Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class VS Bentley Bentayga
- Modest steering feel
- So-so warranty
- Pricey servicing
- 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
If you’re in the market for a full-size, seven-seat, luxury SUV you’re obviously living life large. Big family, lots of friends, dogs and cats, and heaps of activity - horses, boats, camping?
You’re aiming at a six-figure bullseye between $130,000 and around $150,000. On a three-year novated lease, somewhere around three grand a month.
Mercedes-Benz Australia invited us to experience the car on a launch drive across city, suburban and rural roads.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
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|
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the Bentley Bentayga V8 appears to be lacking is in cabin technology which compared to other luxury SUVs is becoming outdated, and in standard advanced safety equipment.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.
As mentioned, the GLS is big; a step up from the already substantial model it replaces. Built with the US market in mind, in fact it’s produced in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, it’s more than five metres long, close to two metres wide, and over 1.8m tall. And there’s more than three metres between the axles, a 60mm wheelbase increase over the previous model.
And despite the size of the canvas, the Benz design team has managed to make the GLS look like a modern Merc. Signature elements include obvious ones like the slatted grille with a couple of three-pointed stars on the nose.
But there’s also, the carefully chiselled twin ‘power dome’ bonnet, scowling LED headlights and vents to aid front brake cooling and smooth aero performance around the front of the car.
The big beast’s off-road intent is highlighted by extensions around the wheelarches, with big optional 22-inch rims sitting underneath. The fact they look right-sized for the car speaks volumes about its scale.
The racy AMG Line package is standard, and a recess and pronounced character line, tightening the lower waistline is a familiar Merc treatment, plus alloy roof rails toughen the look while dialling up practicality.
The rear is relatively simple, borderline generic, with tapered tail-lights offering the only strong whiff of design personality. But believe it or not, thanks to careful detail sculpting of the body, and smoothing underneath the car it boasts a drag figure of Cd 0.32. Outstanding aero performance for a large SUV.
The driver and front passenger are presented with a sweeping dashboard dominated by twin 12.3-inch digital screens, one primarily covering the instruments, and the central screen managing the MBUX media system, including audio, nav, phone integration, car set-up, and more, plus ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control.
The overall feel is simple, and restrained, yet massively confident, with a subtle colour palette, large squared-off elements defined by brushed metal finishes, and an obvious, intense attention to detail, from the haptic controls to the beautifully finished, multi-function steering wheel.
And the standard Burmester audio system includes a two-way in-car communication function that subtly amplifies the driver and front passenger’s voices for those in the third row, and vice versa. Sheer genius.
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.
Space is obviously a critical factor here, and no surprise there’s copious amounts of it inside the GLS.
Front seat passengers enjoy plenty of breathing room, without feeling remote from one another, and there’s lots of storage in the shape of a large lidded box/armrest between the seats, a decent glove box, two big cupholders and jumbo door pockets with room for large bottles.
There’s one data-enabled USB port in the front, two charge-ports in the second row, and four in the third row. Shouldn’t be any complaints about powering mobiles, tablets or games.
The second row feels every millimetre the SUV limo. Simply getting in and out is made easier because an auto lowering function drops the car 25mm when one of the doors is opened.
I was able to sit behind the driver’s seat set for my 183cm position with heaps of head and legroom on offer. And there’s an extra 10cm of electrically adjustable travel to play with if those in the third row agree.
The fold-down centre armrest features a lidded storage tray and twin pop-out cupholders. There are netted pockets on the front seatbacks, and again, the door bins are big enough for large drink bottles.
Three adults across the rear is a breeze, there’s climate control ventilation, and a huge glass sunroof is standard. Rather than asking ‘Are we there yet?’ the kids will be disappointed when you arrive!
Then there’s what the Cleary family refers to as ‘the way back seat.’ A pair of third row seats for the lucky kids that get to inhabit their own little world. Getting in and out is relatively civilised thanks to electric slide and tilt for the second row seats, and space is generous. I could sit comfortably, so the kids will be all smiles.
With all seats upright cargo capacity is enough for a seven-person day trip (355L VDA). Press the button to fold the 50/50 split-fold third row down and your options expand substantially (890L). And with 40/20/40 split-folding second row lowered, transportation of a full, three-ring circus is on the cards (2400L). Overall, more space than the arch enemy BMW X7.
Plus, the ability to lower the car 50mm thanks to the standard air suspension makes life even easier. And one button lowers the second and third rows at the same time.
The spare is a collapsible space-saver, and towing capacity for a braked trailer is 3500kg, with a tow ball weight of up to 140kg. The ESP system also features a trailer stabilisation function that counters oscillation with “braking intervention.”
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
Aside from the comprehensive suite of safety tech, covered in the Safety section below, the GLS equipment list includes, 21-inch alloy rims, adaptive high beam assist, air suspension, alloy roof rails, AMG body kit, a huge panoramic sliding glass sunroof, privacy glass from the B-pillar back, auto tailgate, keyless entry and start, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, LED headlights, and power closing doors.
The power closing doors are a big plus for parents not wanting to disturb kids nodding off in the car, with the soft-touch function drawing the door in for the last few millimetres to an almost silent close.
Inside there’s ambient lighting (64 colours), strategically placed open pore oak wood trim, 13-speaker/590-watt Burmester surround sound audio, electric folding second and third row seats, a head-up display, ‘Mercedes-Benz’ branded illuminated sills, leather seat upholstery (‘Artico’ faux leather on the dash and doors), multi-adjustable electric seats in the front and second row (memory in the front), electrically adjustable steering column, leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel, and five-zone climate control.
The multi-media system is spectacular, incorporating the twin 12.3-inch digital screens, the central media unit managing nav, digital radio, mobile device connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus vehicle tracking. There are also remote vehicle status functions (door locking, valet parking, etc), global search (Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Yelp, and Trip Advisor), and a wireless device charging pad.
The basket of goodies can hold its head high in this part of the market, so the value equation stacks up well.
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
There are two engines on offer. The 3.0-litre (M256) in-line six-cylinder turbo-petrol GLS 450 4Matic, and the 2.9-litre (OM656) in-line six-cylinder turbo-diesel GLS 400 d 4Matic.
The all-alloy, twin-scroll single-turbo petrol engine delivers peak power of 270kW from 5500-6100rpm, and maximum torque of 500Nm across a broad plateau from 1600-4500rpm. It also features a 48-volt electrical system driving the ‘EQ Boost’ set-up, able to deliver an extra 16kW/250Nm for short periods. The integrated starter-generator also enables energy recuperation.
Although the all-alloy, twin-turbo diesel features variable valve lift it gives some ground on power, offering up 243kW between 3600-4000rpm, but torque is a solid whack, with 700Nm on tap from 1200-3000rpm. Worth noting, that to minimise emissions this engine features a “selective catalytic reduction converter” in the exhaust, which brings with it the use of an ‘AdBlue’ reducing agent. The separate AdBlue tank has a capacity of 31.6 litres.
The nine-speed auto transmission is the same in both versions, although the diesel has a slightly lower final drive ratio.
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.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle for the GLS 450 is 9.2L/100km, the more frugal GLS 400 d trimming that to 7.7L/100km. The petrol 450 emits 210g/km of CO2 in the process, the diesel 400d dropping that slightly to 202g/km.
Stop-start is standard, you’re looking at premium unleaded for the 450 GLS, and you’ll need 90 litres of dinosaur juice to full the tank on both models.
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.
Merc claims the GLS 450 will sprint from 0-100km/h in 6.2sec, and the 400 d in 6.3sec. Not hanging around for a 2.5 tonne mothership. But the standout is the 400 d’s torque. All 700Nm of it available from just 1200rpm to 3000rpm; right in the mid-range sweet spot.
The nine-speed auto transmission is smooth yet responsive, with paddles on the wheel for manual shifts when you want to pick the ratio. The combination of effortless grunt and the nine-speeder keeping things on the boil is an impressive one.
Suspension is by double wishbones at the front and multi-links at the rear, and while you can feel the weight in cornering, the standard Airmatic air suspension (which does away with steel springs) is superb in terms of ride comfort and body control.
We took a deep breath and pushed enthusiastically through a series of sweeping corners and the fat (285/45 fr - 325/40 rr) Continental ‘PremiumContact 6’ rubber wrapped around our car’s (optional) 22-inch rims gripped hard.
The ‘4Matic’ all-wheel drive system also seamlessly shuffles torque between the front and rear axles (theoretically up to 100 per cent in each direction).
Merc has put extra focus on body rigidity, the tuning of engine and suspension mounts, and sound absorption, and it shows. The GLS 400 d is beautifully refined on the highway. A neat touch is the car automatically lowering 15mm at motorway speeds or when ‘Sport’ mode is selected.
Steering is electromechanically assisted, and Merc says the front suspension geometry has been revised to minimise vibration through the wheel. And yes, feedback is minimal, but unfortunately so is road feel with only a general connection between your hands on the wheel and the front tyres on the bitumen.
When you’re steering a large beast like this, often with something substantial hitched to the back, you want to know braking performance is up to the task, and the GLS’s big ventilated discs all around deliver reassuringly strong stopping power, with nice, progressive pedal feel to boot.
The seats are adjustable six ways to Sunday, but beyond that they’re comfortable and supportive, even over long stints behind the wheel.
We stayed on the bitumen, because, let’s face it, that’s where this car will spend 99.9 per cent of its time, with the exceptions of the boat ramp, a ski weekend or pony club.
For those special occasions the optional ‘Off-road engineering package’ adds a low-range transfer case, inter-axle locking, hill descent control, and under body armour for more serious work.
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.
At the time of this launch drive the GLS hadn’t been safety assessed by ANCAP, but you could make a small wager, like every penny you have to your name, that it will score a maximum five stars.
The expected active features are there, including ABS, ASR, and ESP, with additional tech including ‘Active Blind-Spot Assist’, ‘Active Brake Assist' (Merc-speak for AEB), active lane keeping and lane change assist, ‘Adaptive Brake’, ‘Attention Assist’, ‘Evasive Steering Assist’, ‘Parktronic’ (active parking assist with 360-degre camera), rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign assist, and a tyre pressure warning system.
Then, if all that isn’t enough to avoid an impact the GLS is equipped with nine airbags (front and pelvis side for driver and front passenger, side for outer rear seat occupants, full-length curtain, and a driver’s knee bag), an active bonnet to minimise pedestrian injuries, and the ‘Pre-Safe Plus’ (flashes rear hazards to warn drivers closing too quickly from behind, tightening the belts at the same time, and locking the brakes if the GLS is stationary with a rear impact imminent).
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.
The Mercedes-Benz range is covered by a three year/unlimited km warranty, which, like Audi and BMW continues to lag behind the mainstream market where the majority of players are now at five years/unlimited km, with some at seven years.
On the upside, Mercedes-Benz ‘Road Care’ roadside assistance is included in the deal for three years.
Service is scheduled for 12 months/25,000km (whichever comes first) with pricing available on an 'Up-front' or 'Pay-as-you-go' basis.
As a guide, service pricing for the outgoing GLS is set at $2600 per service (up-front) and $3250 (PAYG), a saving of $650 a pop. Fourth and fifth services are also available for pre-purchase ($3550 and $4900).