Bentley’s Bentayga has long polarized opinion. The EXP 9F concept that teased Bentley’s first-ever SUV, unveiled at the 2012 Geneva Auto Show, was panned for its ostentatious detailing and oversized design cues shoehorned onto a platform that didn’t allow the graceful proportions expected from the iconic British luxury brand. The ostentation was toned down by the time the production Bentayga hit the streets in 2016, but the decision to build the car on VW Group’s MLB architecture meant it remained proportionally challenged.
The facelifted 2021 Bentley Bentayga is still no shrinking violet. The proportions haven’t changed, but a host of styling tweaks are designed to make the 2021 Bentayga look lower and wider and more confidently planted on the road. And Bentley hasn’t spared much expense: Just about every panel, save for the roof and the door skins, is new.
Inside is a revised interior with a center console similar to that in the handsome new Flying Spur sedan. The dash includes the 10.9-inch touch screen used in the Flying Spur and Continental GT, as well as sundry Porsches, mounted under a new central vent that’s designed to echo Bentley’s famed wing logo. As with those cars, the new infotainment software delivers wonderfully clear graphics and a high degree of reconfigurability in terms of displays and information. Apple CarPlay is now standard, and Android Auto available for the first time in a Bentley.
Other interior changes include a new configurable digital dash display, redesigned seats, new door trim, and a new steering wheel. The rear seat is moved back slightly and given a more upright backrest to improve the space’s knee room, and rear-seat passengers control various functions via a remote touch screen.
Outside, the new hood, new front fenders, a wider grille flanked by more widely spaced headlights, plus a new bumper give the facelifted Bentayga a hint of the handsome Flying Spur sedan from the front on. At the rear, a clamshell tailgate similar in concept to that used on the Audi Q7 allows for a scalloped horizontal section and oval taillights that recall those of the new Bentley Continental GT. The new tailgate design meant Bentley had to design a whole new bodyside stamping to accommodate the wider one-piece design.
The new matrix beam headlights are an evolution of the cut-glass style seen on the Flying Spur and Continental GT, and feature 48 LEDs each, which allows the lamps to actively tailor the spread of light on the road ahead. The system includes different lighting modes tailored for city, country, and freeway driving. The elliptical taillights feature a new three-dimensional lattice pattern.
The horizontally themed graphics front and rear make the facelifted Bentayga look wider, though the overall width is in fact unchanged from the current model. What has changed, however, is the rear track, which has been pushed out 0.4 inch on each side. As a result, the big Bentley now looks less over-bodied at the rear. The wider rear track also helps improve turn-in response and mid-corner grip, Bentley engineers say. The suspension is otherwise unchanged, with height-adjustable triple chamber air springs at each corner, and body motions kept in check by the highly effective 48-volt anti-roll system.
Also unchanged is the powertrain. The 2021 Bentyaga will launch with the versatile Porsche-designed twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 under the hood, as this engine accounts for 70 percent of Bentayga sales worldwide. With 542 hp and 568 lb-ft of torque, the engine sends its grunt to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Bentley claims the engine will take the 5326-pound Bentayga to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, to 100 mph in 9.9 seconds, and to a top speed of 180 mph.
The Bentayga V-8 will later be joined by the Bentayga Hybrid, whose plug-in powertrain comprises a 335-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 working with a 126-hp electric motor to produce a total system output of 443 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. The Bentayga Hybrid is about 0.8-second slower to 60 mph and about 2.7 seconds slower to 100 mph than the V-8. Its top speed is south of 160 mph.
Twelve-cylinder versions of the facelifted Bentayga will only be offered in Speed specification, primarily because that’s how most customers are ordering the 627-hp crossover SUV anyway. The United States, along with Russia and the Middle East, remains a key market for this 190 mph model.
A new 22-inch wheel, available in two finishes, is exclusive to Bentayga for the 2021 model year and brings the total number of wheel options to five. Two new colors, Viridian (a dark metallic green) and Patina (a mid-tone off-white) are added to the already extensive color palette.
The 2021 Bentayga comes standard with seating for five, but luxury four-seat and child-friendly seven-seat options are available. Also optional is a new Naim audio system boasting 1,780 watts of power and 20 speakers, including active bass speakers under the front seats, and super-tweeters in the A- and B-pillars.
Polarizing or not, the fact remains that Bentley sold more than 20,000 Bentaygas worldwide since the model’s launch in November 2015, making it the fastest-selling model in the brand’s history. And more than 70 percent of Bentayga buyers are new to the Bentley brand. The 2021 Bentley Bentayga is still no beauty, but the numbers suggest it won’t matter. Love is blind.