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First drive: Bentley Bentayga Speed. Image by Bentley.

First drive: Bentley Bentayga Speed
Bentley's mighty Bentayga Speed is the fastest SUV on the planet, but is it the best?

 



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Bentley Bentayga Speed

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Bentley gives us a Speed version of its Bentayga W12, making the most dynamic model of its SUV yet. But with around a 22,000 premium over the 608hp model, is the 635hp Speed worth upgrading to if you're in the market for one of these things?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Bentley Bentayga Speed
Pricing: Bentayga from 139,100; Speed from 182,200; car as tested 227,060
Engine: 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 petrol
Transmission: all-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 308g/km (VED Band over 255: 2,135 first 12 months, then 465 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: c.21.6mpg
Top speed: 190mph
0-62mph: 3.9 seconds
Power: 635hp at 5,000-6,000rpm
Torque: 900Nm at 1,350-4,500rpm
Boot space: 430-1,774 litres (latter figure only if specified with five-seat configuration and folding rear backrests; 590 litres otherwise)

What's this?

A Bentayga Speed, the latter word being Bentley's honorific for its most dynamic vehicles with the venerable 6.0-litre W12 engine. And it isn't messing about here, because it has added another 27hp into the mix to give us the same 635hp/900Nm outputs as the latest Continental GT sports tourer. This is enough to drop two-tenths from the 12-pot Bentayga's 0-62mph time - it now dipping to a 3.9-second run; astonishing, given it weighs 2,491kg without so much as a driver aboard - while simultaneously taking its top speed up 3mph to 190mph outright. Enough to snatch back the title of 'Fastest SUV In The World' from the 189.5mph Lamborghini Urus, which in turn had been the one to steal the crown from the 608hp Bentayga W12 in the first place. Such is the in-house rivalry within the wider Volkswagen Group, eh?

It's not just 'moar powerrrrrr' that the Speed has, though, as Bentley's chassis dynamics and drivetrain engineering teams have had a fiddle with the control software for the most focused 'Sport' setting of its drive modes. So while the Bentayga Speed's softer Comfort and Bentley set-ups should feel no different from the regular W12, in Sport it has added speed to the shifts of the eight-speed automatic, it has a noisier exhaust note, it'll apparently turn in for the corner more keenly because the front air suspension and 48-volt anti-roll system will resist lean even more robustly than before, and the steering will require a bit more effort. It's not just straight-line speed Bentley is claiming it has added to the Bentayga Speed; it's cornering pace and driver involvement too.

The price for all this is 182,200, although that's for a Bentayga Speed without some of the British marque's fabled and quite pricey options. To whit, our test car had carbon-ceramic brakes with black callipers, for 11,650. And Four-Seat Comfort Specification, for 8,890. A Naim by Bentley premium sound system, at 6,780. Four 'Specification' packs, which each cost anything between 1,670 and 6,350 apiece. And therefore, ultimately, a robust price tag of 227,000, as laden.

Still, you won't miss a Bentayga Speed. Never the most aesthetically well-received of SUVs in the world, the Speed additions are going to be love 'em or, um, not love 'em, because the enhanced lower body kit all round, the dark-tinted grille mesh and light clusters, the sizeable spoiler jutting out from the trailing edge of the roof and a bold paint choice (in the particular instance of our test car) of Orange Flame metallic do nothing to tone down the Bentayga's in-your-face brashness. For what it's worth, we don't mind the way the Bentayga looks and we think the Speed is easily the more muscular vehicle to behold - out of it and the normal W12 - but we're well aware there will be some who gaze upon it in a less than complimentary fashion.

Discreet Speed logos on the doors and 22-inch, ten-spoke alloys aside, there's nothing else changed on the exterior, so moving inside the SUV there are more 'Speed' logos - they're stitched into the headrest, incorporated in the kick plates of the doors and mounted on the passenger-side dashboard - plus diamond-stitched leather, a two-tone colour scheme and the liberal use of Alcantara; it's the first time this man-made material has found its way into the cabin of a Bentayga. All of these details heighten the ambience of what is already one of the best passenger compartments, in any car and at any price, that's on sale today.

How does it drive?

Mention of tweaked Sport modes and 27hp increases and 190mph top speeds and 22-inch wheels shod with sports tyres and carbon-ceramic brakes are all quite pertinent here, because - so far - we can only report on the Bentayga Speed's dynamics on track. Bentley very kindly laid on the Anglesey International GP circuit and a couple of its racing 'Bentley Boys' (namely, Guy Smith and Steven Kane), and then gave us licence to drive flat knacker in the Speed.

So we can't yet report on the manners of the Bentayga Speed on the motorway or when it's having to endure urban traffic conditions, although we can reasonably extrapolate from the way the 608hp W12 goes about its business and say the Speed is unlikely to be a horror-show to travel in on the public roads - about the only thing that will affect its supreme ride quality and refinement levels will be those wheels, and it's not as if the W12 toddles about on 16-inch castors anyway so we reckon the Speed will remain magnificent as a cruiser.

What we can say is that it does feel marginally more rewarding to drive fast, when you're approaching the limits of its prodigious grip and asking it to change its cornering line through nothing more than alterations to the position of the throttle. Bentley's assertion that it will snort its way into the apex more eagerly in Sport mode is proven, as we do one short session at Anglesey in Bentley (where the Speed was very good) and one in Sport (where it felt phenomenal, given its mass and size); there's a definite, sharper edge to the way the Bentayga handles as a result. It also sounds fantastic, although those on the inside get a marginally louder 12-cylinder sound track with some distant rumbles and thuds from the flattened-ovoid tailpipes; the real sonic benefits from the Speed upgrades seem to be most discernible as the SUV does a rapid fly-by, where it sounds incredibly angry and raucous. And as to the Speed's speed? Well, race tracks always do their best to diminish a road car's sensation of raw pace, but the Bentayga Speed felt monumentally powerful and rapid - it'll reel in and pound past 120mph with an alacrity that's borderline frightening.

All brilliant, then, and undoubtedly a bit more special than the W12. But worth a 22,000 premium? Hmm, that's harder to say. Obviously, 'I thinking of saving myself 22 grand' is not a phrase you'll ever hear any Bentayga buyer utter - normally, once you're at this exalted level of the automotive world, then the top-dog flagship is the only one which has the kudos and status that such demanding customers, er... demand of their products. But if we're approaching this with a critic's hat on, the regular W12 is quite startling enough in the way it can corner flat and mask its tremendous heft, while V8 Bentleys in the modern era always sound better than their W12 counterparts. And the Speed is no exception to this rule. What we're trying to say here is that we love what Bentley has achieved with the Speed and, given more time behind its Alcantara-clad wheel, we might be prepared change our summation on it, which (nevertheless) is this: magnificent, but there are better Bentaygas in the line-up for less cash.

Verdict

An expected and most welcome addition to the Bentayga line-up, the Speed is as supremely well executed as you'd expect of this high-end brand and is bound to find plenty of eager buyers as a result. We prefer the more understated looks of a regular Bentayga and the noise of the V8 model, as well, so the Speed isn't where our quarter-of-a-million quid would go first and foremost... but, if what you want is the fastest SUV in the world and something that can put on a truly remarkable showing at a track day, then the Bentayga Speed is unquestionably 'it'.

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

5 5 5 5 5 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 29 May 2019









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2019 Bentley Bentayga Speed. Image by Bentley.2019 Bentley Bentayga Speed. Image by Bentley.2019 Bentley Bentayga Speed. Image by Bentley.2019 Bentley Bentayga Speed. Image by Bentley.2019 Bentley Bentayga Speed. Image by Bentley.

2019 Bentley Bentayga Speed. Image by Bentley.2019 Bentley Bentayga Speed. Image by Bentley.2019 Bentley Bentayga Speed. Image by Bentley.2019 Bentley Bentayga Speed. Image by Bentley.2019 Bentley Bentayga Speed. Image by Bentley.








 

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