Bentley’s first-ever luxury SUV, the Bentayga, was released in 2015. Even back then, Bentley realised that there was a slow decline in luxury limousine sales, hence the decision to buy into the rising SUV market in keeping up with the momentum. The move by Bentley in replacing their flagship luxury limousine with an SUV model caught many by surprise. It was not until the Bentayga EWB that they decided to position the SUV as Mulsanne’s replacement in order to satisfy the high expectations of their customers.
We first met the Bentayga EWB in Vancouver at the international media launch of the luxury SUV. For the uninitiated, EWB stands for “extended wheelbase”, a suggestive initialism that reflects the 180mm added to the Bentayga’s wheelbase. The car is built at a lengthy 5.3-metres. And paired with the extended wheelbase that finds its way to the back cabin area, the SUV is substantially more spacious while sporting better proportioning and a highly aesthetic appeal.
The EWB edition also features a redesigned front grille with vertical vanes and a panoramic sunroof moved further aft for the benefit of the rear occupants. The 22-inch wheels have also been restyled to further blend with the overall styling of the lengthened Bentayga. Despite the voluminous size of the Bentayga EWB, its turning circle is a mere 12-metres radius. Factoring in the rear steer system together with the extended wheelbase, this is one SUV accorded with added stability whilst boasting agility when being driven around.
However, we were saddened that there won’t be a W12 specification featured in the Bentayga EWB this time round. As you may recall, Bentley announced earlier this year that the Flying Spur Speed will be the last variant to adopt the W12 engine. But in its place, the equally excellent 4.0-litre V8 with 550 PS does well in driving the 2514 kg SUV forward with an imperceptible 0.1 second deficit in its century sprint of just 4.6 seconds. With a top speed of 290 km/h, the overall performance is still commendable given that the aerodynamics of the vehicle are not particularly spectacular.
The 180mm extension is not solely for the purpose of handling or styling, but instead to also improve the accommodation of the rear cabin. The generous cabin length of the new Bentley features 22-way adjustable rear seats, creating a new party trick of sorts termed as the “airline seat specification.” For safety reasons, only the rear seat diagonal to the driver’s seat is fitted with this system as it requires for the front passenger seat to be pushed all the way forwards to provide for that extra legroom.
If kicking your feet up and reclining the backseat isn’t enough to put you to sleep, the wonders of the EWB’s suspension together with the noiseless cabin will certainly work their magic in soothing your mind as you cruise a monotonous drive on the highway. After all, Bentley’s focus is always on providing its passengers with a comfortable ride no matter if you’re in the driver seat or the cushy rear seat of the SUV.
On the way out of Vancouver, we had a well-paved highway all the way to the resort town of Whistler. There was no discernable difference in ride comfort between ‘Comfort’ or ‘Bentley’ modes. Though personally, I still preferred the Bentley mode simply because it wrought enough chassis control to make the drive interesting.
Nonetheless, on some bumpy stretches, ‘Comfort’ mode did show its mettle in smoothening the ride where the ‘Bentley’ mode fell short. ‘Sport’ mode did bring more chassis control, but of course, this was at the expense of ride comfort. We tried this mode on the stretch of highway between Whistler mountain and Seton lake where the road was more sinuous, and the result was a more controlled ride with ‘Sports’ mode taking greater authority of the SUV’s body mass when it was driven hard.
For such a relatively huge luxury SUV, the Bentayga EWB is surprisingly engaging to drive, possessing an excellent blend of comfort and handling. It seems a shame to let the chauffeur have all the fun driving the Bentayga EWB, but then again being seated in the rear has never been so compelling.