The all-new Range Rover takes on the Bentley Bentayga in this luxury SUV face-off.
An all-new Range Rover doesn’t come along very often, so when it does arrive, it’s something of a big deal. What you see here is the fifth generation of a model that has more than half a century of history, and with every new incarnation there has been a move further upmarket.
The latest model is the poshest yet, and that’s saying something when its predecessor was still a top choice for luxury up until the end of its production run. As well as plenty of creature comforts, the latest Range Rover features lots of tech to make life easier, while a variety of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrains are offered. Here we’re testing the D350 diesel, which comes with mild-hybrid technology.
The new Range Rover isn’t short of opposition at this end of the market, and one of the best is another Brit, in the shape of the Bentley Bentayga. It follows a formula of premium luxury that was established by past Range Rovers, but offers the bonus of Bentley’s hand-crafted expertise, which allows customers to create a bespoke machine of their own making. Is that enough for it to win this test, or does the Range Rover have the upper hand? To find out ahead of the new Range Rover’s arrival in Australia, we put the two big Brits against each on their home soil.
2022 Range Rover
The fifth-generation Range Rover comes in standard and long-wheelbase bodies, while petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid drivetrains are available; an all-electric version is due in 2024.
For this first test, we have a standard-wheelbase D350 diesel model in plush Autobiography spec.
Design & engineering
It’s been a decade since the last Range Rover was launched, and it’s clear that Land Rover’s design team didn’t want to mess with that car’s instantly recognisable appearance when it came to signing off on the new model. Up front, the grille is narrower and the headlights are smaller, while there are two bars that stretch across the lower air intake, but overall the new Range Rover looks similar to the outgoing car.
It’s at the back where the big changes take place. The high-set rear looks a little awkward to our eyes, while the clusters have been ditched in favour of gloss-black trim that hides the lights. The indicators are set into the black bar across the tailgate on either side of the Range Rover text, too.
Under the skin, the Range Rover is the first car to use Jaguar Land Rover’s latest MLA platform. It’s designed with electrification in mind, but the pure EV isn’t here yet, with only plug-in or 48-volt mild-hybrid systems available for now. The D350 uses a 3.0-litre six-cylinder Ingenium diesel, which is connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Air suspension is standard, as is four-wheel steering.
Inside, the Range Rover’s cabin delivers the upmarket ambience that owners of past generations are accustomed to, but with more technology than ever. The dashboard features Land Rover’s latest 13.1-inch Pivi Pro touchscreen and digital dials, plush climate and massage seats are fitted, and just about everything on board is electrically adjustable.
One highlight of previous-generation Range Rovers was the lofty driving position that they offered, and this remains intact for the new model. You get a clear view of your surroundings, while 360-degree cameras with virtual 3D display and live obstacle detection help you negotiate tight spots.
Another handy addition is the digital rear-view mirror. Originally designed for the Defender so owners could see beyond the door-mounted spare wheel, it might seem a gimmick to fit it to the Range Rover, but the display offers a clear view of the road behind in all light conditions, and is especially useful for eliminating glare from other vehicles at night.
Fire up the straight-six diesel, and it settles to a distant hum, then it largely stays in the background while you’re driving. It gets a little more vocal as you accelerate, but with 700Nm of torque from 1500rpm, you don’t need to stretch the engine too much to make quick progress.
The refined engine contributes to the Range Rover’s fantastic cabin comfort. Road and wind noise is kept to a minimum, too, although the 22-inch wheels on our car did cause thumps to be heard in the cabin. While this disturbed the peace, standard-fit air suspension means they were never felt. The Range Rover has a surprising turn of speed for its size, but it’s a car you don’t rush. It’s more at home cruising in comfort, although the quiet cruising and raised driving position mean it’s easy to exceed the national speed limit if you’re not paying attention.
Land Rover’s Terrain Response system has modes that set the car up for different surfaces, and having sampled the Range Rover’s abilities, we’re sure it will be able to head further off the beaten track than any owner will ever want to go. There’s also a Dynamic setting that firms up the suspension for sharper cornering. This makes the Range Rover feel agile, although there’s only so much that the suspension can do to contain the car’s 2.5-tonne kerbweight.
While the Range Rover is just over five metres long, it prioritises passenger space over load carrying. Land Rover quotes a cargo capacity of 818 litres to the roof, but the split tailgate makes it hard to reach into the load bay. Powered opening means there’s no effort needed to get in, though, while the seats fold electrically, albeit rather slowly. There are buttons at the side of the cargo area to do this, plus the option to lower the rear suspension to reduce the height of the load lip.
Cabin storage is great, with twin gloveboxes, deep door bins and a centre console with four separate areas, including one below the cup-holders.
Testers’ notes: “Rear wheels steer to boost manoeuvrability at low speeds. It means the Range Rover’s 10.95-metre turning circle is as tight as a compact SUV’s.”
2022 Bentley Bentayga
The Bentayga is Bentley’s best-selling model, and as with the Range Rover, it’s possible to ramp up its price with options. We’re testing the standard V8 petrol model here (there is no diesel option), but the car in our pictures is the higher-spec, driver-focused V8 S model.
Design & engineering
Bentley has tapped into the vast resources of the Volkswagen Group for the Bentayga’s platform, but there’s much more to this luxury SUV than just rebranding some existing technology. Under the skin, it uses the group’s MLB Evo platform, which is also shared with the Lamborghini Urus and Porsche Cayenne among others, but while initial assembly of the Bentayga takes place in Germany, the cars are shipped to the UK for paint and then final assembly at Bentley’s factory in Crewe, Cheshire.
This means that the Bentayga benefits from the same hand-crafted expertise that makes every Bentley feel special. Depending on the specification you go for, the Bentayga comes with hand-stitched leather trim, high-grade wood veneers that are matched across the cabin, and lots of metal switchgear. The organ stop air vent controls are a nod to classic models, while the bezels on the rotary dials offer a fantastic sense of quality.
Our V8 S model featured what looks like a turned-metal dashboard finish, but is actually smooth to the touch. Bentley offers V6 plug-in hybrid, V8 and W12 powertrains in the Bentayga, and it’s the middle one we’re driving here. With 404kW and 770Nm of torque, the twin-turbo V8 outguns the diesel Range Rover, but you do pay the price in terms of fuel economy and overall running costs.
The V8 is wholly conventional in comparison – although it does feature stop-start – and it matches the Range Rover with an eight-speed automatic transmission, permanent four-wheel drive and air suspension all fitted as standard.
While the Bentayga and Range Rover have similar drivetrain layouts, their characters are distinctly different. Where the Range Rover’s main focus is on comfort above all else, there’s a sportier edge to the Bentley.
It starts with the V8 engine, which not only packs a bigger punch than the Range Rover’s diesel, but also sounds more appealing. It can sprint from 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds, more than 1.5 seconds quicker than the Range Rover, and does so with an intoxicating rumble from the V8 powerplant.
Gearshifts are smooth, or you can take manual control with the high-quality metal paddles that are located behind the steering wheel. To emphasise its comfort bias, the Range Rover doesn’t even offer you the option of paddleshifters.
Direct steering contributes to the Bentayga’s sporty feel, and the car is more eager to turn in than the Range Rover on bumpy roads. The set-up of its active anti-roll system means it’s also more controlled over bumps in its standard setting when compared with its rival here. Overall the Bentayga has a sportier character in its standard settings, so it feels like a more focused SUV than the Range Rover.
That’s not to say that the Bentley can’t do luxury, though. Switch to Comfort mode via the rotary selector behind the gearlever, and the Bentayga’s softest air suspension settings are a match for the Range Rover’s. Bumps are ironed out, and cruising comfort is just as impressive. There is a touch more road noise from the tyres, but it’s barely noticeable.
Air suspension allows both cars to be lowered to improve access to the cabin. The Range Rover’s lowest setting drops the car by 50mm, although it will still be a bit of a step up for smaller passengers to climb on board. The Bentley’s system doesn’t lower the car quite as far, but it’s not as tall as the Range Rover in the first place.
Both manufacturers offer long-wheelbase variants. The Range Rover is longer by 200mm both overall and in its wheelbase, and the LWB commands a premium. It also offers the option of a third row of seats.
The Bentayga Extended Wheelbase has just been revealed, and adds 180mm to the car’s length. There’s no seven-seat version, but Bentley does offer an Airline Seat option that provides extended luxury in the back. Prices have yet to be confirmed for this model.
Testers’ notes: “The V8 S has the same drivetrain as the V8, but gets styling changes and chassis tweaks for a sportier drive.”
First place: Range Rover
The Range Rover sets the standard for all other luxury 4x4s to follow, and the latest model maintains that tradition. It’s hugely comfortable, refined and relaxing to drive or be driven in, and the luxuries on board mean it feels special, whether you’re popping to the shops or crossing the country. Diesel power still makes sense if you do longer drives, but the plug-in version is the one we’d go for.
Second place: Bentley Bentayga
The main difference between the Bentayga and its rival here is that the Bentley is more focused on its driver than its passengers. It offers the kind of luxury interior that Bentley does so well, but the driving experience is more focused on performance than the Range Rover’s. It’s a fantastic piece of kit, but the Range Rover offers a greater sense of occasion and better infotainment.