2022 Bentley Bentayga S review: Lively luxury

The S model has a few visual upgrades over the standard Bentayga V8. Notice the blacked-out trim, smoked headlight and taillight lenses, 22-inch wheels, larger rear spoiler and unique tailpipes. Overall, the look is good, though the Bentayga itself is rather polarizing. I think the more downmarket Audi Q8 actually looks better.

For the S, Bentley tuned its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 to produce 542 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque. All of that is routed through a buttery-smooth eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive is standard.

My one gripe about the V8 is its turbo lag. Sure, the Bentayga S can sprint from a stop to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds, but it won’t exactly throw you back in your seat. Stomp on the throttle and nothing really happens until the Bentayga reaches 20 mph or so, but then, at least, it absolutely rips.

Fuel economy isn’t even that bad, all things considered. The Bentayga S has an EPA-estimated rating of 15 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined. After a week of testing that includes 600 miles of driving, I averaged 18.3 mpg. Not too shabby.

The Bentayga’s standard driving mode — labeled B, for Bentley — is perfectly serene. But switch the setting to Sport and everything gets better. The acceleration is more immediate, the steering is heavier and the exhaust gets a whole lot louder. The Bentayga S comes standard with Bentley’s Dynamic Ride technology, made up of 48-volt architecture that can apply 959 pound-feet of torque to the SUV’s anti-roll bars to balance the body while cornering. It works like a charm, keeping the Bentayga nice and flat on twisty roads.

Bentley reworked the Bentayga’s brake-based torque-vectoring tech so it’s more responsive to inputs. The end result is an SUV that truly drives like a lighter, more nimble car. Based on how nicely this thing handles winding roads, you’d never think you were in a 5,000-plus-pound leather-clad behemoth.

2021 Bentley Bentayga S

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2021 Bentley Bentayga S

The interior is nothing short of supple.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

This focus on sportiness is what sets the Bentayga apart from its closest competitors, the Mercedes-Maybach GLS600 and Rolls-Royce Cullinan. Both of those SUVs are quick, don’t get me wrong, but they aren’t made for backroad shenanigans. The Lamborghini Urus, meanwhile, takes things too far in the other direction, with a much more raw and visceral experience — and twice as ugly, too. If the Lambo is a cage fighter, the Bentley is a gentleman boxer. It’ll kick some ass, but always remains civilized.

I’m disappointed the Bentayga doesn’t offer more in the way of standard driving aids, especially considering the six-figure price tag. All that’s included at no extra cost is automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Amenities like lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control and a head-up display are locked behind the $8,640 Touring Specification pack. Why am I being nickel-and-dimed in a Bentley?

At least the cabin feels like a million bucks, flush with leather and Alcantara trim. The seat massagers relax me while I crank up the tunes on the optional 20-speaker Naim stereo. This is heaven.

My Bentayga has a two-tone Porpoise (that’s the name of the color, not the hide) and Imperial Blue scheme, with plenty of contrasting stitching. I love the diamond-brushed aluminum pattern on the dash, even if it is a $10,000 add-on. Go big or go home, right? In addition to massage, the front seats are heated and cooled, and the carpet is super plush. It’s nothing short of decadent.

2021 Bentley Bentayga S

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2021 Bentley Bentayga S

This is the best-driving Bentayga.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Multimedia tech is housed on a 10.9-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. The system is a little laggy sometimes, but mostly works well, and is essentially a reskinned version of the tech Audi uses in some of its cars.

The rear passengers have a wireless tablet that can manage climate controls, the window blinds, ambient lighting and seat heating or cooling. It can also display navigational information like current speed, distance traveled and so on. There are also two 10.1-inch tablets that can display multimedia via HDMI or USB cable and even stream from Netflix.

All totaled up, my test Bentayga S costs $269,390. That includes $46,865 in options and $2,725 for destination. Expensive? Yes. But did you expect anything less?

If you can afford one, the Bentayga S is a great choice. It takes all the good things about Bentley’s SUV and adds a dollop of performance, and basically makes the Speed irrelevant. It’s definitely the way to go.

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