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With its 3.8-second 0-to-60-mph time, 190-mph top speed and $247,725 price tag, the Bentayga Speed is the fastest and most expensive version of Bentley's best-seller. Because of this, Bentley calls the Speed the "pinnacle" of its Bentayga lineup. Me? I'm not so sure.
Make no mistake, the Speed's specs are dynamite: Its 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 engine cranks out 626 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque, and the entirety of that low-range shove is available from 1,500rpm. The rear end hunkers down, the prow gracefully lifts and before you know it, boom, warp speed. There's no rear-ended-by-a-freight-train brutality to the Bentayga Speed's launch. It's all in a day's work for this super-SUV. And because the Bentayga W12 is no longer part of the lineup, the Speed is the only way to get 12-cylinder power in a Bentley SUV.
This effortless acceleration is extremely on brand for a Bentley, but I really wish there was more visceral drama. Stomp on the gas in a V8-powered Bentayga and you get a bellowing roar as the SUV quickly gets up to speed. The W12, on the other hand, sounds like what it is: two snoozy V6 engines smooshed together. The Bentayga Speed needs some aural punch to back up those crazy-quick launches.
On the road, the Bentayga's handling is best described as graceful. The steering is on the lighter side and the body gently leans while turning. The eight-speed automatic transmission imperceptibly goes about its business in the background, though a pair of unsatisfying-to-use paddle shifters are a finger's reach away. Large 15.7-inch front and 15.0-inch steel brakes adequately bring the 5,529-pound Bentayga to a halt with absolutely no drama. And if those somehow aren't enough, Bentley offers massive 17.3-inch front and 14.6-inch rear carbon-ceramic brakes if whoa-nelly stopping force is something you envision needing on the regular.
All told, the Speed never forgets its core mission is to comfortably coddle. Its standard self-leveling air suspension and adaptive dampers constantly make adjustments to quell unwanted harshness, the 22-inch wheels gliding over varying road surfaces. The big Bentayga is a pretty agile thing, despite its size and weight, though if winding roads are part of your regular route, definitely get the Bentley Dynamic Ride 48-volt antiroll bars, which keep this big boy flat as a pancake through corners.
Yet despite its go-fast nomenclature, the Speed isn't the most athletic Bentayga. Yeah, there's a great deal of joy that comes from laying into the throttle and rocketing forward, but there isn't a single time where I wouldn't rather be driving the lighter, more nimble Bentayga V8. In fact, the recently announced Bentayga S totally seems like the best option, since it has 15% stiffer dampers and the aforementioned 48-volt antiroll tech comes standard. The S also has a standard free-flowing sport exhaust which, combined with the burly V8, should make for a hell of a soundtrack.
Besides, regardless of what's under the hood, the Bentayga offers outstanding accommodations. From the base V8 to the plug-in hybrid to the top-dog Speed, all Bentaygas can be optioned to your heart's content, with flawless attention to detail and a general aroma of opulence -- hallmark Bentley traits. For 2021, the Bentayga is available with a few new flourishes, including a 3D leather design on the doors and a new diamond quilting pattern on the seats. There are a million and one ways to spec the Bentayga of your dreams, and please, promise me you'll do something more interesting than the painfully dull and predictable red-and-black color scheme pictured here.
Rear seat passengers have an extra 4 inches of legroom compared to older Bentaygas and there's a removable tablet on the back of the center console with climate and infotainment controls. Behind the rear bench you'll find 17.1 cubic feet of cargo space, which isn't a ton, but thankfully the load-in aperture is wide and low, largely thanks to a new clamshell hatch design that looks great, especially with the 2021 Bentayga's fancy new oval taillights.
Speaking of fancy, check out the Bentayga's new cabin tech. The 10.9-inch touchscreen runs a reskinned version of Audi's MIB3 software, complete with wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto. This infotainment interface is super simple to use, with colorful graphics and quick responses to inputs. The Bentayga has a totally digital gauge cluster, too, though it's not quite as flashy as Audi's Virtual Cockpit.
Bentley offers a lot of driver-assistance technologies, though it continues to baffle me that so much of these features aren't standard. You have to add the $8,555 Touring Specification to get things like adaptive cruise control, a head-up display and lane-keeping assist. Never mind that some of this stuff comes standard on a Honda Civic.
On that note, it's alarming how many niceties cost extra on a nearly $250,000 SUV. The company's awesome Naim stereo -- a defining part of the Bentley experience -- is optional. So, too, are things like tinted rear glass, a hands-free liftgate and ambient interior lighting. Bentley should just make all this stuff standard and charge an extra $15,000 on the bottom end: I promise $15K is a drop in the bucket for anyone who's cool with paying $250K for a car.
I'd also be remiss to not mention that, while the Bentayga Speed is a total powerhouse, it isn't the only game in town. The Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid is quicker and more powerful, and offers some usable electric range thanks to its plug-in powertrain. The Cayenne is also about $80,000 less expensive. Of course, a Porsche isn't a Bentley; that Flying B badge is worth its weight in gold.
The Bentayga Speed is an exquisite machine, and few other SUVs can touch its level of luxury. But while it sits atop the hierarchy in terms of power, price and prestige, it's hardly the best Bentayga. Make mine an S with the Naim stereo, please.