“This is bear country,” my guide says casually, pointing to the tracks rising up a sand dune leading into a stand of spruce trees. “Mostly brown bears,” he adds, “though we could run into a couple of grizzlies.”
You’ll never know what you might discover, heading deep into the wilderness of British Columbia. And that includes more than just wildlife. A week back, if you happened to be wandering through the old Winter Olympic site a few hours north of Vancouver — now a Canadian national park — you’d also discover a Bentley. Not just any Bentley, that is, but the 2023 Bentley Bentayga EWB. If one is getting back to nature, why not do it in style?
First introduced in 2015, the Bentley Bentayga was a transformative product. Though Porsche, Lincoln and Cadillac previously added SUVs to their product lines, it was far from clear whether ultra-luxury buyers would follow the broader industry trend. Bentley, it turns out, didn’t need to worry. Bentayga quickly became the exclusive British marque’s best-selling model.
The SUV has undergone some modest updates since its debut, growing ever so slightly larger in 2021. But the launch of the Bentayga EWB is the most significant rework yet. Those initials are shorthand for “extended wheelbase,” here growing a full 7.1 inches. While it’s not the longest luxury SUV on the market, the stretch transforms what was already a roomy cabin into a true sanctuary, with business jet-style seating and even more creature comforts.
Despite the added dimensions, the 2023 Bentley Bentayga EWB is an unexpectedly enjoyable vehicle to drive, however, with plenty of power from its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8. Even more surprising is how nimble it can be. Thanks to its new rear-wheel-steer capabilities, its turning radius dips to less than 39 feet. The same technology also enhances high-speed handling.
Bentley officials are quick to insist the Bentayga EWB is “not just a stretch.” They’ve substantially reworked most of the key parts of this beast, starting with an entirely new underbody. But what potential buyers likely will first notice are the added dimensions. The wheelbase itself gains 7.1 inches, growing to 125 inches, while EWB measures 208.9 inches overall, compared to 201.8 inches for the standard Bentayga.
The standard-length Bentley SUV went through a redesign for 2021, growing ever so slightly longer and wider. The basic design carries over to the EWB, though the longer model does get a distinctive new “vertical vane” grille. That’s framed by the smart headlamps designed to look like cut crystal. The longer ute shares the basic model’s assertive bumpers and fascia.
Designing a stretched SUV can be tricky. There are several models on the market today that suffer from an awkward front-to-rear imbalance. Bentley designers took pains to avoid that pitfall, even while stretching the back doors a full 180 mm, or 7.1 inches. It took some creative character lines and a curve accenting the rear wheel well to retain that sort of balance.
The Bentayga EWB’s sense of power and presence is enhanced by 22-inch, 10-spoke polished wheels.
Bentley engineers came up with same up some creative ways to minimize the added mass of the EWB. Surprisingly, it comes in less than 200 pounds heavier than the standard-length SUV.
The 2023 Bentley Bentayga actually isn’t the longest vehicle in its class. The Rolls-Royce Cullinan comes in at 210 inches, nose-to-tail. (And, moving down-market, the Cadillac Escalade ESV measures a full 227 inches.) But all of the additional length gained with the EWB is devoted to the rear cabin. It’s got more legroom than the Cullinan and other high-line competitors such as the Range Rover LWB. It even is roomier than the old Bentley flagship, the now discontinued Mulsanne — which the EWB officially replaces.
While the wider rear doors make it easier to climb in and out of the back seats, the downside is trying to reach them once insider. Bentley engineers solved the problem with power-close buttons mounted on the rear center console. Alongside, rear passengers will find a small, removable tablet that can be used to control all manner of things, including the rear climate system, seating position, the massage function and the rear entertainment system.
Passengers, front and back can take advantage of the Automatic Postural Adjustment System which, when activated, occasionally adjusts the shape of the seat back and cushion in order to reduce fatigue and improve blood flow. During several hours on the road, it went into action, gently nudging my seating position and, indeed, providing a better sense of comfort.
There are three interior packages available, including a five-seat package with a back bench, and a 4+1 configuration. My own Bentayga EWB was an Azure model, part of a new sub-brand that, Bentley officials explained, focused on passenger “comfort and wellness.” It starts with two business jet-style seats in back with 22-way adjustments, and adds features like active noise cancellation, an air ionizer and a climate control system that automatically adjusts by using sensors to track body temperature.
As always, Bentley buyers can choose from a wide range of leathers and fabrics, woods and other trims to outfit the interior to their most demanding personal tastes. All told, the automaker claims it can deliver 64 billion different build combinations.
The stretched version of the Bentley Bentayga carries over the same 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 used in the standard-length SUV. It pumps out 542 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque, enough to launch you from 0-60 in a factory-estimated 4.5 seconds when in Sport Mode. I didn’t have a chance to run a stopwatch but there’s little doubt that this beast can deliver sports car levels of acceleration.
Power goes through an 8-speed automatic transmission and then gets directed to all four wheels.
There are no plans to equip the Bentayga EWB with the automaker’s distinctive W-12 engine. In fact, that engine will vanish entirely after a short run under the hood of the newest Bentley Flying Spur. There could be another option going forward, however. Bentley officials sidestepped questions about using the brand’s hybrid drivetrain, saying they could “neither confirm nor deny” an electrified option going forward. That said, Bentley has laid out plans to go all-electric before the end of the decade. And that means that either this SUV — or an eventual replacement — will ultimately switch to battery power.
Safety and Technology
You’d likely expect a Bentley to deliver a broad package of high-tech features, and it certainly delivers — from the rear-wheel-steer system to the premium Naim audio system that drives up to 1,720 watts through 20 individual speakers.
There are, of course, the prerequisites: the 10.9-inch infotainment screen with built-in navigation, as well as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s wireless smartphone charging and plenty of USB ports.
The cabin features adjustable ambient lighting with 30 individual color choices. And you can order a rear-seat entertainment system. One of the more intriguing touches is the use of a removable, tablet-sized device that rear seat passengers can use to control functions like climate control and seat position.
The Bentayga EWB also features a full array of advanced driver assistance systems — though you’ll still have to maintain hands on the steering wheel.
I was tempted to spend my time in British Columbia comfortably ensconced in one of the Bentayga EWB’s plush rear seats. And when I did I was amply rewarded. They’re as comfy as a feather bed, yet supportive enough to keep you in place if your chauffeur gets a little aggressive. In Relax Mode, the seats can recline up to 40 degrees. And massage function is the best I’ve experienced. And, of course, there’s a trick entertainment system with separate screens for each rear occupant.
Compared to archrival Rolls-Royce, Bentley has traditionally been more of a driver’s car and — with the exception of the Chinese market — most Bentayga owners tend to drive themselves. That’s expected to remain the case with the EWB. And it didn’t take long to discover why.
Beyond its imposing presence, the SUV is surprisingly — yes, I will use the word — nimble. Part of the credit goes to Bentley engineers who’ve developed an air suspension system that soaks up all but the harshest bumps while avoiding the disconnected feeling of so many boulevard cruisers.
Another factor is the new rear-wheel-steer system, which can turn up to 4.1 degrees. In town, at lower speeds, the back wheels turn counter to the front tires, making it surprisingly easy to turn or park. The 2023 Bentayga EWB boasts a turning circle of just 38.7 feet, a full two feet shorter than the standard-length SUV.
I had a chance to see how that played out during my drive through Canada Olympic Park, taking the Bentayga out on some off-road trails you’d more normally expect to traverse in a Jeep or Bronco. The all-wheel-steer system allowed me to take many tight corners without executing a K-turn. The ute’s all-wheel-drive system, meanwhile, proved surprisingly sure-footed, both on loose soil as well as gravel and rocks.
At highway speeds, incidentally, the rear-wheel-steer system now turns in sync with the front tires, enhancing on-road handling noticeably. Add the responsiveness of the big V-8 and the 2023 Bentley Bentayga proved itself to be a joy to drive, whether maneuvering on tight mountain roads or on the freeway.
The Bentayga quickly became the automaker’s best-selling product line after its 2015 debut and has retained that standing ever since. With the launch of the extended wheelbase model, potential customers could find it even more appealing. Yes, at a starting MSRP of $229,625 it carries a bit of a premium over the standard-length model. But that’s not likely to matter much considering Bentley buyers routinely choose from a seemingly long list of features and custom options.
Bentley officials are forecasting the EWB will account for 45% of total Bentayga sales. Pressed, they think the stretched model could do even better in the U.S. market, what with its mantra, “bigger is better.”
There is, of course, a lot more competition in the ultra-luxury market than Bentley faced when the Bentayga first rolled into showrooms. There’s the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, its most direct competitor, as well as more sporty products like the Aston Martin DBX and Lamborghini Urus. Even Ferrari has now gotten into the game with the Purosange. But, for those who want a mix of solid performance, surprisingly spirited handling and ultimate luxury, the 2023 Bentley Bentayga EWB is going to be hard to beat.
2023 Bentley Bentayga EWB — Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Bentley Bentayga EWB?
The initials are short for “Extended Wheelbase,” and that translates into 125 inches, or 7.1 inches longer than the standard Bentley Bentayga. The overall length grows to 208.9 inches.
How much does the Bentley Bentayga EWB cost?
It starts at $229,625 — though most customers are expected to customize their vehicles, significantly boosting the price tag. According to Bentley officials, they can come up with 64 billion different combinations of parts, accessories, paint colors, interior fabrics and more.
Can a Bentley Bentayga be a daily driver?
While Bentley buyers typically have a number of other vehicles in their household fleet, the standard-length Bentayga is used as the daily driver by 84% of its owners, according to data collected by the British brand. The automaker expects that to continue with the EWB model.