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For the first time, Crewe’s most extravagant offering is an SUV. Does it stack up?

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The Bentley Bentayga EWB – all 5.3m, 2.6 tonnes and, in top-billing Mulliner specification tested here, almost £260,000 of it – represents not only a good deal of steel, leather and knurled aluminium, but also a car that’s a good deal more significant for the brand than the somewhat prosaic Extended Wheelbase denomination might suggest.

Outwardly, this is little more than an elongated version of Bentley’s best-seller. It features back doors that are 18cm longer than those on the normal Bentayga, as well as comfort-enhancing additions such as ‘postural adjustment technology’ and push-button door closures, à la Rolls-Royce. There are also some meaningful dynamic evolutions to a luxury SUV that first appeared almost a decade ago but, in the main, there’s nothing you would label transformative.

Unlike a regular Bentayga, the EWB features a grille of pronounced vertical strakes. However, in Mulliner trim, the EWB is fitted with the ‘Double Diamond’ grille, previously seen on only the most expensive Continental GT derivatives.

However, in dialling up the opulence and expansiveness of the rear portion of the Bentayga’s cabin, the EWB also becomes the spiritual successor to the 6.75-litre Mulsanne. The limousine, whose cabin famously required 16 hides to upholster, was retired in 2020, but it was the definitive modern Bentley flagship. Its absence hasn’t adversely affected the bottom line but the range has perhaps lacked the aura of a truly talismanic model.   

The EWB plugs that hole and, in doing so, seeks to cater for the interested driver and the demanding VIP passenger alike. Factor in off-road ability and, on paper, we have here arguably one of the most complete cars money can buy. But in reality? Let’s find out.

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Range at a glance

Versionpower
Bentley Bentayga Hybrid456bhp
4.0 V8542bhp
4.0 V8 EWB542bhp

With Bentley retiring the W12, the Bentayga now comes fitted with either the 4.0-litre V8 tested here or a 3.0-litre V6 hybrid set-up. In trim terms, a new ‘A’ derivative sits between the entry-level model and the comfort-focused Azure. There also remains an S option for those who want a sportier-feeling SUV, not least by way of increased damper rates and a sports exhaust. Mulliner trim opens up a vast array of options for everything from the wheels to the inlay veneer and, of course, brings the airline-style seats.

DESIGN & STYLING

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bentley bentayga mulliner ewb review 202402 panning

Though notionally an SUV, the EWB’s unusual proportions give it a silhouette that is more ‘propped-up super-estate’ in appearance. At 5305mm, the biggest Bentley is roughly the length of a Rolls-Royce Cullinan, yet the roofline is nearly 100mm lower. Most testers felt that the car looks less awkward at a glance than long-wheelbase versions of other luxury cars, though study the body and you will quickly discern the distended scope of the rear doors, which are the visible trace of a wheelbase that has grown from 2995mm to 3175mm. Opened wide on both sides, they give the EWB a wingspan of 4400mm, making it second only to the 4600mm of the albatross-esque Rolls-Royce Spectre.

Otherwise, the EWB is almost identical to the regular Bentayga in aesthetic terms, barring a new grille and unique alloy wheel designs. The work that goes into opening up space between the axles is more involved, of course. Bentley claims significant changes to the body-in-white and, as you would expect, a completely new underfloor.

The Bentayga’s substantial monocoque has been quite heavily adapted for EWB duties but the driveline is familiar. So far, the only engine is a V8, driving through a ZF eight-speed gearbox and Torsen centre diff. Rear torque bias ensures the handling is recognisably ‘Bentley’. Contact is considerable, with 285-section tyres all-round. On our scales, and fully fuelled, the car weighed 2600kg, split 55% front, 45% rear.

The EWB also introduces rear-wheel steering for the first time on the Bentayga, giving it a notably smaller turning circle than the regular car, despite the added length. If you’re wondering why the Bentayga has taken so long to adopt a technology the closely related Audi SQ7 has had for years, in 2017 the firm’s engineering chief told us the technology wasn’t “mature enough” to suit the character of a Bentley. Presumably, that has now changed, and not before time for city-centric chauffeurs.

Elsewhere, the new Bentayga uses air suspension, though the specific tune for the EWB is said to perform especially well in the critical 5-20Hz range, giving the car – and you really have to applaud the specificity here – up to 27% lower secondary ride vibration than its rivals. The elongated wheelbase also ought to confer some extra ride-related polish on the EWB in the first instance, so expectations are high: this should be the finest-riding Bentley in history.

At the heart of the matter sits Crewe’s take on the Audi-developed 4.0-litre V8, which various Bentley models have deployed to excellent effect for many years. It makes 542bhp and 568lb ft and drives through an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox. Would the 6.0-litre W12 have been a more fitting accomplice for this most lavish of Bentleys? Perhaps, but that engine has recently been retired. Those desiring yet more torque from the V8 are advised to wait for a possible hybrid version, which should appear in the coming years.

INTERIOR

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bentley bentayga mulliner ewb review 202411 dash

The Bentayga’s cabin has changed little in broad terms since 2016. However, such is its lavishness and comfort that criticising it on the basis of age is akin to questioning the kerbside drama an Aventador generates simply because the supercar has been around a while. This remains one of the best-appointed cockpits of any car.

We won’t dwell overly long on the front because, for the EWB, the real news is in the back. It suffices to say that, in its ergonomics, the Bentayga continues to strike a sweet balance of high-riding expansiveness and reassuring envelopment in leather and wood veneer. Incidentally, the EWB is the first series-production Bentley to offer 0.07mm-thick Metal Overlay veneer as an option, which has the look of something from the workshops of Roger W Smith. On our test car, the leather was flawless and the soft, delicate, sunk stitching straight. It’s a lovingly wrought place, for sure.

The rear doors close at the touch of a button, and would indeed prefer to do so. Trying to push them shut is an act often met with a fair bit of resistance.

What criticisms we have are minor. The steering wheel of our test car was ever so slightly offset to the left in its alignment with the seat (heated, ventilated and with massage function, naturally). Some of the chromed gear, including the organ-stop vent controls, feel plasticky – in contrast to, for example, the rotary dial with which you select the car’s myriad on- and off-road driving modes. That is made in icily cold, hard, knurled aluminium and is a quiet joy to grasp.

Lastly, the infotainment and climate control switchgear is feeling its age. However, we are loath to criticise the simple functionality of these buttons and dials. They do the job, and do it well.

The same applies to the central touchscreen. At just 10.9in, it is diddy by today’s standards and this can make some of the menu options difficult to pin down. But it works and it doesn’t dominate the ambience, as digital arrays often do. We like this about the Bentayga.

And so to the back. In look and feel, the EWB doesn’t exhibit the pillowy softness of a Mercedes-Maybach S600 or the monolithic (and faintly intimidating) grandeur of a Rolls-Royce. It exists between the two and is therefore well judged indeed. As standard, the car comes with a 4+1 layout but in Mulliner guise upgrades to Airline Seat spec. This comprises two seats that can be reclined up to 40deg.

Take it as read that leg room is spectacular. The 940mm the passenger behind the driver is treated to falls only a little short of what you get in the 5.8m-long Rolls-Royce Phantom. However, the nearside rear passenger can request ‘VIP’ mode via a touchscreen. This slides the front seat forward, unfurls a carpeted footrest and increases leg room to 1200mm, which is more than any sensible person would know what to do with. The seats can also monitor and adjust for temperature and surface humidity, while six air-pocket ‘pressure zones’ imperceptibly alter as much as once every minute to relieve strain and stress points.

Factor in such generous forward-facing space, such rich materials, a panoramic roof and slim, sporting windows, and when travelling at speed the EWB passenger has an experience that could easily have originated in the mind of Jules Verne.

Multimedia system

The Bentayga is not offered with a rotating display (which allows you to hide the screen entirely) like the Continental GT, but at 10.9in the display is not obtrusively large and it is neatly embedded into the car’s vast dashboard. The graphics are not pin-sharp, as they are in a Mercedes GLS, but this is a decently crisp offering and easily navigable once you’re accustomed to hitting icons that are a touch smaller than ideal. That said, the large-scale physical shortcut buttons beneath the screen are welcome indeed, offering ease of use that’s conspicuously lacking in other cars.

The latest Bentayga also comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, and both systems integrate well. As for sound, you might want to consider the £7065 Naim for Bentley system. It is magnificently powerful and has great clarity, though it stops short of dropping jaws.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

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bentley bentayga mulliner ewb review 202423 v8 engine

Because the Bentayga EWB is focused more on passengers than any other Bentley, performance isn’t quite so critical for it. Even so, there is plenty of it, despite the absence of the company’s 6.0-litre W12. Bentley’s perfectly square, ‘hot-vee’, eight-cylinder engine is tuned to deliver torque and do its best work earlier in the rev range than you might expect.

It duly makes commendably short work of the car’s 2600kg (as tested, with full tank), sending it to 60mph in just 4.4sec. This means the EWB is a good deal quicker off the mark than the old Mulsanne, even though that car had an extraordinary 752lb ft to lean on. The EWB also shades the Cullinan by half a second and is only a fraction of a second away from dipping into single-digit figures for the sprint to 100mph.

Luxury-focused Mulliner trim doesn’t have the Sport exhaust found on the S – understandable, given how raucous this V8 often sounds with fruitier pipes. However, the outlets still hint at serious power, more so than the old Mulsanne.

As we have come to expect from this V8, it is fabulously effortless and smooth, if not quite as effortless and smooth as the W12. Step-off is wonderfully refined and the engine subdued and reserved at all times, growling only lightly, and seemingly in the far distance, when you need to overtake or waft off a slip road and join motorway traffic.

The ZF gearbox isn’t always the most deft when it comes to low-speed manoeuvring, mind, when occasional driveline shunt can surface, usually after you have asked the gearbox to shift from forward to reverse, or vice versa. However, on the move, it often achieves the single-speed feel that’s an ultra-luxury hallmark.

RIDE & HANDLING

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bentley bentayga mulliner ewb review 202424 front cornering

One of the more remarkable traits of the regular Bentayga is its feeling of agility. The steering has Bentley-characteristic heft, yes, and grip and traction rightly dominate, but the confounding lack of roll (thank you, active anti-roll bars) and cornering precision the car generates make it enjoyable even on roads you would swear are too tight and tortuous for its bulk.

So fine are the engineering margins with vehicle dynamics that there is no guarantee of preserving the above should you insert nearly one foot of metal into the wheelbase. And in truth, the EWB does have a notably more forward-leaning balance. Though it’s subtle, you feel it right the way through the bend. And is the off-centre steering response just a touch slower? Perhaps. It’s enough to convince us that those who intend to drive their Bentayga, rather than ride in it, should still favour the regular car, which combines Cayenne-esque verve with the atmosphere of an Edwardian manor, and to simply world-class effect.

Compared with the regular Bentayga, the extra length between the axles is detectable (if subtly so) in corners, although this is still the keener driver’s choice in its field.

None of which is to say that, should you engage Sport mode and tie down vertical movements, the EWB won’t cover ground very quickly indeed. Neither has a longer wheelbase done away with the regular car’s excellent steering feedback, overall pacing and weight. No comparable car is this intuitive to drive in a spirited way – certainly no Rolls or Mercedes. This is also partly down to the Bentayga’s phenomenal wheel control. It is resolutely unfazed by, say, a vicious corrugation on the inside of a fast corner, and perhaps even better controlled even than the ordinary Bentayga.

Comfort and isolation

Secondary ride was the Achilles heel of the Mulsanne and only partially mitigated by the car’s fine handling. The Bentayga EWB handles with less poise than the rear-drive saloon but exists in another league when it comes to ride quality. On balance, this marks a substantial net improvement if the overriding aim is to provide luxury transport.

Nevertheless, were it our money, we would specify the EWB on smaller wheels than the 22in items fitted to our Mulliner-spec test car. There’s no guarantee this would noticeably increase passenger isolation from potholes and threadbare asphalt, but it might just edge the car from ‘very good’ to ‘great’ in terms of its low-speed refinement. As it is, the EWB fails to quite match the Mercedes S-Class or BMW 7 Series, though interestingly the specific way in which it sometimes labours poor surfaces reminds us of the Cullinan. An SUV thing? Could well be.

Primary ride is superb, mind. Dreamy, even. On the motorway, you might switch modes from the engineers’ Goldilocks ‘Bentley’ setting and into Comfort, which loosens the chains of control to the extent that it’s almost too lax, yet never quite. Everywhere else, ‘Bentley’ is ideal, combining pliancy on the straight and roll resistance in the corners to remarkable effect. The initial take-up of the suspension through small troughs along on your route is almost a thrill in itself, as is the quietness of the cabin at any speed, and the undercurrent of indestructibility.

Off-road notes

The Bentayga’s elevated body might be the result of evolving tastes among the client base more than the need to drive off road, but the car nonetheless has some talent for mud trails.

This is especially true if the £3830 All-Terrain Specification option has been chosen, as on our test car. This adds not only underbody protection but also four extra off-road driveline settings that work with the car’s Torsen centre differential and open rear diff. These are Snow & Grass, Dirt & Gravel, Mud & Trail and, for the significant number of owners who live in close proximity to dunes, Sand.

With height-adjustable air suspension, the Bentayga EWB also touts 500mm of wading depth – something you’re unlikely to need in Knightsbridge, but these days you never know. Perhaps the most crucial consideration when heading off road are the tyres. The standard-fit Pirelli P Zeros won’t get you far, so be sure to option the smaller wheels and the all-season rubber, at no extra cost.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

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bentley bentayga mulliner ewb review 202401 front cornering

The fuel consumed by luxury behemoths such as the Bentayga EWB is generally more a figure of curiosity than it is a genuine basis for choosing which option to plump for. Managing 25.6mpg on longer runs and averaging 18.3mpg over the course of the test, the Bentley’s prodigious thirst is exactly what we would expect it to be, and is a close match for the Cullinan. However, perhaps this fact reflects more favourably on the Rolls-Royce, considering that it not only weighs more than its rival but also sports four additional cylinders.

In the Bentley’s favour is list price. Even in Mulliner trim, the EWB notably undercuts a basic Cullinan and, in many respects, comes better equipped. The Rolls-Royce, for example, doesn’t feature ventilated massage seats, rear privacy glass or automatic closing rear doors as standard.

In broader terms, the premium asked for a long-wheelbase Bentayga over the standard car is roughly £16,000, which seems reasonable given the work involved. The entry-level EWB also starts at closer to £200,000, rather than the £250,000-plus asked for the Mulliner, though the Airline Seats are worth having and are an expensive option for non-Mulliner cars.

VERDICT

bentley bentayga mulliner ewb review 202426 static

Four years after the Mulsanne retired and left an ultra-luxurious flagship-shaped hole at the top of the Bentley line-up, the Bentayga EWB has arrived to fill it. And boy does it fill it. Not, perhaps, in the sense of being a genuinely rewarding car to drive, or an especially romantic one, as the loping Mulsanne was, but certainly in the crucial matters of ride quality, isolation from the outside world, and a deep sense of well-being on the move, either on congested city streets or travelling at speed along motorways. Factor in this car’s all-weather capability, which extends to no trivial degree of get-up-and-go if ever you find yourself away from smooth asphalt, and you have one of the most versatile and complete cars in the world.

Of course, the luxury SUV landscape is no longer as deserted as it was when the Bentayga first arrived, and elongated versions of the Range Rover perhaps offer better value, while Rolls-Royce’s Cullinan amps up the exclusivity factor. The big Bentley is also starting to feel a touch long in the tooth in certain corners of its interior. In the mid-term the Bentayga will require an overhaul, but for now, in EWB guise, it’s as compelling as ever.

Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017, arriving from Evo magazine, and is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests, performance benchmarking and supercar lap-times, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found on Autocar's YouTube channel

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year, and focuses mainly on the more driver-orientated products, as is tradition at Autocar. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Away from work, but remaining on the subject of cars, Richard owns an eight-valve Integrale, loves watching sportscar racing, and holds a post-grad in transport engineering.