► New Bentley SUV tested with 6.0 W12
► Massive, luxurious and incredibly fast
► Must-have options, clever chassis tech
Here at last is the Bentley Bentayga, the first in a new category of super-lux SUVs that will counter-punch Range Rover’s established credentials and off-road prowess with even greater levels of passenger pomp. Forthcoming Bentayga rivals include the Lamborghini Urus and the Rolls-Royce SUV, rumoured to be called Cullinan, but for the moment Bentley has this edge of the motoring world to itself. So let’s find out what its done with the early advantage.
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Is the Bentayga any prettier in the metal?
While the motoring press derided the original EXP9F concept as looking rather brash, when Bentley clinicked the car with actual potential customers the response was enthusiastic beyond all expectations. Hence while the exterior has been toned down – at least within the context of something with such cathedralic dimensions – the interior underwent only minor alterations.
The Bentayga retains that conservative, olde-worlde Bentley air characterised by an over-abundance of wood, leather and chrome, and slightly less space in the back than first view of its vast dimensions would initially suggest. Perhaps it grows on you, or suits a certain kind of buyer. But we can’t help thinking it leaves the door open for a more understated and elegant approach from the likes of Rolls-Royce. Time will tell…
I suppose it’s heavy as well as massive, and therefore drives like a barge?
Heavy, yes – the kerbweight is 2422kg. And that’s before you get stuck into the sumptuous options list, which includes such fancies as a £21,000 Mulliner picnic hamper and £110,000 Breitling Tourbillion clock (just four of these will be made every year); our car was specced up to nearly £210k. But a barge? Not with the new Bentley Dynamic Ride (BDR) system.
BDR is an active body control suspension system that incorporates electrically controlled active anti-roll bars, powered by a supplementary 48v electrical system. Using small electric motors, these are a lot faster acting than conventional hydraulic active anti-roll bars, and in combination with air suspension and adaptive dampers deliver a brilliant blend of handling and ride quality – adjustable through a choice of Sport, Comfort, Bentley and Custom drive mode settings.
As a result, the Bentayga is a proper driver’s car, fast and involving. We’re used to this from SUVs by now, courtesy of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, BMW X6M and Range Rover Sport SVR, but rivals like these deposit their ride comfort resolutions in the pitlane before they go ten-tenths. Not so the BDR-equipped Bentley, which offers a notably wider range of talents. If it’s not quite as compliant as the latest Q7 that shares its platform (shhh), that’s because the Bentayga is also built to reach 187mph – a speed no other SUV currently even contemplates.
Is the Bentley Bentayga really that fast?
This is no paper tiger that takes ages to get its act together. Powered by a re-engineered 6.0-litre W12 producing 600bhp and 664lb ft of torque, and helped by a remarkably slippery drag coefficient of 0.24, a relatively small frontal area and low-riding suspension, the relentless turbine-like urge continues beyond 150mph, fusing wind noise, road noise and mechanical noise into a catchy techno jam session in B-minor.
It isn’t as excitingly vocal as some competitors, but Bentley says this is a conscious decision, because its cars are not bought by ‘rich hooligans’ and cannot be so black and white. Zero to 62mph in 4.1sec underlines the potential, the customisable driving modes allow more assuming drivers to tailor their experience, and we set fire to the manhole cover-sized steel brakes in testament to the amount of fun you can have; a carbon-ceramic upgrade is still in development.
Lesser V8 Bentaygas also will follow later, in petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid guises. More efficient, but hardly restrained. You’ll even be able to order a seven-seater version!
Any other options that catch the eye?
You can have an All Terrain kit for £4250, which includes top-view cameras and underbody protection, plus four more driving programmes: snow and grass, dirt and gravel, mud and trail, and sand. But are you really going to take your £160k SUV off-road? More sensibly, the Touring pack adds adaptive cruise control, night vision, lane assist and head-up display for £5900, the City Specification park assist, pedestrian warning, traffic sign recognition and rear cross traffic alert for £3925.
Wheel size ranges from the standard 20 inches to butch 22 inches, if you must, while carbonfibre intensive styling kit add extra gauche, anodized demi-black brightwork a distinct Batmobile touch. Money-is-no-object clients can order special paint, bespoke leather and a high-end sound system on top of everything else, and should brace themselves for a grand total well in excess of £225k.
In many respects the Bentayga is a predictably Bentley take on the SUV – a fast, competent, lavishly appointed cocoon with power and torque to die for, while also inevitably an overt statement of wealth with an underdeveloped CO2 conscience. It’s expensive to buy, expensive to equip, and the first year’s production – some 5500 units – is already sold out.