When Ettore Bugatti acidly described Bentleys as “fast lorries” (being peeved because those lorries had acquired the irksome habit of beating his own dainty little Dinkies at Le Mans in the late 1920s), he might have been envisaging the Bentley Bentayga luxury performance SUV.
Neil Lyndon goes a bit soft rock for a week in the Bentley Bentayga
The first SUV from Derby-based, VW-owned Bentley is also the most expensive SUV in the world (for now) and the fastest (ditto). Beyond those firsts – which will soon be overtaken by 4x4s from Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini – the Bentayga is also the most in-your-face, functionally ugly SUV currently on the road. Approaching it from a distance when it was parked in the street, I genuinely did feel it had the outline of a commercial vehicle – setting aside a metre-wide latticed radiator grille that looks as if has been pieced together out of silver dollars. The only subtle line on its coachwork is an elegant crease that runs from the middle of the back doors over the rear wheel arches to the tail. Otherwise, this 17’ long, six feet high bruiser has all the civilised bashfulness of Tyson Fury.
The Bentayga thus fulfils the “lorry” end of Bugatti’s criticism but its acceleration from 0-60mph in four seconds and top speed of 187 mph also make it fast enough to have beaten any Bugatti at Le Mans. This fact alone would be sufficiently astounding in an all-terrain 4×4 that weighs over three tons. But the Bentayga goes further. It would not only reach almost 200 mph on the Mulsanne straight: it would also hold its shape and its line securely at speed through Indianapolis and Arnage.
Naturally, any large luxury performance SUV emerging from the VW Group is bound to draw upon large SUVs that carry the names of Audi and Porsche. The Bentayga derives from the Q7 and the Cayenne as surely as will the forthcoming Lamborghini Urus; but the particular advantage of the Bentayga – which is said to be 80% original – is to share the W12 TSI engine that is common throughout the Bentley range. Specially tweaked for the Bentayga and fired up by two parallel twin-scroll turbochargers, that giant six-litre lump puts out more than 600 bhp that surge through an eight-speed semi-automatic gearbox to permanent all-wheel drive.
An equally powerful diesel is now arriving and hybrids are promised. All will share the petrol version’s flabbergasting ability to go through a corner at speed without yawing, leaning and pitching like a North Sea trawler.
How on earth does it stay so flat and true? Answer (as usual in the contemporary car industry): extremely clever stuff. An independent 48-volt electrical system controls the Bentayga’s active anti-roll bars (EWAS) which work in conjunction with computerised self-levelling air suspension and four-link double wishbone suspension at the front and trapezoidal multi-link suspension at the rear. The combined effect of this box of tricks is to perform a miracle as improbable as the flight of Santa’s reindeer sleigh.
Nobody looking at the Bentayga’s massive bulk at rest would dream that it can hold the road like a Mini.
Equally fancy stuff abounds in the cabin. An all-new 8” central touchscreen can be controlled, as if by magic, by waving your hand around. The new navigation system comes with 3D effects in building images. And the Naim audio system has 1800w of output through 19 channels and 18 speakers. One of the most painful consequences of borrowing a Bentley is that it makes you so vividly aware how crap the sound system in your own house is by comparison.
Another painful consequence would be the pangs of envy you would feel towards anybody who could afford the £187,275 price of the Bentayga we borrowed – like being given a day as a lottery winner and then being returned to your job at the post office. Fortunately, I was spared those pains. The Bentayga is so far beyond my own dreams of avarice that it belongs in another, impossible, world.
Evidently, others view it differently. Driving my younger daughter to school in the Bentayga, I firmly instructed her to enjoy the experience because “nothing like it might ever come your way again in the whole of your life”.
“Yes, it will,” she answered. “I’m going to buy one.”
Car reviewed: Bentley Bentayga luxury performance SUV in Sequin Blue – Base price £160,200, with options £187,275 0-62mph 4.0 secs Top speed 187mph Fuel Economy combined 22.1mpg CO2 emissions 292g/km Engine 5950cc 6.0-cylinder W12 twin-turbocharged Max Power 608PS@5250-6000rpm Torque 900Nm@1250-4500rpm Transmission 8-speed auto with permanent all-wheel drive Suspension Self-levelling air suspension, 4 ride heights
The ultimate luxury SUV
Extremely clever engineering
Likeable, but a tad, functionally ugly
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