriguing, and certainly in line with the car’s overall aesthetics. The 3D satellite-based navigation system offers similar rounded buttons and tabs for setting destinations, and only uses the touchscreen and voice to enter data. You also get a list of frequently travelled destinations, places of interest, alternate routes and map views, and an adaptive screen that adjusts its background lighting depending on the time.
The other options include Sound settings (something we’ll discuss in elaborate later), Source and Phone. Source simply allows you to select the mode of input for entertainment – ranging from Bluetooth, native HDD, USBs and aux. There is a fast charging USB port for all of the four seats in the car, making it quite comprehensive. Wireless connectivity is easy to activate, too.
Phone, meanwhile, works as intended, giving access to contacts, saved information and recent lists. All of these wrap up a fairly thorough infotainment system, affirming that while the Bentley Bentayga is pretty much the authority when it comes to luxury, it is no mean feat in its technology arsenal, too.
While the technology arsenal may come across as alright, the audio system catapults the Bentayga to its magnanimous status. The 20-speaker configuration, manufactured by British hi-fi audio manufacturer Naim, produces total audio power of 1920W, and includes a 300W sub-woofer, active bass transducers, a couple of “super tweeters” and superior spatial distribution of audio inside the car.
The overall audio balance is aided further by the supreme NVH insulation, which gives the Bentayga more theatricality in its audio. You get a wide range of equaliser settings to tweak the audio to your preference, and in what is the most impressive setting, has audio delivery settings that can tweak the primary source of sound to come from a particular point inside the vehicle.
In terms of performance, the Naim speakers truly make the Bentayga seem royal. The audio delivery is pristine and is among the best that we have ever heard inside a car. In fact, our guesses are that we might not hear rivalling audio quality in cars any time soon. The lows are tight, wholesome, warm, clear and suitably balanced. They hold their composure beautifully well across tracks with varying degrees of bass – from Porcupine Tree’s Trains, to Deep Purple’s Highway Star and even Jay Z’s Numb. The mid-frequency audio production is among the best we’ve heard – the mid range is bright, well detailed, has excellent clarity and is balanced to be prominent among the entire range. The highs are euphoric, and adds flourish to the overall audio performance.
The Naim speakers are exceptional in terms of their audio performance, and are mighty impressive. They add a fair bit to the overall experience, and we couldn't help but exclaim at how really, really good they sound. They're loud, and befit a car of the Bentayga’s stature.
The next piece of wizardry here is the seat adjustments. The Bentley Bentayga has 22-way adjustable front seats, including seat height, recline, distance, thigh and lumbar supports, and five patterns of rolling massages in varying intensities, all adjustable via either the infotainment system or the physical button panel to the side of each seat. You essentially get to adjust it to exactly the position you need to, and having a massaging seat while on long drives is incredibly beneficial.
The seats are also ventilated, and you get both seat heating and cooling in varying intensities. You also get electronic adjustments for the seat belt height, which releases or heightens tension depending on your preference. Alongside, you get two memory storage slots for each of the four seats, giving them complete customisability. Essentially, Bentley has thrown in every single adjustment to their seats, and the seats themselves are massive, capable enough of holding six-feet frames with ample thigh support, and pitch perfect lumbar and shoulder support. The comfort of the seats are epic, and while the two front seats get the best of the features, the rear seats get exactly as much.
Rear touchscreen remote
The rear seats can be optionally split into individual seats instead of bench seats to add more luxury. The central column to the front includes individual AC vents with temperature and air flow control. Alongside, the central column has a touchscreen remote to operate the multiple settings. You can see date, time, a digital speedometer, current driving mode, choose entertainment source, activate rear seat ventilation and massages, and even use the rear seat’s adjustment toggles for moving the front passenger seat forward. This gives the chauffeured passenger extensive control over the car’s settings, which is what most buyers of the Bentayga will be looking for.
The instrument cluster in the Bentley Bentayga includes electromechanical needles for the speedometer and tachometer, and a central digital panel that works as a mini representative of the central infotainment system. There are six tabs on it, displaying a digital speedometer, short and long trip meters, time/date, car notifications (washer fluid status, electronic assist status, etc.), music playback status, telephone contacts, 3D navigation and terrain information, all concentrated into the same screen.
Controls are placed symmetrically on the left and right forks of the three-pronged leather-wrapped steering wheel. The chrome Flying B at the centre exudes class, and the controls include chrome toggles to adjust volume (to the right fork) and MID settings (to the left fork), along with buttons to navigate settings on the MID, view notifications and features details, a customisable shortcut button (that can be assigned to one of five preset functions curated by Bentley), navigation voice assist, call reception/rejection and voice command.
This brings us to the dual tone leather upholstery of the Bentayga, which also uses generous veneer inserts to amplify the status of luxury. Right from the stitching of the leathers, to the customisable panels (you can even customise the colour of seat belts), the chrome paddle shifters, the analogue centrepiece watch, retro AC vents and controls, everything about the Bentayga is about giving you the best possible quality of interiors on four wheels. What adds to the Bentayga’s USP here is the customisability of the interiors, which allows buyers to customise every bit of leather, chrome, veneer and configurations depending on how much more than the base price you’re willing to spend. You also get three chrome-laden ashtrays inside the car, and every bit of leather is chosen with particular care to give the Bentayga an air of made-to-order exclusivity.
If you’re willing enough, there’s a lot to spend on.
The massive Bentley Bentayga continues its epic proportions here as well, including a 6.0-litre, W12 twin-turbo engine that produces 608 brake horsepower and 900Nm of torque. This is mated to an 8-speed transmission made by ZF, which splits the torque 60% to rear and 40% to front. You get eight drive modes including terrain settings, and despite the massive chassis, the Bentayga can accelerate to 100kmph in just 4.1 seconds.
The Bentayga can be freakishly fast on the highway, reaching up to over 220kmph and still not running out of steam. Rated top speed is 301kmph, and the pliant steering wheel adds versatility to how the SUV handles. The electromechanical steering wheel handles with nimble feet when in city, and weighs up when you hit the highway. This makes lane changing manoeuvres and tight corners quite easy to tackle, although at its lightest, you do feel a slight lack of connection. That, though, mostly concerns the perceptible weight, and in about six hours of driving the Bentayga, you do not feel disconnected at all.
There are also perceptible differences in the driving modes. The Bentley Bentayga applies intelligent techniques to adjust power delivery, transmission shifts, suspension balance and driving quality depending on the mode you choose. Particularly in off-reading tracks, you can lift the suspension to increase ground clearance, which makes a lot of difference when you take it to rocky terrain. The Bentayga is essentially a phenomenal highway performer, and practically outperforms every other SUV on a straight track, or even winding mountain terrain.
You can also urge the Bentayga to park itself, in parallel or perpendicular. It does struggle a bit with haphazardly parked cars, but does its own share of intelligent steering once you are in a neatly parked space.
The Bentley Bentayga is art on wheels, giving you the peace of your living room while arriving in style. It makes a statement, heads turn everywhere it goes, and you seldom see such fanfare as passers-by asking for permission to take selfies even in the posh Marine Drive area of Mumbai.
There's nothing that's really wrong here, and almost every element in the Bentayga has a touch of exuberant class about it. You will take a massive hit in terms of fuel economy (we drew a best of 6kmpl), and the wide dimensions mean it is a bit of a paranoia-driven roller coaster in narrow, busy Mumbai streets.
But then, it is meant to prance free down highways. The Bentley Bentayga, to sum up, is the epitome of luxury, something that defies the need for cutting edge technology by relying on old school mechanics while giving a positive nod to everything that's new.