By now, everyone has probably seen that viral ASMR video of a model fondling a Bentley Mulsanne, flicking its hood ornament, running her fingers along the grill and softly whispering the word “Bentley” into her microphone. The parodies that ensued are comedic gold, with Malaysians (true to form) recreating the clip with their Kancils and Wiras. A Myvi owner ended her video by satirically whispering “king of the road”.
As it happens, the Mulsanne was discontinued just a few years ago, chiefly due to the shift in demand from luxury sedans to SUVs. But Bentley did not fill the ultra-luxurious void left by the legend … until now.
It may come as a surprise that the British automaker decided against introducing a new model. Instead, it invited a slew of experts, from neuroscientists to chiropractors, into its Crewe garage to tinker with the existing Bentayga SUV. It elevated its best-selling vehicle by lengthening the wheelbase and injecting a number of fresh features, including a couple of world-firsts. The Bentley Bentayga Extended Wheelbase (EWB) now constitutes an individual line of its own and commands pride of place in the ultra-luxury automotive sphere. But is it the ultimate Bentley?
The Bentayga EWB in Azure trim epitomises two things: luxury and wellness. Both experiences culminate in the rear cabin, where comfort is of utmost importance. Every bit of the additional 18cm goes towards stretching legroom at the back, resulting in an elongated space that is roomier than that of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, Range Rover LWB and Mulsanne, Bentley claims. To accommodate its growth, the panoramic sunroof had to be extended. And since the back doors are now larger and heftier, there are buttons to open them electrically from the inside.
If one opts for the Airline Seat upgrade, upon activation of Relax mode, the rear seat reclines up to a generous 40° while the front passenger seat (if unoccupied) folds forward and deploys a footrest. Prop your feet up and roll in first class, or if you must work on your tablet, return the seat upright in Business mode and pull down the tray table. Did we mention the seat gives a decent massage? Crank it up to “Intense” and feel the knots in your lumbar untangle.
Specialists have spent a considerable amount of time making the seats smart too. They are equipped with an Auto Climate System that measures and maintains the temperature and humidity levels of the passenger, automatically adjusting the heating and cooling of the seat and backrest to maximise thermal comfort. On the other hand, Postural Adjust makes micro-adjustments to the occupant’s seating position and pressure points, stimulating the back muscles and reducing fatigue during long drives. The system can apply 177 individual pressure changes across six fully independent zones over a three-hour period. Both features are world-firsts and demonstrate how Bentley takes the wellness of its customers seriously.
The Linen and Porpoise colour split in the interior is just beautiful. Apparently, all the leather hides used to upholster the Bentayga EWB are hand-picked from herds that graze high above sea level in Northern Europe, so they are naturally free of insect bites that could otherwise blemish the leather. Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus veneer in a lustrous Grand Black, reminiscent of a grand piano, complements and reflects the exquisite details of the Bentley. Subtle holes have been perforated in diamond-shaped patterns across the interior door panels. In the evening, they emit an entrancing illumination that shines through the padded trim. It glows gently and can be adjusted according to your lighting preferences.
The Bentayga EWB affords the backseat passenger an experience like no other. There is a sense of cocooned privacy since there is additional distance from the driver and the cabin offers good insulation. While the engine’s sound may creep in a little louder at the front or when the throttle is depressed a tad harder, the signature is not the least raucous.
Now the question is, how does it drive?
We will start by saying that it is not the fastest luxury SUV around. After all, performance was never its sole focus. But the Bentayga EWB is powered by a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine, which produces 542bhp and 770Nm of torque and can crack the century sprint in 4.6 seconds. That is despite its 2.5 tonne kerb weight.
Its heftiness plays into the driving experience as well. You definitely feel its commanding, impenetrable presence, but it is poised and levelled. Some cars make you feel like you are floating. The Bentayga EWB glides solidly on the ground, with 22in exclusive 10-spoke wheels no less. However, it does not navigate potholes as effortlessly as one might think. In fact, uneven roads are where its heaviness and thin wheels perform less satisfactorily. A point to keep in mind with Malaysia’s riddled paths. On the plus side, the car comes with all-wheel steering with a shorter turning radius so U-turns, parallel parking and three-point turns are a cinch.
So, does the Bentayga EWB fill the Mulsanne’s big shoes? Not quite. In fact, it shouldn’t. While the iconic Mulsanne envisages the heyday of magnificent, long saloons, that is not what modern luxury looks like any more. The Bentayga EWB is a step towards quiet and bespoke luxury. The car is extravagant, but has all the qualities to make it a daily driver. Unless, of course, you’ve claimed the back seat as your own. Then, feel free to recline it and prop up your feet. The king of the road, after all, deserves a throne.
This article first appeared on Aug 21, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.