Bentley Bentayga S
Reworked chassis results in the best-driving version of Bentley’s SUV yet
FORTY PER CENT OF ALL BENTLEYS SOLD are Bentaygas – the Continental GT accounts for 33 per cent, the Flying Spur the remaining 27 – so as with so many of its type, this makes Crewe’s SUV a big deal when it comes to the balance sheet. They might be big, clunky, inefficient machines but they keep the accountants happy and the investors willing to part with their cash to pay for whatever comes next.
Perhaps because of this profit-first approach the Bentayga has struggled to shake off its VW Group underpinnings, the exquisitely crafted interior only just enough of a distraction to mask the very un-bentley-like driving experience. An experience that’s a little bit soft, a little bit vague and a little bit forgettable.
But unlike its looks, which still lack the elegance expected of a Pyms Lane car, how it drives has improved over the years. When the current Bentayga was introduced in 2020 there was a sense that Bentley’s engineers had been allowed far more freedom to leave their stamp on a car that otherwise shares so much with a Touareg, Q8, Cayenne and Urus. Now, with this latest S derivative, the Bentley-ness has been taken up a notch again.
Okay, so the Audi 4-litre twin-turbocharged V8, which vies with the EA888 2-litre four to see which can appear in more VW models, doesn’t have a single drop more power or torque than in the regular Bentayga V8, so 542bhp and 568lb ft are still responsible for hauling 2400kg on its way to 62mph in 4.5 seconds and on to 180mph. With the V8 and Hybrid now the only Bentaygas available in the UK – the W12-engined Speed no longer on sale in its home market – it’s also the quickest. So what has changed?
How it drives, predominantly. The Alcantara and leather mix for the interior is beautifully executed, the detailing subtle, and even with a sports exhaust suspended beneath there’s an intent to the V8’s soundtrack rather than a gruff sounding note for the sake of it. Outside, the body has been treated to gloss black trim replacing the chrome, a larger roof-mounted rear wing and tinted light covers. And while all this is welcome and adds some spice to the Bentayga’s appearance, the most significant transformation takes place once you’ve prodded the V8 into life and covered the first handful of miles.
It’s then that it comes to you the work that has gone into creating the S runs far deeper than an algorithm change to some of the chassis technology underpinning it. The spring and damper rates have been recalibrated to increase control, firm up the ride and better manage body roll, with the standard-fit airsuspension also tweaked to provide firmer support but not at the expense of comfort.
The result is that in the Bentley or Comfort driving modes the Bentayga S feels more tied down, the pitch and roll eradicated to an extent that it’s only really now there to feed back when you’re beginning to push on it.
Wind the driving mode up to Sport and the S is able to show its hand even more clearly. An extra 15 per cent tightening of the chassis and an additional level of sharpness to the steering tie the big Bentley down further still, but still not at the expense of ride comfort, the S meeting the expectation that every Bentley should focus on cossetting its occupants rather than leaving them shaken and stirred and the rear-seat passengers’ champagne spilled.
There’s less vagueness to how the S goes about covering ground, too. It feels more connected to the road, less susceptible to being deflected by imperfections, with the electric anti-roll bars clearly earning their keep when it comes to isolating the driver from any unnecessary noise beneath and making for a calmer experience behind the wheel. The S is all the better for it, too. Tighter body control and a more natural way of reacting to inputs make it feel less cumbersome and flat-footed compared to others of its type.
Sport mode also brings with it a new state of tune for the ESC, relaxing its grip and allowing the torque vectoring to do its thing before the safety systems interfere. In reality you’ll need to take some sizable liberties to experience this benefit at speed, but out of slow, tighter turns the Bentayga S is more agile and willing to change direction much quicker than the standard V8 model on which it is based.
It’d be a big stretch to suggest a chassis tweak via software calibration transforms this luxury SUV into a bonafide performance car, but it does
Above: diamond brushed aluminium dash suits the S’s sporting remit, although all the usual veneer options are still available. Top left: 22-inch directional wheels are unique to the S and available in three different finishes
highlight the bandwidth Bentley’s engineers have available to them to operate within and what’s possible when they’re allowed to develop the software that controls the hardware. Which also leaves you asking: why not offer this set-up as standard? It takes nothing away from Bentley’s pursuit of ultimate driving luxury but it does add so much more. ☒
Engine V8, 3996cc, twin-turbo Power 542bhp @ 6000rpm Torque 568lb ft @ 2000-4500rpm Weight 2416kg (228bhp/ton) 0-62mph 4.5sec Top speed 180mph Basic price £187,800 + The best Bentayga to drive - Far from the most elegant Bentley evo rating
YOUR ELECTRIC VEHICLE IS NOT LIKE other, conventionally-powered cars, and that means its tyres shouldn’t be the same, either. Various aspects of an EV’S nature present different challenges to your only contact patch with the road, but happily, Hankook’s new Ventus ION range of tyres has been specifically developed to address them all. And very successfully at that – the Ventus Ion S and SX both have ‘Triple A’ EU ratings, with top scores in the fuel efficiency, wet braking, and noise categories.
With no engine sound to drown it out, tyre noise is far more perceptible in electric vehicles, so reducing it becomes more important than ever. Hankook Ventus ION tyres feature Sound Absorber™ technology with a special polyurethane foam material applied to the inside of the tyre to reduce cavity noise, and knurled inner tread grooves to dial back tread noise.
The tread block’s shapes and sizes have also been optimised. This is known as ‘pitch frequency’ - by varying the blocks, their contact with the road occurs in a more random manner, removing the unpleasant drone that would result from a more uniform arrangement. All of these elements work together to make each journey more comfortable and less stressful for you and your passengers.
For now, charging an electric car takes a lot longer than filling a combustion car with petrol or diesel, so it’s especially important to improve rolling resistance to increase an EV’S range as much as possible. On Ventus ION tyres, this is countered largely through the rubber itself.
ION tyres are made with Hankook’s Evolution compound, featuring high-concentration silica and eco-friendly materials, reducing rolling resistance while also increasing the tyre’s mileage. The compound also features a high concentration of natural oils, which boosts sustainability and reduces the overall amount of material used in the tyre’s construction, trimming the weight of each by up to one kilogram to give a further reduction in rolling resistance.
Finally, optimised curing plays a part. By curing all parts of the ION S and SX equally - as opposed to over-curing the sidewalls and tread, as is the case for some tyres - all parts of the tyre are improved equally. This decreases resistance and improves tyre life.
Combatting rolling resistance isn’t the only way to increase efficiency with a tyre. It’s also important to reduce drag, and there’s more that can be done to a tyre in this respect than you might think. The tyre pattern has been designed to reduce air resistance as much as possible, and even the lettering has
been carefully thought about to keep the sidewalls aerodynamically efficient.
Thanks in large part to their use of hefty battery packs, EVS typically weigh a lot more than their combustion counterparts – on average 25-30 per cent heavier. That’s why the ION range is strengthened to achieve the top XL (extra load) rating.
To maintain excellent steering performance and handling characteristics in the context of this weight, ION S and SX tyres feature a reinforced belt containing aramid fibres – an extremely strong material associated with ballistic body armour. This helps the tyre maintain its shape when under high load.
ION tyres also use a bespoke ‘contour’ to carefully shape the tyre, leading to a 10 per cent increase in cornering stiffness.
EVS aren’t just able to generate significant amounts of torque - they’re capable of delivering peak torque instantly. This puts additional strain on the tyre, which is also dealing with the extra weight we mentioned earlier.
That’s why ION tyres have extended outer shoulder blocks, increasing rigidity and providing greater contact with the road. This in turn helps prevent the wheelspin that instant doses of high torque can result in.
In Europe, the ION range crosses four different categories and a variety of sizes covering many EV models. For the summer tyre segment is the ION S – currently available in nine sizes from 18 to 21 inches in diameter – and the Suv-focused ION SX, offered in 14 sizes from 18 to 22 inches.
From September 2022 the i*cept ION winter tyres will arrive. The i*cept ION will initially be available in 13 sizes from 18 to 21 inches, while the i*cept ION X for SUVS will come in 23 sizes from 18 to 22 inches.
TÜV SÜD certification
Independent German testing company TÜV SÜD pitted the Hankook Ventus ION S against its competitors, where it achieved the best results for wet and dry braking when mounted to a premium electric vehicle. It was also the quietest tyre tested, and performed strongly in every category. ☒
‘A REINFORCED BELT HELPS THE TYRE MAINTAIN SHAPE UNDER HIGH LOAD’