Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class VS Bentley Bentayga
- In-line six engine
- Grand interior
- High-tech features
- Three-year warranty
- Magnificent twin-turbo petrol V8
- Superbly comfortable
- Surprisingly dynamic for its size
- A little awkward looking
- Low on standard advanced safety equipment
- Boot is smaller compared to rivals
Not so long ago, even the idea of 'coupe SUV' would have been considered just a little bit silly.
But not anymore. This almost contradictory bodystyle is well and truly here to stay, as evidenced by the expanding catalog of available models pouring out of premium automakers.
Benz tells us, for example, that coupe versions make up some 25 per cent of its GLE sales in Australia.
Which brings us to this car – the second-generation GLE coupe. We were sent to its international launch to find out what’s new, what’s changed, and what Benz has in store for the Australian market, come its arrival in Q3 of 2020. Read on to find out what we discovered.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
When Bentley revealed its Bentayga in 2015 the British brand called it “the fastest, most powerful, most luxurious, and most exclusive SUV in the world."
See, that first Bentayga packed a W12 engine, but the SUV we have here was introduced in 2018 with a twin-turbo petrol V8 and a reduced price tag.
So how does this more affordable and less powerful Bentayga stack up to Bentley's lofty ambitions?
Well you’ve come to the right place, because along with speed, power, luxury and exclusivity I can also talk about the Bentayga V8’s other attributes, such as what it’s like to park, drop children off at school in, do the shopping in and even go through a 'drive thru' in.
Yes, the Bentley Bentayga V8 came to live with my family for a week and as with any house guest you quickly find out what’s great about them… and then there are those times you walk in on them not looking their best.
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Whether you like Coupe SUVs or not is an entirely subjective matter, but there’s no denying the GLE 53 is a tech and spec showcase – some of the best Mercedes has to offer. If you can get past its relatively enormous dimensions and naturally compromised visibility – it’s even a hoot to drive.
The significant proportion of GLE consumers who are picking one of these over the regular version will be pleased with its many improvements. We’ll know more about how its price and specification lines up against primary rivals closer to its Australian launch date, so stay tuned.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
The Bentayga is Bentley’s first attempt at an SUV and the Bentayga V8 is a more recent addition to the line-up that provides an alternative to the W12, hybrid and diesel models.
There’s no doubt the Bentayga V8 delivers an exceptionally good driving experience from its power and athleticism to the serene cabin and comfortable ride.
Where the Bentley Bentayga V8 appears to be lacking is in cabin technology which compared to other luxury SUVs is becoming outdated, and in standard advanced safety equipment. We’d expect this to be addressed in future revisions of the SUV.
Does the Bentayga fit the ultra-luxury SUV bill? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
The GLE Coupe has improved so much in its looks it’s easy to see when it came to the second-generation GLE underpinnings, Benz had it planned from the beginning.
It looks mean, especially the 53 with its giant toothy grille. The stance is low and wide for an SUV, and I’m especially a fan of the much more resolved rear end.
It’s less bulbous and frumpy, more slick and menacing, rounded out nicely by the flick of a lip spoiler jutting out the rear.
You might think proportionally, the very idea of a coupe SUV is silly, and there’s no denying that, but then, you and I might not be the target audience.
That audience is someone looking for an avant-garde take on what a sports car actually looks like. They will be pleased – I’d say its even more resolved than BMW’s X Coupes and a little less science-fiction than Audi’s Q8. The incoming Coupe version of the Porsche Cayenne will be a real challenger.
The presence the GLE Coupe exudes extends to the inside, where there’s plenty of Mercedes wow factor. Level what you might at the brand’s use of silver fittings and flat dual-screen set-up, there’s no denying Benz offers an interior entirely unlike its competition.
The GLE has one of the best of the recent Benz interiors, too. I love the way the big dual-screen set-up is framed in a 'leather'-clad bay of vents.
I also like the real wood trim on our test car which runs across the dash and flows into the doors, and of course the wholly unnecessary vent-overload (becoming a Benz signature) pride of place in the centre of the dash.
It’s complemented by the tape-deck style silver switches for the climate controls which protrudes underneath.
The materials are great, with Artico trim running down the centre console, and across each doorcard. Almost every surface you’ll reasonably come into contact with is soft, and the commitment to real metals and wood is admirable.
Other highlights include the comfortable seats (with heating which extends into the armrests!) and AMG wheel which is flashy and aggressive, well suited to such a gratuitous vehicle.
The Bentayga is unmistakably a Bentley, but I have my doubts whether this first attempt by the British brand to build an SUV has been a design success.
To me, the rear three-quarter view is its best angle with those trademark rear haunches, but front-on reveals an overbite I can’t ‘unsee’.
But then again perhaps I’m the one with bad taste, I mean I think Lamborghini's Urus SUV, which uses the same MLB Evo platform, is a work of art in its design, staying faithful to the sports cars in the family, while acquiring a brave look of its own.
I also found the interior of the Bentayga V8 disappointing. Not in terms of overall craftsmanship but rather its outdated technology and plain styling.
The 8.0-inch screen is almost identical to the one used in the Volkswagen Golf in 2016. But the Golf received its Mk 7.5 update in 2017 and with it a stunning touchscreen which hasn't made it into the Bentayga yet.
The steering wheel, too, has identical switchgear to the $42K Audi A3 I reviewed two weeks ago and you can add the indicator and wiper stalks into that mix as well.
While the fit and finish of the upholstery was outstanding, there was a lack of interior refinement in some places. For example, the cupholders, had rough and sharp plastic edges, the gear shifter was also plastic and felt flimsy, while the fold-down armrest in the back seats also lacked refinement in the way it was constructed and lowered without damping.
At just over 5.1m long, 2.2m wide (including the wing mirrors) and a little over 1.7m tall the Bentayga is big but it’s the same length and width as the Urus, and a bit taller. The Bentayga’s wheelbase is only 7.0mm shorter than the Urus’s at 2995mm.
The Bentayga isn’t the longest of the Bentleys, that’s for sure. The Mulsanne is 5.6m end-to- end and the Flying Spur is 5.3m in length. So, the Bentayga V8 is almost ‘fun-size’ in Bentley terms, even though it’s large.
The Bentayga is made in the United Kingdom at Bentley’s home (since 1946) in Crewe.
Naturally, the entire idea of shaving a solid bit of roof off of an SUV is going to compromise the amount of ‘practicality’ you get from such a large footprint.
Those compromises are not only there, but they are quite obvious. The sheer height of the GLE makes peering over the edge of the bonnet difficult for parking, and the sloped roofline causes the A-pillar to eat quite a bit of your field of vision.
As you might imagine, it’s genuinely difficult to see much out of the back of the GLE Coupe. I caught myself continually adjusting the rear vision mirror – as though somehow it would grant me more vision out of the letterbox rear window.
While front passengers get away with plenty of room, rear passengers are a little harder done by. This is again, largely due to the roof pillar, which eats into headroom and gives the cabin a claustrophobic feel.
Thankfully, legroom is fantastic (largely due to that massive GLE platform), the trim is all just as good as it is in the front seats, and the back of the centre console gets its own set of climate controls, adjustable air vents and USB-C power outlets.
I’d hardly say there’s an abundance of bottle holders for occupants, but there are a few. They aren’t big or packaged in ideal locations, but you’ll be able to get away with four 300ml containers in the front and four in the rear.
The boot has been re-worked from the GLE Coupe’s predecessor, there’s five extra litres on tap, for a total of 655 litres (VDA) – so it’s far from useless, but still down significantly from the full size GLE which has a massive 825L of space.
Benz has made the boot more useful, too, lowering the sill by 60mm for easier access.
The Bentayga V8 may be an SUV, but that doesn’t immediately make it a god of practicality. While roomy up front for the driver and co-pilot, the rear seating is not exactly limo-like, although at 191cm tall I can sit with about 100mm of space. Headroom is slightly limited by the edges of the panoramic sunroof for rear riders, too.
Storage in the cabin is adequate with two cupholders and small door pockets in the back, and another two cupholders and larger door pockets in the front. There’s also a shallow centre console storage bin and two wells for loose items in front of it.
The Bentayga V8’s boot with the rear seats in place has a cargo capacity of 484 litres – that’s measured to the cargo cover, but to the roof its 589 litres.
That boot space is still smaller than the Lamborghini Urus’s 616 litres and there’s much less boot space than the Audi Q7 and Cayenne which both have 770 litres measured to the roof, too.
Making life easier is the load-height lowering system which is operated with a button located in the boot.
The tailgate is powered, but the kick-open function (standard on say an Audi Q5) is an option you’ll have to pay for on the Bentayga.
As for power outlets and charging, the Bentayga’s falling out-of-date here, too. There is no wireless charger for phones, but there are two USB ports up front and three 12-volt outlets (one in the front and two in the rear row) on-board.
Price and features
There’s no dancing around the fact that the GLE Coupe is a niche, gratuitous product, targeted at a well-off consumer.
We don’t know what the pricing will be for the Australian range yet – and we won’t for a few months. But what we do know is Mercedes-Benz will only bring two highly specified variants to our market for the launch.
Those two will be the AMG-tuned GLE 53 which we were able to test at the launch, and a slightly lesser specified GLE 450.
Expect tall pricing, north of the wagon bodied GLE 450 ($111,341) for the 450 Coupe and outgoing GLE 43 Coupe ($145,829) for the GLE 53 Coupe.
Standard features, as with the rest of the second-generation GLE range will be pretty good. We don’t know exactly what Australian-specified vehicles will get, but the GLE 53 as tested in Europe came with an extensive list of items.
You can expect all variants to get 20- to 22-inch alloys, electric tailgates, LED headlights, and Benz’ signature ‘Artico’ faux leather interior trim. The 53 also had a swish fully RGB adjustable interior ambient lighting suite and real wood in the dash. Very nice.
All GLE Coupes will have the impressive MBUX (I’m told it’s said “em bee you ex”, not “em bucks”) digital dash and multimedia suite, consisting of two 12.3-inch screens, one a digital dash, the other a multimedia screen.
The flashy setup also supports Apple CarPlay and Android auto as well as the usual connectivity via Bluetooth and packs several USB C outlets alongside Aux and USB 2.0. Our test 53 had a head-up display, too.
Mercedes’ built-in assistant (summoned by uttering 'Hey Mercedes') has perhaps the best native voice recognition on the market in terms of its accuracy and what it can do.
You can do things like adjust air conditioning, open the sunroof shade (oh yes, the GLE comes with a panoramic sunroof, too), and even find your specific music tracks via internet radio.
Then there’s the built in nav suite which is also one of the better ones on the market, featuring some very cool innovations.
The system will switch to the forward-facing camera when approaching an intersection and show you where to exit using augmented reality. Neat.
The 53’s system is also uniquely adjustable with AMG-specific themes and modes for the dash cluster, setting it apart from the lesser GLE 450 when it arrives.
It’s safe to assume there will be an extensive options list, including the 'E-Active Body Control' system (a $13,000 option on the wagon version) which uses cameras to detect road quality and optimize the air suspension system to suit. It also leans into corners. We’re keen to test it when it becomes available on the GLE 450.
That’s the question those who can’t afford a Bentley Bentayga V8 want to know the answer to, and the one that those who can don’t ask.
I’m in the first group, so I can tell you the Bentley Bentayga V8 has a list price of $334,700. Our car had $87,412 in options which we’ll take a look at, but all up including the on-road costs, our test car had a price of $454,918.
Standard features inside include leather upholstery in a choice of five colours, 'Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus' veneer trim, a three-spoke leather clad steering wheel, ‘B’ foot pedals, Bentley embossed treadplates, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, a 10-speaker stereo, CD player, digital radio, four-zone climate control and shifting paddles.
Exterior standard features include 21-inch wheels, black painted brake calipers, air suspension with four height settings, a choice of seven paint colours, gloss black radiator grille, black lower bumper grille, LED headlights and LED tail-lights, twin quad-exhaust and a panoramic sun roof.
Our car was fitted with options galore which is common in vehicles loaned to the media. Car companies often use these cars to showcase available options rather than represent a typical customer specification.
There’s the 'Artica White' paint from the bespoke Mulliner range costing $14,536; 'our' car's 22-inch wheels weigh in at $9999, as do the fixed side steps; the tow bar and brake controller (with Audi Q7 badging, see the images) is $6989; body coloured lower bodywork is $2781 and LED puddle lights are $2116.
Then there’s the acoustic glazing for $2667, front seats with the 'Comfort Specification' for $7422 and then $8080 for the 'Hot Spur' main hide and 'Beluga' secondary hide leather upholstery, the $3825 piano black veneer trim and if you want the Bentley logo embroidered into the headrests (as per our car) it costs $1387.
Does it represent good value for the price? Not by regular standards, but Bentleys are anything but regular cars, and those that buy them tend not to look at prices.
But, as I do with every car I review (whether it costs $30,000 or $300,000), I ask the manufacturer for a list of options fitted to the test car and the as-tested pricing, and I always include those options and their costs in my review.
Engine & trans
Australia will only get one engine in the GLE Coupe – a 3.0-litre 48-volt mild-hybrid in-line six-cylinder twin-turbo petrol.
There will be two states of tune. The 450 will be able to make use of 270kW/500Nm, while the AMG-spec GLE 53 we were able to drive at the launch has more power still (thanks to extra hybrid augmentation on the turbo) for a total of 320kW/520Nm.
For a quick comparison, the single-variant Q8 produces 250kW/500Nm from a twin-turbo V6, while the equivalent X6 – the M40i packs a 3.0-litre twin-turbo in-line six to make 250kW/450Nm.
The GLE 53 has a nine-speed auto transmission which is specially tuned by AMG to go with the expanded list of available drive modes. All Australian GLE Coupes will be all-wheel drive via a permanently active '4Matic+' system.
The scores I’ve awarded to the Bentayga V8 so far haven’t been impressive, but now we come to the twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8.
Derived from the same unit found in the Audi RS6 this turbo-petrol V8 makes 404kW/770Nm. That’s enough grunt to get this 2.4 tonne beast from parked in your garage to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds, provided your driveway is at least 163.04m long, which for some owners would be entirely possible.
That’s not as quick as the Urus which can do it in 3.6 seconds, but while the Lamborghini shares the same engine it’s tuned to make 478kW/850Nm and that SUV is about 200 kilos lighter.
Shifting gears wonderfully in the Bentayga V8 is an eight-speed automatic which suits the Bentley better with its seamless but not-in-a-huge-hurry gear swaps than the same unit in the Urus.
While there are those who think a W12, as found in the first Bentayga, is more in line with Bentley’s ethos, I think this V8 is superb in its power delivery and sounds subtle but magnificent.
The braked towing capacity of the Bentley Bentayga is 3500kg.
The claimed combined cycle fuel consumption figure for the GLE 53 Coupe is 9.3L/100km, and while that’s not bad for something this heavy – keep in mind it’s an NEDC figure and not the widely-used WLTP figure so it could be a bit different by the time the GLE Coupe launches here.
Regardless, the fuel consumption is helped along by the abundance of ratios in the transmission and 48-volt mild-hybrid additions which help to remove inefficiencies from the drivetrain.
Our sweet but brief drive route in the Austrian Alps was not a fair reflection of fuel consumption, so we don’t have a real-world figure for you yet.
Expect the GLE 53 to require premium 98 RON unleaded petrol to fill its 65-litre fuel tank.
A 4.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 pushing a 2.4-tonne SUV loaded up with people and possibly towing a horse float is going to want to be fed fuel – lots of fuel.
And that’s even if engine has cylinder deactivation like the one in the Bentayga V8 which can cut out four of the eight when not under load.
Officially, combined fuel consumption for the Bentayga V8 is 11.4L/100km, but after 112km of fuel testing on a combination of motorways, suburban and city roads I measured 21.1L/100km at the petrol pump.
I’m not surprised. For most of that I was in Sport mode or in the traffic, or in both at the same time.
The resurgence of the in-line six engine is a glorious thing, and it makes the GLE 53 quite a fun, if chunky, unit to drive.
Acceleration is urgent thanks to the pre-spooled first-stage turbo, and the transmission flicks through the gears like there’s nothing to it.
It’s perhaps not as 'smart' on the downshifts as competitor transmissions from Audi or Porsche, although Mercedes was keen to point out this will get better over time as the car’s computer 'learns' your driving characteristics.
Thankfully though, unless you’re in 'Eco' mode, the GLE 53 does a great job of letting you ride each gear out, giving you that signature in-line six sensation of an entire revolution range of relatively even torque distribution – a characteristic which Mercedes has gone to pains to perfect on a turbocharged engine.
This has the result of letting you bask in the sound for precious extra seconds.
While not as furious as preceding V8s – it is distinct. It’s refined and rich, although more subdued than you might have come to expect from vehicles wearing the Affalterbach badge.
I’m a fan. It’s an engine befitting a more refined sports machine than a garish statement.
The AMG suspension tune was great, too, keeping the massive Coupe truly under control in the corners, while soaking up bumps (which we’ll admit, there were few of on Austria’s immaculate roads).
It was interesting to read colleague Matt Campbell found the standard suspension less than impressive on the regular SUV-shaped variants, so we’ll see what the more basic set-up on the 450 is like at the Coupe’s launch.
I have no complaints about the steering, which proved to be responsive, smooth and accurate, while not erring too far on the heavy side, even in 'Sport' or 'Sport+' mode.
My main complaints lie with outward visibility and the sheer size of the GLE’s body. There were some nerve-wracking moments piloting it at speed around narrow streets with tall snow embankments encroaching.
And no matter how much I adjusted my seat and mirrors, the view out the back was particularly compromised.
Comfortable and (believe it or not) athletic, sums it up. And the only thing stopping me from throwing in another word such as effortless is the forward visibility, which is what I noticed the moment I steered it out of the dealership and into the traffic.
But first let me give you the comfortable and athletic good news. The Bentayga felt nothing like it looked to drive – my eyes told me it should be more sumo wrestler than ninja to steer but they were wrong.
Despite the hulking dimensions and not insignificant weight, the Bentayga V8 felt surprisingly lithe with great handling for an SUV this size.
That the Urus, which I test drove a few weeks beforehand, also felt athletic seemed less a surprise in that the styling suggested it was agile and quick.
Thing is it shouldn’t be a surprise given the Urus and Bentley share the same MLB EVO platform.
Four standard drive modes let me change the character of the Bentayga V8 from 'Comfort' to 'Sport'. There’s also a ‘B’ mode which is a mix of throttle response, suspension and steering setting which Bentley nominates as the best for all-round driving conditions. Or you can ‘build-you-own’ drive mode in the 'Custom' setting.
Keeping the comfort mode on makes the ride composed and supple. Self-levelling air suspension with continuous damping is standard but flick the dial to Sport and the suspension firms, but not to the point where the ride is compromised.
I spent most of my almost 200 kilometres testing it in Sport mode which did nothing to help fuel economy but made my ears happy with the V8 burble.
Now, about that forward visibility. The design of the Bentayga’s nose is the cause of my issue here; specifically the way the wheel guards are stepped down out of view from the bonnet.
All I knew was that I was about 100mm wider that it looked from the driver’s seat – I don’t like that kind of guess work when piloting half a million dollars down a narrow street or car park. As you’ll see in the video I came up with a solution to the issue.
I’m not going to let that nose get in the way of a poor score, however. Besides owners will get used to it after a while.
Aside from that, the Bentayga was quite easy to parallel park with light steering and good rearward visibility and large wing mirrors, while multi storey shopping centre car parks were also surprisingly fuss free to steering through – this is after all not an overly long large SUV.
There was one ‘drive thru’ excursion and again I’m happy to report I emerged with hamburgers and without scratches at the other end.
So, I’m happy to throw effortless in there after all and you can add serene – that cabin felt bank vault-like insulated from the outside world. Don’t ask me how I know that.
We don’t know exactly how Australian cars will be specified yet, but expect the two GLE Coupes to come with flagship active features like high-speed auto emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning with lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear and front cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, 360 degree parking sensors and cameras, fully auto LED headlights, semi-autonomous parking, and driver attention alert.
The GLE has nine airbags and dual ISOFIX child seat mounting points in the outer rear seats.
Regular wagon bodied GLE class vehicles have maximum five-star ANCAP safety ratings as of 2019, and we’ll update you when we hear more about the Coupe variants.
The Bentayga V8 has not been assessed by ANCAP testing but being based on the same platform as the five-star rated Audi Q7 I have no reason to suspect the Bentley would perform any differently and not be safe from a structural perspective.
We’re tough on budget cars that don’t come standard with AEB and likewise on high-end vehicles, and the Bentley Bentayga V8 doesn’t escape here.
AEB is not standard on the Bentayga V8 and if you want other forms of advanced safety equipment such as lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and rear cross traffic alert you’ll have to option them across two packages – the 'City Specification' for $12,042 and the 'Touring Specification' which was fitted to our car for $16,402.
The Touring specification adds adaptive cruise, lane keeping assistance, AEB, Night Vision and a head-up display.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX points and two top tether anchor points across the second row.
Mercedes continues with its three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty which is frustratingly standard across European premium car manufacturers in Australia– particularly its primary competitors, Audi and BMW. We doubt this will change any time soon.
Like VW Group competitors, though, Mercedes is now bundling in service costs in packages which can be tacked on to finance. The GLE requires servicing once a year or every 15,000km – we’ll update you on the cost of the packages closer to the Coupe’s local launch.