When Ettore Bugatti issued his possibly apocryphal assessment of Bentley — “The world’s fastest lorries.” — you have to assume he did so with a sneer. Joke’s on you ol’ E.B., because these days everybody from Rolls-Royce to Ferrari builds a super SUV. However, not every vehicle needs to be built around the driving experience. Instead, this new extended wheelbase variant of Bentley’s Bentayga is all about being chauffeured.
After all, few owners of private jet aircraft do their own flying. The Bentayga Extended Wheelbase (EWB) comes with an elongated silhouette and more space inside in the rear. Two configurations can be ordered, one with a folding middle seat and capacity for five in a pinch, or a top-of-the-line four-seater with an aircraft-style seat on the passenger’s side.
Setting out from the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel in Vancouver’s exclusive Coal Harbour waterfront provides a chance to play chauffeur. From behind the wheel, this longer version of the Bentayga feels no more bulky than the standard car. Credit the new four-wheel-steering for a turning circle that’s actually tighter than the standard wheelbase.
It being peak traffic hours, West Georgia is a parking lot. In a Mulsanne or similar limousine, you might politely join the queue. From the elevated position of the Bentayga, it’s possible to see further down the road and anticipate traffic flow, gliding gracefully into position and shaving a few minutes off travel time.
The Bentayga EWB makes for a superb urban barge. All examples driven were the Azure trim, with slightly softer suspension than other models in the range: would-be Woolf Barnatos should opt for the S or Speed versions. Here, the EWB’s lengthened wheelbase and generous low-end torque make it easy not to jostle a rear-seat passenger.
Home, James – and don’t spare the horses
Having exited the city proper, time for a dollop of throttle. Under its hood, the EWB carries a 4.0L V8 with a “hot-vee” twin-turbocharger setup that’s become relatively commonplace in luxury marques. At 542 hp of peak output, the Bentayga EWB is about a hundred horsepower down on something like a Lamborghini Urus.
But where the Lamborghini screams both verbally and visually, the Bentley simply woofs like a mastiff clearing its throat and lunges at the horizon. Peak torque is 568 lb-ft, available from 2000 rpm. The thrust is considerable, but it is also civilized, like a JATO-equipped oak-panelled library.
The transmission is an eight-speed ZF box that is as unobtrusive as a well-trained butler: your gear, sir. The suspension is multi-link in the rear, double wishbones up front, with a 48V electric electrically-adjustable anti-roll bar. This last provides a bit of behind the scenes trickery, improving comfort when on the trot at straight line speeds, then firming up to reduce body roll in the corners. As a whole, the available pace is impressive.
Wellington boot mode
This launch event was a global affair for Bentley, which meant plenty of international writers in attendance, and an obsession with bears. Talk to a European, and you’d think every Canadian starts the day by shooing a bear out of their front yard. (To be fair, such not an uncommon occurrence in West Vancouver or Whistler.)
In pursuit of all things ursine, Bentley arranged for a section of the drive to include some light offroading into the woods. While it is unlikely that 90% of Bentayga owners will face terrain more rugged than a pothole in a Whole Foods parking lot, capability here is more about “can” rather than “do.”
To its credit, the Bentayga EWB clambered easily up the slopes of the Whistler Olympic park, climbing beneath the massive ski jumps in the most rugged of its four drive modes. Ground clearance was no concern, as adjustable air suspension provides up to 245mm of it. More alarming were the branches reaching out on either side of the narrow trail, seemingly eager to touch the EWB’s exquisite paint.
Facing more extreme conditions is work probably best left to a Range Rover, but the Bentayga proved it had the chops to handle the wilder edges of some country estate. And, regrettably, there were no bears present. However, up front is really the wrong seat to experience the EWB properly.
Time to put one’s feet up
Bentley claims that the focus of the Azure range is wellness, by which it means comfort – there is no Heal Gout button. To that end, the Bentayga comes with one of the most advanced rear seats available from a luxury marque.
The five-seater version – Bentley calls it a four-plus-one – is relaxing enough, the 180mm longer wheelbase of the EWB directly translating into enough legroom for an NBA center. The Airline Seat, however, is next level.
It features 22-way adjustment, automated in-seat climate control, massaging functions, and on the passenger side, a powered foot rest. Even on the wriggliest sections of the Duffey Lake road, past Pemberton, the experience of riding in the Bentayga EWB was turbulence-free. The extra-quiet cabin was enough to put you to sleep – in the best way possible.
The extended cut
On paper, the Bentayga EWB is nothing more than a slightly longer version of Bentley’s best-selling model. Yet it fulfills an important role for the company. Where once Bentley owners would choose a Mulsanne to ferry them to and fro, there is now a more capable and arguably more comfortable option. There’s a reason livery services long ago switched from limousines to SUVs, and if anything, Bentley is a little slow here in providing a passenger-oriented crossover.
For the Bentayga EWB, Ettore’s words carry no sting. Yes, it is a lorry. Yes, it is very fast. And yes, it is one of the nicest ways to be ferried to your destination, relaxed and unruffled; caring not so much about the drive, as about the ride.