This Elegance

Plus ça change… Bentley introduces a more heavily revised Bentayga than previously imagined. It’s both better and worse than before.

(c) tflcar

Successful products tend to be characterised by a number of factors: A fitness for the intended purpose, a sense that their intrinsic qualities are worth the outlay, and an essential honesty to their form, position and remit. Bentley’s Bentayga SUV has been a commercially successful product for the desired British luxury carmaker, with over 20,000 built since its less than rapturous introduction in 2015. Certainly the Crewe-based carmaker’s press release makes much of it being the market leader in its sector, but given that Bentley trades upon exclusivity, one must question whether this is something necessarily to boast about?

Nevertheless, Crewe has achieved this feat seemingly, by ignoring or otherwise circumventing the above mentioned strictures, instead majoring on qualities considered undesirable for a sizeable swathe of people – albeit not the target market. Qualities like vulgarity, overt consumption, excessive displays of wealth and that most nebulous of factors, a marked lack of taste.

Bentayga came into being through a troubled and rather insecure process which culminated in (it’s believed) the sacking of the original proposal’s lead designer. Whatever the truth of that might be, the production Bentayga was a vehicle even dyed in the wool (or quilted leather in this instance) Bentley aficionados found somewhat difficult to swallow, on design-execution-related grounds at least.

Appearance-wise, the car’s genes were ill-hidden by a surfeit of tacked-on Continental GT styling cues (itself no paragon of platonic quintessence), while its cabin served up a carelessly delivered symphony of seemingly high-end materials locked in futile quest for an over-riding theme. But to a certain stripe of customer, it made the right kind of impression, and while inverted snobs such as myself either rolled their eyes, or held their noses, these customers, (70% Crewe state have been new to the brand) have made Bentayga perhaps the most sought-after Bentley model ever.

This week, marking five years since the model’s introduction, Crewe have announced a facelifted version. And while initial teaser images suggested the more habitual minor exterior tweaks, the car has in fact been far more comprehensively (and expensively) revised than first expected, with both nose and tail significantly altered – the rear in particular being singled out for the most overt scalpel work.

Given the level of opprobrium hurled Bentley’s way upon the car’s initial introduction, it’s maybe unsurprising, but nevertheless it’s far from customary for such a wholesale midlife revision to take place at this elevated end of the market. Clearly, Bentley has been stung, not only by criticism of its own creation, but by the advent of competition, such as that from arch-rival Rolls Royce.

I could go into detail as to the changes wrought upon the Bentayga’s visage and posterior, (other outlets are available for that) but given that the revisions only serve to reinforce the plenitude of fundamental stylistic and proportional deficiencies, it feels somewhat superfluous. Needless to say, nothing wrought upon Bentayga’s exterior by by Chief Exterior Designer, JP Gregory or his opposite number in Interior Design, Darren Day, has done anything to mollify the sense that this remains a deeply dishonest device aimed at those with money, but little else to say for themselves.

Not only that, but the bulk of the exterior changes, clearly aimed at improving the original’s distressingly weak stance and proportion, only seem to further emphasise the car’s MLB, Audi-derived platform hard points and by consequence, its ill-wrought basis in essence.

Bentley, certainly as currently fashioned within the VW empire, and for all its touted class-superiority suffers from an over-riding deficiency – one which its Goodwood-based rival has somehow managed to largely avoid – what might be termed a gravitas deficit. Rolls Royce, itself hardly immune from ill-judged excursions off-road has been busy of late telling tame journalists about efforts at redefining itself around the notion of “post-opulence”.

Bentley on the other hand appear to be mired within the same rather dated post-millennium Dubai 7-star hotel aesthetic which their upper-crust antagonists believe is on the way out, and while the seriously wealthy seek new meaning in materials, one has to wonder if pleated leather, contrast stitching, hand cross stitching, micro-stitching and dark tint, diamond brushed aluminium fillets are entirely on-zeitgeist? Is it not all a little too redolent of the blessed one of Carlsbad? (And the less said about G. Wagener’s Maybach confections the better for all concerned).

Because as be-tinselled and oversized as the current Range Rover (for example) has become there remains an element of integrity to its offer – a shadow of the utility vehicle from which it is descended. The likes of Bentayga and Cullinan are not simply the most explicit expressions of this concept, but perversions of it. But while Rolls Royce’s diamond geezer is gross, its monstrous appearance has some coherence, a sense that RR designers were in possession of a theme which was broadly adhered to, even if the results were anything but pleasing.

The Bentayga however maintains all appearances of a camel by committee, one where market strategy and cost considerations over-rode any chance the designers had to craft a convincing product. Because, to paraphrase a noted songwriter, all the bullion in the world can not transform what’s simply second rate.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

18 thoughts on “This Elegance”

  1. Good morning Eóin. Your noble attempt to protect the aesthetic sensibilities (and breakfasts) of the DTW readership by publishing a single image, in which the Bentayga plays second fiddle to a rather dramatic skyscape, is to be applauded.

    I am not nearly so considerate, however:

    Joking aside, the revised front end would be an improvement if it weren’t overloaded with the usual visual clutter in the valance. The new headlamps look bit less odd, which is as close to a compliment as I can reasonably get.

    The rear end is extraordinary. A huge rework of the tailgate just to incorporate those new tail lights, which are of debatable aesthetic merit. The way the bumper to rear wing panel gap intersects with the tailgate shutline is really amateurish.

    Here’s the inspiration for those tail lights:

    1. Agreed Charles – I had been so worried about about him, but he’s made a marvellous recovery hasn’t he? Wonder how his eyesight is these days?

  2. Was this really the Bentayga’s worst aspect, in need of such major surgery?

    1. I think the front is an improvement (sort of), but the rear now looks tacked-on, thanks to the odd shutlines. I thought the old rear was one of its best angles and the design mirrored others in the range.

      To me, as seen only in pictures, the R-R is worse. Embarrassing to own either one, I would have thought, but if that’s what makes people happy, good luck to them.

  3. I actually rather like the new demon-eye taillights and the repositioning of the registration plate – the rest of the car is still a overstyled mess, and the rims are looking a bit donk.

    The new side vent and mesh grille looks like it came straight out of a generic auto store styling shelf.

  4. Could someone please tell me what really is Bentley about this? Or Lamborghini? As far as I know those are just some of the iterations of the very same platform with the Audi Q7/Q8, Porsche Cayenne, and VW Touareg being other iterations.

    The Bentayga is built in the VW Zwickau plant, which is a former Trabant factory in former East Germany. Since VW’s takeover it has churned out among other things a hundred thousand Bentleys.

    Wikipedia says the cars are then sent to Banbury for a paintjob and then to Crewe for final assembly, though it isn’t stated what that assembly really is. I would guess it gets its trademarked Bentley interior.

    The interesting thing is the Lamborghini Urus is made on the same Zwickau factory line alongside it, so tell me again what really is Bentley or Lamborghini about it?

    1. I suppose that, basically, it’s about the “starker Willen” of VW to earn money.
      If they sell enough of them, whatever symbol they have on the bonnet, that’s ok.

  5. “Good afternoon, I’d like to order a Bentley Sméagol please. Yes, in a darker shade of Mordor, an orc inspired interior and with the Gollum grille pack, too. Oh, I have FAR more money than sense. My name? You can call me Mr Saruman.”

  6. Might be a few available for reasonable prices second hand after the EncroChat police raids.

  7. I think this vehicle – with facelift or not – gives people, who need to buy something like this, exactly what they deserve. You want bad taste? You can get expensive bad taste.

    This rear lights, the chrome exhaust, give me a break, no, I’m not going to comment on that now…

  8. Second time today that someone’s brought up the ’59 Chevy’s taillights as inspiration for this “new” Bentayga. The other commenter was on TTAC. I should have thought the keen observer would notice the difference between teardrop and symmetry, but I digress.

    I believe it must be the interior that gets added at Crewe, considering these sentences lifted from a Car & Driver article of a few years ago: “More than a dozen hides are tanned, stitched, and quilted to a fare-thee-well to upholster the 22-way power-adjustable seats. And the wood shop at Crewe takes burled walnut from multiple locations around the globe, peeling, pressing, matching, sanding, lacquering, ­polishing, and wrapping it over the compound-curved dash.”

    I suppose it’s just me, but ever since the dust up between VW and BMW over who owned what when RR was flogged off by Vickers, the resulting new vehicles from both outfits have shown not a shred of British inspiration in their lines, much to their detriment. Instead we have been treated to a Germanic interpretation of what they think the English would have come up with had the money been available, and basically missed the mark by several kilometres. We have been foisted off with gargantuan autobahn ground pounders exhibiting little in the way of design subtlety. Personally never liked any of them, regarding them all as farcical cartoon renditions.

    Nice snark Eoin, by the way!

  9. Are there any shots of what it looks like with the wrap-around boot lid open? I can’t find any, and I am curious to see how they have handled that. The configurator does not help, and you have to provide details to get a PDF brochure. If the hard points are the same as before, there’s quite a chunk of metal under the lid.

    1. Seen one Q7 clamshell, seen them all?

      I happened to run into this, which reminds me of Martyn Goddard:

      RR’s Facebook page identifies the location as Cairngorms Scotland, but offers no photographer credit.

      Back on topic, I found this wishful rendering, if only…

  10. When I was a vehicle design student, armed with pen, paper and so many delusions of adequacy, it was put to me that in order to design something that was other than generic that I must strive to understand what I was aiming to create.
    It is still true that to design a car and proclaim that is is what it is without regard for the history of the marque and consideration of the effect that it will have on the perception of said marque is a responsibility not to be taken lightly.
    That Bentley, Rolls-Royce, and BMW are so diminished in terms of design integrity is a sad state of affairs.
    I am of the opinion that in order to create a lasting design value, a quintessential product, that the approach of a curator must be taken. With the advent of Die Neue Klasse BMW set out on what was to be a straight path. From 2002 to e30 the sporting small saloon car was honed to perfection. Such a rigorous approach is rarely seen. The Sacco period at Mercedes is rightly lauded, but Bracq gave much to Mercedes and BMW too. My point? If someone assumes the role of curator for a marque it is their responsibility to guide the design talent in the employ of the company to further the marque.
    Bentley, since the Continental has been uninspiring. Today Bentley Design clings desperately to the notion that in some way their current output merits the Continental moniker and “styling cues” and is thus better in some way than it is.
    The current crop of Rolls-Royce products do little for me, but that first Goodwood Phantom.. so right. And the hardest of acts to follow.
    Had the approach of curator been taken from that moment, Cullinan would have been the diamond that its name suggests.

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