Bentley's Bentayga is one of the fastest, most luxurious and priciest exclusive large luxury SUVs out there. You can even have it with Plug-in power. The question is whether all this is a step too far for the British brand.
Bentley has been clever to spot a gaping hole in the SUV market above the ubiquitous Range Rover and have developed this Bentayga model to fill it. It's now available with a petrol V8, with Plug-in hybrid power or even in wild W12 Speed guise. Either way, it can go properly off-road and packs some impressive statistics.
While some may be surprised to see Bentley producing a SUV vehicle, those who've kept an eye on the market have had plenty of time to get used to the idea. We had our first hint at what would become the Bentayga way back in 2012 with the EXP 9 F prototype. Here, elements like as the engine and overall size gave us a good indication of what was to come, though much has changed visually since the first controversial concept was shown.
Taking on board criticisms from press and potential customers alike, Bentley have made sure they put the 'sport' into their SUV. All the available petrol engines aim to give best-in-class performance, while the styling looks very Bentley-orientated. Underneath, there's architecture shared with the MK2 model Audi Q7 and the third generation Porsche Cayenne. If the Q7 is anything to go by, that bodes very well indeed.
The first engine alternative is a 550PS 4.0-litre petrol V8. Or, if you prioritise efficiency, there's a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol Plug-in hybrid model which has 449PS an all-electric driving range of 31 miles. Go for the W12 Speed petrol option and you get a 6.0-litre 12 cylinder unit with 635PS and 900Nm of torque. Despite this variant's prodigious 2,422kg kerb weight, 62mph from rest takes just 3.9s - faster than a Porsche 911 Carrera. Flat out, you'll be doing 190mph, a figure way beyond any of its competitors.
On all Bentaygas, to make sure that this big brute doesn't embarrass itself around corners, there's a fast acting 48v electric anti-roll bar system. Unlike conventional fixed anti-roll bars, this allows the Bentayga to remain supple over bumpy roads whilst still resisting roll around the twisties. It also ensures the big Bentley has plenty of ability off the beaten track even if most owners will probably never try it out. There's even the ability to raise and lower the car on its standard air suspension, perfect to make hooking up a horsebox or speedboat that much easier.
Being part of the Volkswagen Audi Group, Bentley was provided with the latest 'MLB-Evo' platform that underpins the second generation Audi Q7 and will go under a variety of other VAG SUVs. There's plenty of aluminium within the structure, along with some composites and good old fashioned steel too. Don't think of this as a bad thing though, Bentley have simply used this as a starting point and thoroughly engineered it for their own purposes. At 5.14 meters long, it's bigger than even a long wheelbase Range Rover, although slightly lower to give a sportier feel.
Step inside and you can really tell why the Bentayga weighs so much despite the high tech chassis. Everywhere you look, there's acres of leather and wood covering every surface imaginable, while if something looks like metal, it will be.
The sweep of the dashboard is said to echo the wings of the Bentley badge and certainly looks very attractive - assuming you've chosen a tasteful colour scheme. Infotainment is taken care of by a smart 8" touchscreen system that delivers a class-leading navigation system along with on-board Wi-Fi for mobile devices and a removable 10.2" Bentley Entertainment Tablet for rear seat passengers.
Bentley describe the Bentayga as the "fastest, most powerful, most luxurious and most exclusive SUV in the world". It should therefore come as no surprise to hear that it'll cost a pretty penny to purchase. The hybrid version costs around £130,000, while the standard V8 petrol model is around £137,000. The W12 Speed is around £182,000. And, as with all Bentleys, this is only the beginning. You can pick between a three person bench or two individual seats in the back with a wide centre console. On the subject of seats, you can even get an' eventer package' with a fold-out bench in the boot. There's also an offroad package, three levels of hi-fi and fully adaptive cruise control with auto brake. Those who really want to push the boat out can opt for the full Mulliner treatment and even a Breitling Tourbillon clock in the dash.
Standard kit includes a panoramic glass roof, electric massage seats, Bluetooth infotainment with sat-nav, plenty of leather and wood, air suspension, climate control and a very bespoke interior feel. Safety features include the usual airbags, ABS, stability control and brake assist. Optional items include a rear crossing traffic warning, road sign recognition and a parking assist system.
If you have to ask yourself whether you can afford to run a Bentayga, don't bother reading any more of this section. From the V8 and W12 versions, don't expect more than about 20 to the gallon, even on a good day, necessitating a giant 87-litre fuel tank - you certainly wouldn't want to have to fill one up. CO2 is similarly frightening at around 300g/km for the Speed, enough to put it firmly into the top bracket for tax and first licence rates.
You can do much better though, by opting for the 3.0-litre petrol Plug-in hybrid version. This delivers combined NEDC emissions of just 75g/km, has an electric driving range of 31 miles and can be re-charged in just two and a half hours. The three year manufacturer's warranty is an unlimited mileage one.
In summary, you can see why it took the Bentley brand so long to get around to bringing us this car. But having tried it, we've ended up being very glad that they did. Of course, there'll always be people who'll sneer at the concept behind this kind of super-luxury SUV - as one writer put it, 'never again need you be stuck up a creek without a china dinner service'. Still, if you can get over your prejudices and appreciate this model for what it's managed to achieve, there's lots to like here.
Contrary to what some people might tell you, it's very much its own car, very much unique and, best of all, very much a Bentley. Which if you'd like one, will be exactly what you'll want to hear.