The Bentley Bentayga has never been a slouch in the performance department. I mean, say what you want about its looks or its Volkswagen/Audi underpinnings, it's one hell of a machine and in the hierarchy of Bentaygas, there is one that reigns supreme: the Speed.
What makes a Bentayga Speed so special? To start, there is the gargantuan twin-turbocharged W12 engine which displaces six liters and produces north of 600 horsepower, then there's the inclusion of all the options and packages that add to the level of driver engagement that one would expect from a Bentley. Oh, and it's expensive. Real expensive.
It's also back for 2021, the company announced Tuesday, complete with the new iteration of Bentayga styling, and friends, it's a looker. It still has the same 626-horsepower engine, and still makes 664 pound-feet of torque, which means it's still a shockingly rapid machine for something that's the size of my first apartment, the same price as some people's starter homes and that weighs as much as a dying star. As proof, the new Speed's top speed has been increased to 190 miles per hour for 2021.
"The new Bentayga Speed remains the fastest SUV in the world, but more than that, it's also the most luxurious version of the new Bentayga – the best of both worlds, the pinnacle," Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark said in a statement.
Of course, the Speed's impressive spec isn't without its shortcomings. I'm talking specifically about the decision to make carbon ceramic brakes an option on the Speed, rather than standard equipment. It would be understandable on a normal vehicle -- in fact, I'm generally a big fan of steel brakes on sporting vehicles -- but on a nearly 6,000-pound SUV that costs as much as a house in many parts of the US, they should be included. Porsche offers its PCCBs as standard on the much cheaper , so too should Bentley.
The sleekerlines suit the more aggressive character of the Speed in a kind of iron-fist-velvet-glove way (cliche, but true) and even the Speed's aggressive rear wing manages to work here. The interior gets some love, and looks like an even lovelier place to spend time than the outgoing model and that is truly saying something.
The new interior features vast lashings of Alcantara and quilted leather, which you'd expect from the Flying B, but it also makes use of other materials like carbon fiber (of which there is a lot) which you might not expect from the brand, though it is de rigeur on Speed models dating back to the Continental GT of the mid-aughts.
Of course, Bentley isn't just resting on its luxury laurels here, either. There are a couple of neat technological features that work hard to make that massive engine a little less thirsty. The first is kind of basic, but utilized in an intelligent way -- cylinder deactivation. The way Bentley does it is smart because the vehicle's computers regularly switch which bank of cylinders is active to keep the catalytic converters nice and hot, reducing the potential for increased emissions when a bank lights back up.
Next is something called Sail Mode. This isn't some kind of secret Chitty Chitty Bang Bang mode, though, so don't get excited. Sail mode is a state where the vehicle can fully open the torque converter in fifth through eighth gear and essentially decouple the drivetrain from the engine. This reduces the load on the engine and therefore saves fuel. If you touch the throttle or the car starts accelerating on a downhill, the torque converter will reengage and it's business as usual.
There are also some changes to the infotainment system that come along with the switch to the 2021 model, most notably a brighter, high-resolution 10.9-inch touchscreen, with an anti-reflection and anti-glare coating. The system has also been tweaked to be more responsive to touch inputs. There is also a new fully-digital driver information panel similar to what we've seen in the new Continental and Flying Spur models.
Bentley confirmed to Roadshow that the 2021 Bentayga Speed will start at $245,000, with plans for it to go on sale in Q1 of 2021. Now, that is, of course, a whole lotta bread but based on Bentley's success with its SUV thus far, it's unlikely that it's going to have trouble moving them at that price.