First Drive: 2020 Bentley Bentayga Speed

by Michael Satterfield

I have spent the last week in the Bentley  Bentayga Speed and while it might seem hyperbolic, I am prepared to declare that it is the greatest SUV you can currently buy. Now I understand that is a bold statement, there are SUVs with more space, more towing capacity, and many that are more capable off-roaders. But if we are honest, the percentage of four-wheel-drive SUVs that end up taking on the King of Hammers is fairly low. For what the modern SUV is designed and used for these days, by the majority of people, the Bentley Bentayga Speed is far and above unlike any sports utility you can buy from the factory today.

It would be easy to dismiss my crowning the Bentley as the King of SUVs if you assumed I hadn't driven anything else comparable, but having driven just about every new SUV from the Kia Telluride to the Rolls-Royce Cullinan over the last year, the Bentley just does the SUV better. The Bentayga Speed has a base price of $235,700, the one I have been driving comes in at $273,760, about $50,000 more than the median home price in the United States right now.

That is a lot of money for an SUV, but even priced at over a quarter of a million dollars, the Bentayga Speed is in the middle of the ultra-luxury SUV pack, costing more than the new Aston Martin DBX which starts just under $200,000, but still significantly less than the Cullinan which has a base price of $330,000. To be fair you can get into a Bentley Bentayga Hybrid or V8 from the mid $160,000s, but you would need to make do with the 443hp in the Hybrid or 542hp in the V8, as opposed to the 626hp you get in the Speed.

As I do with all test vehicles, the Bentley served as my daily driver for the entire week. That meant driving to the post office, picking up a hibiscus from the local garden center, and a weekend trip to a local historic site and museum. What stood out most, was how instantly comfortable I was behind the wheel of the Bentayga, it certainly felt special, but it wasn't pretentious. 

Outside the Speed stands out from the standard Bentayga thanks to blacked-out headlights, a tailgate spoiler, blacked-out grills, 22-inch wheels, and Speed badging. Finished in Orange Flame paint the Bentayga is striking, however, if you are a non-native Texas beware that that driving an orange vehicle in Aggieland can draw some unwanted attention. Several people made sure to let me know that it was TU Austin Orange and therefore a terrible color, however, it is a Bentley so they still wanted to take a picture with it.

Inside Alcantara with contrast stitching make a bold statement, this Bentayga is also equipped with the $4,035 carbon fiber interior package, which does add to the sportiness of the interior. Inside is every modern convenience, with the exception of a power-folding second-row seat, which is nearly standard in most luxury SUVs, but for the few times, you actually do fold down the seats the rest of the interior more than makes up for it. Be sure to add the optional messaging seats when you place your order.

But while the pretty interior and rear spoiler is great, they are all just the wrapper for the 6-liter twin-turbo W12 engine that can propel the Bentayga Speed to 190 mph, making it the fasted production SUV you can currently buy. The sporting pedigree doesn't end with the top speed, the Speed will reach 0-60 in just 3.8 seconds, which is faster than a BMW M2 Competition, a Porsche Cayman S, or a Lexus RC F Track Edition, and the Bentayga manages this while weighing over two and a half tons.

The team at Bentley assured me that the Bentayga Speed was as capable off-road as it was on, with its adjustable height suspension and off-road settings for nearly every terrain, I am confident it could go most places a Jeep could. However, I decided it would be better to take their word for it as I don't know if I could handle listing to sagebrush scraping down the side as I drove down a trail. Sticking to the pavement provided more than enough thrills.

Keeping all the weight under control is Bentley's Dynamic Ride System and full-time all-wheel drive, which are confidence inspiring to say the least. Rotate the dial to "Sport" and you will be shocked at how well this behemoth can take a corner, it does feel unexpectedly sporty and it is fun to drive. Sport mode isn't just a slightly lower suspension stance and a piped-in exhaust note, the throttle is more responsive, the steering provides more feedback, the suspension is firmer, and the exhaust bypass value opens up for a much better soundtrack. Open the panoramic glass roof, roll down the windows, and enjoy the twisty backcountry roads with four of your closest friends.

Pulling back onto the highway, closing the roof, and switching back to comfort mode, the Bentayga becomes a quiet retreat, smooth, lacking any road or wind noise. The perfect highway cruiser. In town, the Bentayga is surprisingly easy to drive, thanks to its array of sensors, cameras, and bird's eye view display parking in even tight spots is possible. In a less ostentatious color, the Bentayga could fly under the radar providing unmatched luxury without drawing unwanted attention. The Speed is the perfect luxury SUV for Texas, a vehicle that makes a statement pulling up to the Houston Grand Opera and is capable of taking the dirt road out to the ranch for the weekend, it will even tow a two-horse trailer.

For more on the Bentayga Speed visit