Call us hidebound traditionalists, but we prefer to review cars using impressions harvested while sitting in the driver's seat rather than those acquired while being chauffeured in the back. That rule is largely going to be broken here with what can be considered a pilot episode of Car and Passenger.
Because while there is still joy to be found from behind its leather-and-wood steering wheel, the Bentley Bentayga Extended Wheelbase is all about its rear seats. As its name suggests, Bentley has followed the time-honored expedient of adding grandness via what is effectively a high-class stretch job. That means a 7.1-inch extension between the axles, taking the wheelbase to 125 inches and overall length to a sizable 208.9 inches. The entirety of this elongation has been added to the legroom available to rear-seat occupants. And to help them make the most of it, Bentley has also added the option of a new ultra-adjustable "Airline Seat." And that name is referring to the kind you'd find in a Gulfstream G5 rather than in the aft end of a 737.
Alas, this isn't one of those natty lie-flat beds from the plusher type of first class. Even an extended-wheelbase Bentayga doesn't have the room to accommodate one of those without wiping out all luggage space, and the company admits it also would have needed to develop an all-new restraint system to allow a fully recumbent position to meet occupant safety standards. Instead, the Airline Seat reclines up to 40 degrees, and selecting its Relax mode also motors the front passenger seat as far forward and upright as possible, deploying a motorized footrest as it does so.
Positional adjustability is comprehensive, but so is the new seat's climatic adaptability. Many seats are heated and some are ventilated, but the Airline Seat controls these functions by carefully monitoring the temperature and also the humidity of the body that is pressed against it, micro-adjusting thermal inputs to ensure optimal comfort. This function worked so seamlessly that we didn't notice it doing anything during a long stint in the back, although we did feel entirely comfortable. The intervention of a programmable range of massage and posture-correcting orthopedic programs was more obvious.
One thing it lacks—surprisingly, given its name—is an airline-style fold-out table, something that Maybach offers with its ultra-luxe seating in the S-class and the GLS. The rear seat's position farther back means the beautiful walnut table integrated into the front seatback is too far away to be used for anything rear passengers might want to reach, although it does make a beautiful tablet stand. Despite this omission, the price of the Airline Seat looks like respectable value by the standards of Bentley options. It's yours for a mere $11,195, although you will also need to spend another quarter mil on the rest of the Bentayga.
Motoring in the EWB in beautiful British Columbia gave us the chance to experience it both in downtown Vancouver and on twisty, bumpy mountain roads. Canadian traffic prefers to travel at a gentle pace that suited the EWB well. The elongated Bentayga's most obvious problem, when compared to lower limousines, is one dictated by physics. Being taller, its center of gravity is higher, so the effect of even gentler cornering forces becomes stronger. The EWB gets Bentley's 48-volt anti-roll system as standard, but this still allows discernible lean in the softest Comfort driving mode. Aside from that, refinement was outstanding thanks to the combination of the pillowy air springs and generous sound insulation. The Bentayga certainly feels both more hushed and comfortable than the Mulsanne sedan that previously topped the model range, although with a less stately presence.
Switching, finally, to the driver's seat proved that little has been lost dynamically when compared to the regular-size Bentayga. Power comes from the same 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 as the standard car, making an identical 542 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque. The most obvious difference here is a softer exhaust note, Bentley's engineers having deliberately hushed this to better suit limo duties. There is still a muted eight-cylinder burble, but one that only raises its voice toward the far reaches of the gas pedal's long travel.
Suitably prodded, the EWB is still mightily quick. We will need to wait to extract our own performance figures, but Bentley claims its 4.5-second zero-to-60-mph time is just 0.1 second slower than the regular Bentayga V8. We expect our 60-mph measurement to be considerably quicker than that, because the Bentayga S we tested reached that mark in 3.5 seconds. Although an official weight figure is not yet available, the company promises that the EWB will be less than 220 pounds heavier. Based on our Bentayga S test measurement of 5439 pounds, that suggests the EWB ought to come in at 5650 pounds. It keeps all of the same dynamic modes of its shorter sibling, with the Sport mode firming up both the dampers and the active anti-roll system and allowing the XXL Bentayga to be hustled at a serious pace for something so grandly proportioned. The biggest mechanical change is the arrival of rear-wheel steering, a first on the Bentayga, and this works to effectively shorten the wheelbase when maneuvering. The EWB’s 38.7-foot turning circle is actually two feet tighter than that of the standard car.
Bentley says there are no plans to offer the W-12 engine with the EWB, as that venerable motor is close to retirement. Conversely, company executives admit that the plug-in-hybrid powertrain "would make sense" for such a relaxed car, although nothing is yet confirmed. Buyers who just want extra legroom without the ultra-adaptable seat will be able to specify the standard three-wide rear bench instead, although Bentley says there are no plans to offer the EWB in conjunction with the existing option of three-row seating. That would just be silly.
The Bentayga's wheelbase isn't the only thing that has gotten bigger. The price has also gone up a couple of notches, with Bentley predicting the EWB's ask will be around $266,225—a substantial premium over the existing Bentayga V8. Start ticking option boxes and it will be entirely possible to push the final tally beyond the $300,000 mark. Yet Bentley is predicting that up to half of Bentayga buyers will opt for this new variant. Clearly, for them, it won't be a stretch.
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