Bentley has been without a flagship model since the Mulsanne wafted effortlessly into the ether in 2020. Now, that void has been filled by a longer and more luxurious version of the Bentayga SUV.
The Bentayga Extended Wheelbase – or ‘EWB’ to its friends – is stretched by 180mm to provide rear-seat passengers with ‘a true chauffeur-driven experience’.
I was granted a secret preview at Brooklands, a former racing circuit steeped in Bentley history, ahead of the car’s launch later this year.
A subtle stretch
Whatever you think about the Bentayga’s styling (I’ve warmed to it, particularly since the facelift two years ago), the EWB hides its extra inches very effectively. The stretch is all incorporated in the rear doors, which merge into muscular haunches filled out by 22-inch wheels.
Other cosmetic updates include a vertical vane grille and a repositioned sunroof – shifted rearwards by 125mm to benefit those in the back.
You can have your EWB with four or five seats, plus a new ‘4+1’ option with a fold-away central perch.
Flying at ground level
The box you really need to tick, though, is for Airline Seat Specification, described as ‘the most advanced seat ever fitted to a car’. Along with 22-way power adjustment, these rear armchairs feature a postural adjustment system that applies continuous, but barely detectable, pressure changes to enhance comfort and minimise fatigue.
They also keep track of your body temperature and humidity, applying the seat heating or ventilation for ‘optimum thermal wellbeing’.
A touchscreen remote control offers a choice of seating modes, too. Select ‘Relax’ and the chair reclines to 40 degrees, while a padded footrest deploys from behind the front passenger seat. The temptation to kick off my shoes and have a nap was almost overwhelming.
Other luxuries among the big Bentayga’s 24 billion trim combinations include beautiful quilted leather, heated rear armrests and power-closing doors. Not forgetting a champagne fridge, obviously.
Steer from the rear
The Bentley is powered by a 550hp 4.0-litre V8, which drives all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. With a hefty kerb weight of 2,514kg, it gallops to 62mph in 4.6 seconds and 180mph flat-out.
I was told there won’t be a 635hp W12-engined Speed version of the Bentayga EWB. However, the 449hp V6 plug-in hybrid drivetrain is “being considered”.
As the first Bentayga with rear-wheel steering, the EWB should be more nimble than it looks; a turning circle of 11.8 metres is seven percent smaller than the regular car. Bentley Dynamic Ride is also standard, with 48V active anti-roll bars to tighten chassis response without ruining the ride.
We’ll find out how it drives – and hopefully experience being chauffeur-driven – in the coming months.
Tim Pitt writes for Motoring Research