In the words of Oscar Wilde; nothing succeeds like excess. For this writer, these few wise words are perennially applicable in the motoring world, and never more-so than in reference to the 2023 Bentley Bentayga EWB Azure variant.
Those three letters symbolise the extended wheelbase version of the big Bentayga, a larger offering than its standard-sized sibling. When you get beyond the handsome looks, the differences between the two were far greater than we could have imagined.
Some 2,500 bespoke parts delineate the duo, for starters. The changes start at the front end, although other than vertical high-polish chrome slats in the main grille, it remains unchanged between the pair.
Set against the Sequin Blue paint on this example, first glances were all the more dazzling. The crease lines along the body were much more readily revealed thanks to the brighter hue and culminate into an unmistakably Bentley look.
What is immediately apparent is the 180mm of stretch in the body, growing the overall length to 5,322mm. Yes, it’s long, but it’s not that far in the past that one could have a Bentley Mulsanne that was another 20cm longer.
At this length, it is pretty much the same as the Flying Spur Speed W12 we tested not so long ago. The stretch is apportioned solely to the rear passenger row, which adds an amazing level of opulence, but more on that later.
The EWB might give priority to rear seat passengers, but the driver certainly doesn’t miss out. Both front row passengers nestle into 20-way adjustable seats covered in an exquisite combination of Linen, Honeycomb and Imperial Blue coloured hide.
They feature heating and ventilation, as well as seven massage functions, making them the perfect spot to take in the Open Pore Crown Walnut that decorates the dash, centre console and meanders on to the door cards.
Some people don’t like colour inside vehicles, but this writer is certainly not one of them. The same 10.9-inch screen as the standard wheelbase logically controls many of the vehicle functions, including the same “basic” Bentley Signature audio system.
Interestingly, the shortcomings we felt in the regular Bentayga Azure weren’t present here. It left us wondering whether it was the extra space inside the cabin, or just a glitch. Either way, the audio output was superb in the EWB.
Wireless CarPlay and wired Android Audio is available, and seamless in connection. Device charging is handled by a wireless charger and two USB-C ports up front. It’s important to contextualise this vehicle as one that’s designed around the rear seat occupants though.
The first thing one notices is the length of the rear door, requiring careful attention when being opened to reveal the magnificent two seat configuration. Strictly speaking, it is a 2+1 back row.
The rear centre console can fold up to allow for another passenger, but why would one want to do that? With storage space, USB-C outlets and a couple of cupholders at a perfect height to rest an elbow, surely the third passenger can find their own way there?
Upon embarking, pushing the chrome “door close” button negates the need to expend energy, almost like a mechanical chauffeur. There are not many vehicles on the market where we feel the back seat is more comfortable than the front – this is one of them.
It cossets one into position, with 16-way adjustability, wellness seating, auto climate and postural adjustment. The latter two form part of Bentley’s Airline Seat specification, which can electronically set the seat into “relax”, or “business” position.
Both necessitate electric movement of the passenger seat, unfolding of the carpeted footrest from behind it, and adjustment of the entire seat to your chosen position. This includes adjustable dynamica-covered seat cushions.
Once there, you can choose one of five massage functions, fold down your picnic table and take in your favourite Netflix show on your own removable high definition 10.1-inch screen.
Because one wouldn’t want to disrupt the driver, nor speak to him, Bentley provides excellent Bluetooth headphones to take in your chosen entertainment in privacy. Along with climate control within the seat, the centre armrests are heated for those cold mornings.
If staring at the stars is more your thing, in the relaxed position you will be perfectly placed to gaze out of the enormous sunroof once you’ve set what colour you want the perforations in your door to glow as part of the Diamond Illumination package.
All rear passenger controls are handled by a beautifully crafted LED screen which resides in the rear most part of the cabin centre console, above a wireless charger that supplements two USB-C outlets.
A touch of a button raises the screen to enable detachment and provides adjustment of two air-conditioning zones, audio controls and the seat setting described above. Second row passengers might be the focal point, but it’s also quite the pleasure to drive.
While it is propelled by the same twin turbo V8 engine mustering 404kW and 770Nm, backed by an 8-speed dual clutch transmission, the extra length and resulting weight isn’t reflected drastically in traditional performance numbers.
A mere 0.1 second difference is recorded in the sprint to 100km/h. Where the weight did reflect however was in its 17.5-litres/100km fuel usage, with no claimed number from Bentley. But that’s not what this vehicle is about.
Where the standard Bentayga felt unsettled over bumps, the EWB rides like a Bentley should. It wafts over undulations, and you can feel the front and rear suspension reacting to ensure it never, ever feels unsettled.
Where the Flying Spur had gravity on its side when cornering, as an SUV, the Bentayga possesses a higher roll centre. Simple physics stipulate that the end result won’t be as satisfying and that’s irrefutable.
However, if one chose to corner in anger, it will exceed expectation thanks to active air suspension and a 48v anti-roll bar that like the normal SUV, will react in milliseconds depending on the environment under the monstrous 22-inch Pirelli P Zero rubber.
One thing we did notice is that the driver has to navigate menus to actuate the suspension into “access” mode. It seems a real oversight for such a passenger centric vehicle.
As much as the Bentley Bentayga EWB will provide a cabin that promotes wellbeing, it will also ensure safety. Occupants can relax knowing that a combination of safety systems including multiple airbags and autonomous emergency braking are on hand.
Likewise, blind spot assist, rear cross traffic alert, park assist and 360-degree cameras all work toward ensuring your safe arrival. To a purist such as this writer, a Bentley is a long sleek sedan, or a beautiful coupe or convertible.
Despite being an SUV, in the Extended Wheelbase Bentayga, I find some solace. It feels unmistakably on-brand in its commanding presence, the way it rides and cossets occupants and finally – in the feeling it conjures in all occupants, including the lucky driver.
The 2023 Bentley Bentayga EWB Azure retails for $598,013 before on-roads (in as tested trim). You can find out more on the Bentley Motors website, or by contacting your local dealership. If you’re keen on one and need finance, talk to CreditOne.
Our test vehicle was supplied by Bentley Motors Australia for review purposes. Pictures courtesy of Andrew E Hempsall.