2021 Bentley Bentayga: The Luxury SUV’s Best Feature Is Hidden
Yet after a week of driving Bentley’s luxurious vehicle, we were left most impressed by a part of the Bentayga that most everyone will never see. Concealed from view, these components are responsible for ensuring that the crossover delivers a buttery-smooth ride on the highway and absorbs monstrous impacts off-road. They lower the vehicle to ease entry, and they raise it to clear obstacles. And the components prevent the 5,300-pound vehicle from wallowing uncontrollably in turns.
The technology is called Bentley Dynamic Ride, and it’s arguably the Bentayga’s best feature.
Suspension engineers have been trying to figure out how to deliver an ideal ride for more than a century with mixed results. While anyone can make suspension soft for rough roads, or firm for smooth roads, the real world is a frustrating mix of both. Toss in off-road capability, which requires a lot of wheel articulation (the ability of the wheel to move up and down) to clear obstacles, and heavy curb weights that stress components, nothing short of magic will make a vehicle ride smoothly.
To solve the perplexing suspension challenge, Bentley’s engineers chose a state-of-the-art solution that utilizes adaptive air dampers combined with active anti-roll bars – passengers are literally riding on a cushion of air with a computer controlling the movement of the chassis.
The adaptive air dampers are fitted at each corner of the vehicle, essentially replacing traditional steel springs. Unlike a conventional steel setup, which is tuned for a specific load weight (the ride is compromised if the vehicle is heavier or lighter than the setting), air dampers work well through a broad range of movement, efficiently eliminating degradation in ride quality if the passenger load changes.
Air dampers also allow the vehicle to be raised and lowered for the terrain, to ease ingress/egress, and to improve handling and aerodynamics. The system in the Bentayga allows the vehicle to raise and lower about 2.75 inches (altering ride height from 6.8 to 9.6 inches), which is significant. While the ride height is generally controlled automatically, the operator may also alter the vehicle’s height manually.
The most impressive part of the Bentayga’s suspension is the active anti-roll bar. While anti-roll bars (literally a rigid beam that connects both wheels across an axle to lessen body lean in a corner) are nothing new, conventional steel bars work best with small undulations. When a lot of wheel travel is required, they actually make the situation worse.
Bentley’s engineers split the anti-roll bars into two – a left and a right – and fit a powerful electric motor in the middle. Using a specialized gear set, and a powerful 48-volt electrical system (four times as powerful as traditional 12-volt automotive electrical systems), computers – monitoring steering wheel angle, cornering forces, and wheel position – are able to physically twist the beams and keep the chassis level in corners. And the computers may exert forces on the wheel in anticipation of a bump, commendably improving the ride. Most impressive is that the computers can unlock the anti-roll bars during off-roading to allow generous wheel travel.
Bentley Dynamic Ride delivers an athleticism and agility that belies the vehicle’s size and mass. On- or off-road, the SUV is nimble, light-footed, and capable. And, while most vehicles of this size feel sloppy and ponderous, the Bentayga’s ride is comfortable, smooth, and well-controlled.
As expected, passengers within the 2021 Bentley Bentayga will focus on the vehicle’s glove-soft quilted leather, hand-rubbed wood trim, and polished metal appointments. They will notice the quiet ride, the comfortable seats, and the tuned audio system. The irony is that the vehicle’s finest feature is Bentley Dynamic Ride – an innovative technology hidden completely out of sight.
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