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First drive: Bentley Bentayga. Image by James Lipman.

First drive: Bentley Bentayga
Luxury, unlimited: the Bentley Bentayga is an exceptional SUV.

   



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Bentley Bentayga

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Bentley promised a lot, and the Bentayga has delivered. A super-luxury SUV with more capability than you could ever need, it's a go-anywhere, any speed, hand-crafted powerhouse with agility and engagement that belie its bulk and opulent luxury.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Bentley Bentayga
Price: £160,200
Engine: 6.0-litre twin turbo W12 petrol
Transmission: four-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 296g/km (Band H, £505 per year)
Combined economy: 21.6mpg
Top speed: 187mph
0-62mph: 4.1 seconds
Power: 608hp at 5,000- to 6,000rpm
Torque 900Nm at 1,350- to 4,500rpm

What's this?

A good way of getting everywhere and anywhere fast. Very fast. The Bentayga mixes Bentley's traditional attributes of effortless, considerable power and luxury with dynamic ability that's genuinely surprising for a tall, heavy SUV. It's the first to market with a SUV among the super luxury marques, and the only other V12-engined SUV you can currently buy is the AMG G 65. That Merc might have a rocketship engine, but it's mated to a chassis that's more tractor than track car. The Bentayga can do both, very convincingly; the adoption of some trick new 48-volt active chassis technology and an all-new twin-turbo W12 engine allows the Bentayga quite ludicrous breadth of ability, regardless of what's rolling by under its wide tyres.

How does it drive?

Turning the Bentayga into a fast corner requires some recalibration of what you thought was possible with an SUV. A Porsche Cayenne Turbo or suchlike will be as fast, but it's the incongruous combination of the Bentayga's unrivalled luxury, not insubstantial bulk and, thanks to an electronically controlled active anti-roll system and air suspension, near zero body roll, that makes it so remarkable. That Porsche comparison is relevant, at least with regards to the steering. Wolfgang Dürheimer, Bentley's CEO and Chairman, says his team aimed to better Porsche's steering in the Bentayga. Certainly the turn-in response is impressive, the Bentayga's front axle very precise, the steering wheel - beautifully clad in hand-stitched leather - even delivering a hint of feel at its rim.

Something this heavy shouldn't be as agile as it is, so the Bentayga's chassis engineers have achieved an incredible combination of a supple, comfortable and poor surface isolating ride, mixed with what should be diametrically-opposed sports car like manners and exceptional body control. The way the Bentayga manages its bulk needs to be experienced to be believed, it surprisingly delicate and light of touch where you might expect it to be thuggish. Bentley has gone to town with the specification to achieve that, though the air suspension, that clever 48-volt electronic motor-operated anti-roll system, an all-new 608hp 6.0-litre W12 twin-scroll twin-turbocharged engine, eight-speed automatic and four-wheel drive will all feature on future, next-generation Bentleys.

There are four drive modes in standard guise, four more if you add the All Terrain Specification, and each of them is selected by twisting the transmission tunnel located dial to the icon that best describes your view out of the window. On the road, leave it in Comfort and you'll never be disappointed.

That could be anything from an off-road course to a sand dune or race track. The Bentayga tackles all with a competence that's sensational, the pace relentless regardless of conditions, that mighty W12 giving this big, hugely comfortable SUV the ability to reach 62mph in 4.1 seconds and onto a 187mph maximum speed. That's 608hp and 900Nm for you, making the Bentayga quicker than a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S coupé - and the Porsche would run out of ideas when it runs out of road. The Bentayga will power on, impervious to the conditions and environment, yet doing so with all the luxury and refinement that are Bentley hallmarks. At normal speeds it's whisper quiet, the refinement exceptional, to the point it's easy to have the speed quickly creep up to very illegal levels without really noticing it. Its cross-country pace is typically about 30- to 40mph more than you'd anticipate, the head-up display with its speed read-out a necessity on the options list as a result.

The latest electronic architecture allows the Bentayga to have all the driver aids that bring near autonomous motoring, while the infotainment system is vastly improved on those in Bentleys past. The interior is, like all Bentleys, a sensual overload. Fine hides, beautiful stitching, mirror-finished veneers and lustrous chrome make for one of the finest driving environments you could wish for. The rear seat passengers are similarly spoilt, with plenty of space. The Bentayga can be configured in conventional five-seat form or a more indulgent and comfortable four-seat layout. Do so and there's a smart console running up between two individual seats in the back.

The exterior design has been controversial from the off, which can effectively be described as the adoption of Bentley styling cues, more usually found on a saloon or coupé, adapted for a tall, two-box SUV shape. The result might jar on initial sighting, but familiarity brings a degree of acceptance, and admiration even, the design working best with darker, metallic hues. It's distinctive, and there's no denying the execution and build quality are exemplary, the detailing beautiful in places. Add the optional sports styling pack with its ungainly aero addenda in carbon fibre and it all begins to get a little bit Mansory; it's one of the many tick-box options on offer and one to avoid.

Among that extensive, and expensive, list of personalisation is a picnic set for about £21,000 and a Brietling Tourbillion clock that's about £115,000 (and, no, that's not a typo), so it's not too difficult to specify a Bentayga up to and comfortably beyond £300,000. Thing is, and it might sound crazy, but that doesn't seem to ridiculous, particularly if you're in the spending sphere of a typical Bentley customer.

Verdict

It matters little what we think about it, as Bentley has already got 3,600 orders and will ramp up to around 5,000 a year after this year's allocation. As it is, we're impressed, deeply, as the Bentayga is a sensationally capable and engaging car that's able to justify its price point and, arguably, Bentley's lofty claims of class-leading performance and dynamic ability. It will add about 33 per cent to Bentley's annual output at Crewe, while the W12 model will be joined by a V8 turbodiesel as well as a plug-in hybrid in the next couple of years. As the Cayenne transformed Porsche's fortunes, the Bentayga will substantially contribute to bankrolling Bentley, allowing it to explore new model lines in the future. Dürheimer is not shy in admitting his desire for an X6-style Bentayga fastback spin-off and a sports car styled like the stunning EXP10 Speed 6. For now, though, the Bentayga demonstrates the engineering nous Bentley has, which bodes well for both its future and customers alike. Add a shift at the factory, as it's going to get busy at Crewe...

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Kyle Fortune - 15 Feb 2016



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2016 Bentley Bentayga. Image by James Lipman.2016 Bentley Bentayga. Image by James Lipman.2016 Bentley Bentayga. Image by James Lipman.2016 Bentley Bentayga. Image by James Lipman.2016 Bentley Bentayga. Image by James Lipman.

2016 Bentley Bentayga. Image by James Lipman.2016 Bentley Bentayga. Image by James Lipman.2016 Bentley Bentayga. Image by James Lipman.2016 Bentley Bentayga. Image by James Lipman.2016 Bentley Bentayga. Image by James Lipman.



2016 Bentley Bentayga. Image by James Lipman.
 

2016 Bentley Bentayga. Image by James Lipman.
 

2016 Bentley Bentayga. Image by James Lipman.
 

2016 Bentley Bentayga. Image by James Lipman.
 

2016 Bentley Bentayga. Image by James Lipman.
 

2016 Bentley Bentayga. Image by James Lipman.
 

2016 Bentley Bentayga. Image by James Lipman.
 






 

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