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New Bentley Bentayga EWB 2023 review

British brand's ultra-luxurious Bentayga EWB flagship is as exclusive as you'd hope - but it's expensive too

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

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Verdict

Few SUVs offer this level of luxury and opulence. The Bentayga EWB is a brilliant Bentley, but maybe not one that will go down in the brand's back catalogue of best models, regardless of how successful its sales figures might look. We can't fault the comfort and quality on offer here, though, even if the price tag is sky high. The market wants SUVs, and the Bentayga EWB is simply one of the best in the business.

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In the absence of the firm's ultra-luxurious Mulsanne flagship saloon, Bentley has followed the trend and turned towards a long-wheelbase version of its Bentayga SUV for its range-topping model.

It's a clever ploy in many ways. With incredibly profitable markets such as China and the USA still deep in a love affair with SUVs and intent on the pursuit of luxury, a more spacious, more opulent version of the brand's big off-roader (Bentley's best seller, we might add) seems like a logical avenue for the brand to explore. But does it quite make the same statement as its Mulsanne predecessor?

Well, yes and no.

Firstly, the yes. And we'll start from the rear, where the focus really is when it comes to the Bentayga EWB. The car's extra length has been achieved by enlarging the wheelbase, meaning the dimension between the B-pillars and the rear axle is stretched compared with the standard car. As a result, you swing the expansive rear door open and are met by a cavernous cabin.

There's masses of rear legroom, while our car's optional £8,395 Airline Specification rear seats (if you're going to do it, you may as well do it properly) make the most of the space available, with the left-rear chair offering masses of legroom when the front passenger seat is pushed forward. 

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A foot rest folds out from the base of the front seat, while the rear seatback reclines. There's 'Postural Adjustment' tech with massage functionality for the rear seats too, plus veneered picnic tables and automatic climate control in the rear if you go for this Airline option. We'd say do it, because it maximises what the already-pricey £211,300 Bentayga EWB offers.

That is comfort and opulence, the former definitely helped by the chassis. One benefit of exploiting the SUV body style compared with a saloon is that the raised-up ride height means longer travel suspension is possible, and combined with the Bentayga EWB's beautifully languid damping, it means there's an incredible level of nicely damped comfort on offer on the move.

The Bentayga's chassis simply glides over most surfaces. Only occasionally does it come unstuck, where the car's significant 2,514kg kerbweight (that's without optional extras) becomes apparent and the lengthened chassis struggles to deal with arresting the wheel movement from more jarring bumps, and the significant size of the body. However, even riding on massive 22-inch wheels, the level to which this composure degrades is never anything more than mild, so the Bentley always retains a strong degree of poise and purpose.

Much of this is reinforced by the engine. It's a familiar 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8, which produces 542bhp and 770Nm of torque. These are far-from-stellar figures compared with some other luxury SUVs, but the likes of the Aston Martin DBX and the Lamborghini Urus are both focused heavily on performance, and while the Bentley has no issue in this department, it most certainly majors on luxury.

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There's just enough in the way of a sound signature from the engine, a muted V8 burble that's present in the background once you depress the throttle any more than about one third of its travel. Officially, the Bentayga EWB will crack the sprint to 62mph in 4.6 seconds, but some might consider such statistics vulgar, given the car's brief. Just know that it has ample flexibility, with maximum torque available from as low as 2,000rpm and sustained until 4,500rpm, while the eight-speed automatic gearbox shifts almost imperceptibly and superbly smoothly.

This air of impenetrability is reinforced by the quality of many of the materials inside. Admittedly, our First Edition car featured some lovely diamond-quilted stitching, embroidered Bentley emblems, special sill plates and LED welcome lamps, plus a simply superb Naim Audio for Bentley stereo, among other features (all coming in at £11,270), but it ups the ambience inside to a level that feels nicely bespoke. The metal organ-stop air vents are a great, traditional Bentley touch that work with a delightfully damped, mechanical action.

But all this serves to highlight the few weaker areas that are present. A couple of the plastic panels would be questionable in a car half this price, while the digital dash and infotainment tech feel like they’re lagging a little behind the curve these days. The next generation of Bentley in-car tech is not far away, set to make its debut with the brand's first-ever EV in 2025, and we're ready for it. It's not that the current set-up doesn't function well, but it just feels like it could be fresher.

While lengthening the wheelbase has undoubtedly created a more luxurious vehicle for rear-seat passengers, for the person behind the wheel it has compromised the driving experience slightly when it comes to handling and enjoyment.

A Bentley is a driver's car, and this extra 180mm between the axles has resulted in a car that's just a fraction lazier to turn, and maybe not quite as precise to steer. But as we have already outlined, the focus here is subtly different. What you gain in one area, you trade in another.

It's still a fantastic car that offers an incredible level of luxury and exclusivity. But it does feel like the EWB is a model variant (which it rightly is) rather than a bespoke replacement for the firm's former Mulsanne flagship. As good as the Bentayga EWB is – and there's no doubt that it'll be a commercial sensation for a British brand that keeps setting sales, revenue and profitability records – it's not quite the standalone luxury flagship the Bentley line-up might once have been crowned by. 

Model:

Bentley Bentayga EWB

Price:£211,300
Engine:

4.0-litre twin-turbo V8

Power/torque:542bhp/770Nm
Transmission:

Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive

0-62mph:4.6 seconds
Top speed:180mph
Economy/CO2:

21.7mpg/294g/km

On sale:Now

Now read our list of the best luxury SUVs...

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Sean’s been writing about cars since 2010, having worked for outlets as diverse as PistonHeads, MSN Cars, Which? Cars, Race Tech – a specialist motorsport publication – and most recently Auto Express and sister titles Carbuyer and DrivingElectric

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