For many years car manufacturers have attempted to emulate the success of the Range Rover and create a true luxury SUV. Mercedes has come closest so far, with its GLS finding favour with those who can afford it. But now Bentley has a new contender to challenge the Range Rover, and it’s arguably the poshest SUV in the world.
The Bentley Bentayga is based on the same platform as the latest Audi Q7, which isn’t entirely surprising given that both companies are owned by Volkswagen Group. Given that the cheapest Bentayga costs more than triple the entry-level Audi, we thought we’d best compare the two to see if the Bentley is worth the huge extra premium.
Both cars try to make a big impression with their styling, and both are certainly huge, brash cars with eye-catching looks. Whether either is truly attractive is, naturally, down to personal taste.
The Audi takes inspiration both from its predecessor and cars like the new Audi A4. Bold headlamps and a new grille with a silver surround mean that the initial impression of the Q7 remains one of aggression and size, but move around the rest of the car and it’s clear that the Q7 is no longer as distinctive as it once was — in fact some argue that it now looks more like a raised estate car than anything else. It certainly looks lighter than the old Q7, and it is – the new Audi has shed almost a grand piano’s worth of weight compared to the old one.
Bentley’s initial luxury SUV concept met with a poor reception, so the British brand decided to start afresh and used the Continental GT as inspiration for the Bentayga’s design. The result is certainly distinctive, with bulging body lines that make a big impression, and a massive grille surrounded by glowering headlights. Toward the rear the Bentley appears to take inspiration from the Q7, but overall it’s the more distinctive choice if you like the way it looks.
Interior and practicality
Normally when car reviews mention Audi interiors, they rave about the exquisite design and luxurious feeling materials. This remains true, but when brought up against the Bentley, it makes the Q7 come across as a little average — material choices throughout are nice but can’t really compare against the hand-polished wood of the British model – but naturally that involves spending almost £100,000 more. Still, the Audi can be had with the brand’s impressive virtual cockpit and MMI infotainment system.
The Audi also impresses when practicality is taken into account — the Q7 is definitely built with families in-mind, and has seven seats as standard. Then there’s the massive boot and ample cubby space, all of which makes for a very practical vehicle.
The Bentayga is the most spacious Bentley yet, and the similarly large size of the car means that Bentley has been able to offer a large boot and good all-round space, although Bentley didn’t see fit to add a third row of seats – although a seven-seat option is due in the future. The quality of the Bentley’s interior is almost beyond comparison here – the quality of the leather alone will have you smitten as soon as you slide into the driving seat.
Given that they are essentially based on the same platform, it’s not surprising that the Bentayga and Q7 share a number of driving characteristics. Neither has been designed to be a truly sporting SUV in the guise of the Porsche Cayenne, but instead focus on offer a well-rounded and refined driving experience.
The Q7 is best when fitted with the optional air suspension, but even the standard car rides reasonably well and feels much like a normal family hatchback to drive. Driving the Bentley can seem like a remote experience given the refinement of its engine, but at the same time you’re always aware of the huge power that’s under the bonnet. The acceleration in the Bentley is so rapid and power so accessible, that even a novice will feel the car shrinking around them despite its size.
Both cars are reasonably talented off-road too, with the air suspension on both models helping navigate ruts and rocks that litter many areas. Bentley in particular has focused on making the Bentayga as close to the Range Rover in terms of off-roading, and it can go many places that most owners won’t dare off the tarmac.
If you’re looking at buying the Bentley then you’ve only got one choice of engine — a whopping great 6.0-litre W12, with twin turbos, producing 605hp. That’s powerful enough to move the massive Bentayga from 0-60mph in just four seconds, and onto a top speed of 187mph — mighty impressive for any vehicle, let alone a luxury SUV weighing well over two tonnes. A smaller V8 petrol is likely to be added eventually though, with a diesel version also possible.
The Audi has to make do with more pedestrian choices, in fact just two versions of a 3.0-litre diesel. Available with either 215 or 268bhp, in most circumstances both versions will be more than ample for day-to-day driving, with the more powerful model also being able to out-accelerate most hot hatchbacks. There’s the possibility of a hot ‘SQ7’ being added in the near future, and this may have a beefier V8 diesel. A petrol-powered Q7 in the UK seems unlikely – buyers will nearly always pick a diesel in a car this size.
Value for money and running costs
It’s a tale of two halves here, with the Bentayga and Q7 having massively different prices and running costs. The Bentayga’s base price is £160,200, but that will very quickly rise as options are extensive and expensive — there’s a waiting list for the car too, with the hand-made nature of the Bentley making it a very labour-intensive product. Rumour has it that the Bentayga’s optional dashboard clock adds a scarcely believable £150,000 onto the list price as well!
The Q7 can be bought from £47,755, not cheap by any means but notably lower than the Bentayga. Again options can be pretty pricey, but it would be hard to spec up an Audi past the £80,000 mark.
The W12 engine in the Bentley is of course very thirsty, and it’s unlikely that many drivers will be able to better 20mpg on a regular basis. Then there are the prohibitively high servicing costs, and top-rate road tax to worry about. The Audi Q7 is a lot friendlier on the wallet, because both versions of the diesel officially return 47-48mpg, and to tax it’s no more expensive than an average family saloon. Admittedly it still isn’t going to be a cheap car to run, but considering the size and power of the Q7, it’s pretty impressive.
It’s improbable that many customers will be cross-shopping the Bentley Bentayga and Audi Q7, as despite their similarities, they are priced at very different levels. The Bentley is an immensely impressive machine, and in all likelihood if you like it and can afford it, then nothing this side of a Range Rover in Autobiography trim is going to turn your head.
For us mere mortals though, the Audi Q7 is a very nice vehicle indeed — it’s one of the best all-round SUVs out there, with affordable running costs, space for seven and a lovely interior. OK so it’s a little boring, but in S-Line trim with the right colour choice, it’ll still turn some heads.
Head over to our deals page for the Audi Q7 to check out some of the fantastic savings that carwow can help you with, or check up on the Bentley Bentayga in our review — we’ll have the latest deals for you as soon as they become available.