£161,375 - £230,675 Price range
The Bentley Bentayga is the firm’s first SUV – and it’s set to send sales figures soaring by providing an even plusher alternative to models such as the Range Rover, Audi Q7 (with which the Bentley shares its underpinnings) and, to a lesser extent, the agricultural Mercedes G Class.
In reality, the Bentley is by quite some margin the most expensive SUV currently on sale (at least until Rolls-Royce unveils its new SUV in 2017) – putting it in a class of one.
It’s an incredibly expensive car – starting from £161,375 before options, but your investment will be rewarded with a car that’s faster than any of its competitors and one that provides a new world of luxury.
The latter of those points is immediately apparent when you climb aboard to be greeted by a cabin that’s armed to the teeth with high-grade leather, expensive wood and high-quality metal trims. Specified correctly – there are 15 leather hides and four wood veneers to choose from – it looks tasteful, but whether that extends to the outside is very much down to your point of view.
Thankfully standard equipment is anything but basic. All models come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, a panoramic sunroof, air suspension, an eight-inch touchscreen sat-nav system and LED headlights. Choosing a few options can inflate the list price at a considerable rate and the first cars reviewed featured nearly £50,000 worth of extras.
The Bentayga’s interior doesn’t just look luxurious, it smells it too. Passengers are spoilt with an almost endless supply of high-quality hide, wood and turned metal and uber-comfortable quilted leather seats.
Nestled between the two analogue dials that dominate the instrument binnacle is a multifunction digital screen, but the main feature is the eight-inch touchscreen that is the best of its type available on any Bentley. As in the Continental Flying Spur saloon, some switchgear is shared with cheaper Audis, but it would take a discerning eye to spot this.
Bentley has ditched the large gearstick that you’ll find in the Mulsanne four-door to free up space for buttons on the centre console. The gearbox can also be operated via paddles that rotate with the surprisingly small steering wheel.
Bentley Bentayga passenger space
With 22 separate motors to adjust the seat, it’s easy to get a comfortable driving position in the Bentayga and the car’s height means you have a better view of the road than any other Bentley can offer.
In the back, buyers get the choice of two individual seats (which are exactly the same as those in the front) or a three-seat bench. In either format, the Bentley loses out to the Range Rover in terms of space, but more than makes up for it in terms of sheer luxury.
Bentley Bentayga boot space
The Bentayga’s 430-litre boot is down on the 550-litre load bay you’ll find in the Range Rover and also smaller than the 475 litres offered in the Flying Spur saloon. But what the Bentayga loses to the Flying Spur for outright capacity it makes up for with its practical hatchback boot lid and flat boot floor that make it much easier to load bulky, heavy items. Dog owners can also rejoice – this is the first Bentley that is four-legged-friend compatible.
People may have smirked at the idea of a hugely expensive Bentley SUV, but if the reviews are to be believed, the Bentayga should silence the critics. Experts are unanimous in their praise for the big off-roader and much of the plaudits are heaped on the car’s sophisticated suspension system that features active anti-roll bars.
In the same way active dampers do, they are designed to give Bentayga owners the best of both worlds – allowing the suspension to be smooth as silk on bumpy roads before stiffening to stop the 2.44-tonne SUV wobbling like a blancmange in corners. The beauty of using the clever anti-roll bars, and where they better active dampers, is that the ride quality remains un-compromised even when the system is doing its best to cut out body lean. The result is a large SUV that handles a series of fast bends like few others, while being more comfortable than any of its rivals.
Isolating occupants still further is standard air suspension with three on-road presets – Comfort, Bentley and Sport. The second of these strikes a balance between the others, but whichever mode you’re in we’re told the Bentley is nothing less than cosseting.
The Bentayga also features Bentley’s first stab at electric power steering, but its fast action, consistent weighting and accuracy means it encourages you test the accomplished chassis to its full potential.
What’s most impressive is that the Bentley combines all this with a strong off-road ability; something it arguably needs to do if it hopes to prise the country set from their treasured Range Rovers. Thanks to its steeper approach and departure angles, the Range Rover is still king when it comes to scrambling up and down inclines, but elsewhere the Bentayga has the measure of its homegrown foe and Bentley says the car’s massive torque circumvents the need for a low range gearbox – a claim that’s hard to argue with.
Propelling a huge four-wheel drive SUV such as the Bentayga at a serious pace requires an engine with near biblical power. Squeezed under the Bentayga’s bonnet is a 6.0-litre W12 that’s boosted by two turbochargers to produce 608hp at 5,000rpm and 664Ib ft of torque at just 1,350rpm.
Performance, as you would expect, is almost unheard of for a car of this type, 0-62mph takes just four seconds and the W12 can drag the massive Bentayga to a frankly ridiculous top speed of 187mph.
In the real world those figures translate into effortless performance that, say testers, means the car feels quick even with the throttle only pushed half way. Sadly, the noise produced is purposeful rather than particularly enthralling. Fitting the lovely V8 from the Continental GT coupe would solve this problem, without having a major effect on performance, but for now the W12 is your only option.
Fitting a massive engine to a huge SUV means that running costs were always going to be on the scary side of worrying and confirmation of this comes in the Bentayga’s combined fuel economy figure of 21.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 297g/km putting the SUV firmly in the top, £505-a-year road-tax bracket. Consolation comes in the assertion that if you can afford a Bentayga, then you can probably afford to run it.
It’s hard to argue that the Bentley Bentayga offers real value for money, but the huge outlay does buy you an experience that is unique, at least until Rolls Royce launches its SUV.
Standard equipment has to be generous at this price – and it is. Buyers can choose from 17 standard colours, 15 types of leather and four wood veneer finishes – meaning you can have a car that is almost unique without having to venture onto the options list.
Equipment includes an eight-speed automatic gearbox, wi-fi connectivity, a touchscreen remote, a soft-close powered boot lid, automatic dipping LED headlights, air suspension, a panoramic tilt and slide sunroof and an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
Bentley doesn’t provide prices for the huge options list, but the old adage holds true – if you have to ask you probably can’t afford it. Extra kit includes items such as a rear-seat-entertainment system, 22-inch alloy wheels, massaging front seats, picnic tables that fold from the backs of the front seats and a pair of super comfortable individual rear seats complete with their own centre console.
While its huge price and eye-watering running costs mean the Bentayga will remain a car for the lucky few, it offers something unique to the market. The Bentley combines luxury and performance in a way that has been unseen in the SUV market up until now.
Brand purists will remain unconvinced, but Bentley says the Bentayga is one of the most important cars it has ever built and with order books filling up fast – swelling from a preproduction estimate of 3,500 units to more than 5,000 at the time of writing – we would have to agree.