Expert Reviews

2023 Bentley Bentayga Extended Wheelbase First Drive Review

The good news is you can almost host your own debutante ball in the back of the new 2023 Bentley Bentayga Extended Wheelbase.

The bad news is that if your current Bentayga only just fits in your perlato sicilia marble garage, you’ll need to add about 180 mm (seven inches) to the space. Well, not you personally, of course.

The weird news is that the folks hosting this media drive event for Bentley’s elongated SUV were seemingly obsessed with the idea that southern British Columbia is rife with bears. So much so, in fact, our jaw-droppingly beautiful drive up the Sea-to-Sky Highway and beyond became a bit of a tracking adventure. Which we’ll get to soon.

Beyond Your Basic Bentayga

But first, back to that debutante ball: seating is limited – at least in this initial public offering. The 2023 Bentayga Extended Wheelbase comes with either five seats, four seats, or a four-plus-one setup. That third option might at first glance seem like a five-seater, and it is, but along with the four-seat option it contains what Bentley calls “airline seats.”

No, they aren’t like economy class. Quite the opposite, actually. Picture something designed for Bond villains and Silicon Valley plutocrats. According to Bentley’s Director of Communications, Wayne Bruce (yes, that’s actually his name), it’s the most advanced seat ever fitted to a car, with 22 ways of adjustment, automatic climate sensing, and postural adjustment.

Our day began in the pinnacle trim Azure with the four-plus-one combo in the back – though any trim would invoke envy in the neighbours and street gawkers. The Azure’s ride is softer than the regular Bentayga and features “the best experience, especially for the rear passenger,” according to Bruce.

An extended length of 180 mm should mean corners and tight areas are tougher to negotiate, forcing that 24-point turn England’s other legendary spy, Austin Powers, demonstrated in his first film. But the Bentayga’s all-wheel steering shortens your turning circle and sharpens manoeuvrability. In fact, Bruce says the turning circle is actually slightly smaller than the standard wheelbase version’s. On the curvy highway exiting North Vancouver, it handles well, attending to the turns like a devoted servant.

An extended wheelbase, in case you don’t follow automotive jargon as closely as the cricket, means greater distance between the front and rear wheels. That extra space ultimately means greater comfort in the back and a smoother ride. The flipside is that the feel of the road becomes distanced and the quality of the drive can be less exciting, like piloting a spa. Add to that the Bentley anti-roll system for extra stability and you have the world’s largest and most finely appointed cradle.

Brisk on the Road

Lucky for us chauffeurs who still love to drive, Bentley’s engineers are on the scene – if somewhat contrarian in their use of ratings and values. Take the eight-cylinder engine beneath the bonnet. It delivers peak torque of 568 lb-ft, a maximum of 550 hp, and a top speed of 290 km/h.

Those of us chauffeurs who want to continue driving didn’t challenge those peak values amid the peaks and valleys of British Columbia. But think about those numbers.

At some 2,514 kg (5,542 lb), this behemoth Bentayga is heavy. Yet it can leap from zero to 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds. This is an SUV with the looks and amenities of a superyacht but the soul of a rocket. Indeed, the experience demands adjectives we can’t afford here unless the pound drops even further, but they probably wouldn’t outdo a simple wow. Hence the soon-to-happen English expression, a beast in your bonnet.

Composed Off It

Why one would ever take this rolling Savoy hotel off-roading is beyond comprehension, but it’s possible if one so chooses. Part of our drive included the wild grounds of the Olympic Park outside of Whistler, B.C., where we shifted into trail mode and followed a local guide up dirt tracks in a fancy convoy.

Equipping our Bentaygas with walkie-talkies, the guide pointed out scratches on trees where bears had been (plus scat which looked like mud). The Canadians on the drive were baffled by the fuss.

It can also be confirmed that the fluted leather seats provide the sort of comfort you imagined as a child when you first heard about the many mattresses in The Princess and the Pea.

On the subject of seats and fairy tales, the airline seats boast a wellness function that detects whether your body is too cool or too warm – both temperature and humidity – then adjusts, cosseting you in your chosen Goldilocks just-right state. Moreover, after you’ve spent a while in that passive position, it automatically and gently massages you so your blood doesn’t pool, dormant. Again, wow.

Final Thoughts

All of which begs these questions: is the 2023 Bentley Bentayga Extended Wheelbase good value, and does it stand up to the competition? Well it depends on how many zeroes populate your annual tax return, and what you’ve driven in the past.

For the Bentley-curious luxury hunters, this Bentayga has more rear-seat legroom than the long wheelbase Range Rover and the Rolls Royce Cullinan, yet its overall length is actually 30 mm (1.2 in) shorter than the Cullinan – all the better the squeeze into that fancy marble garage.