First impressions matter especially when they are a reflection of status. The Bentley Bentayga makes a massive and impressive impact because it’s big and very grand. Bentley’s first SUV is a mountain-climbing limousine with supercar performance and I was one of five Malaysian motoring journalists invited down to Singapore to take it for a few rounds on the F1 Pit.
A motorsport track may sound like an odd place to drive an SUV but it’s doubtful if any owners would really take theirs off-road, the Bentayga’s most natural habitat being Bukit Tunku. Hard manoeuvres on tarmac would more closely approximate the life of the average Bentayga so in the short time that we had, the track offered the best glimpse of what it could do.
|Engine||5,950cc; W12 twin-turbocharged petrol, DOHC|
|Max Power||600 hp @ 5,000 – 6,000 rpm|
|Max Torque||900 Nm @ 1,350 rpm|
|0 – 100km/h; Top Speed||4.1 seconds; 301 km/h|
In the Bentley line-up, the Bentayga stands alongside the Continental GT and Flying Spur. At 5,141mm long, the Bentayga is 150mm longer than the Audi Q7 with which it shares a platform but is otherwise unrelated. Its closest rival, the Range Rover comes in two variants: the 4,999mm standard wheelbase or the 5,199mm long wheelbase. In its standard form, the Bentayga is the largest luxury SUV in the market.
The LED rear lamps which form a graphic B are a trademark of the Bentayga. The rest, like the twin round headlights, honeycomb grille with a chrome line down the middle, and windswept “B” on the side vents along with a high shoulder line and muscular rear haunches are hallmark Bentley and intended to appeal to existing Bentley customers who drive SUVs in winter.
A lot of sophisticated engineering went into the body of the Bentayga, but the finer details are not what most would notice at first glance. The complexity of the Bentayga’s build is one of the reasons why it takes the most man-hours to produce – 130 man hours per unit. In comparison, the Continental GT takes 104 hours.
The front fender is hammered from the largest single piece of sheet aluminium produced in the automotive industry. The Bentayga’s flush fitting head and tail lamps and continuous surface with minimal shut lines from front to rear give the illusion of muscular bulk. The daintier-looking Range Rover is actually 75mm wider, at 2,073mm, than the Bentagya which at 1,998mm boasts a surprisingly lithe 0.24 drag coefficient.
The cabin is sumptuous: Bentley signature quilted upholstery, tofu-smooth leather wrapped dashboard, chrome air vents with organ stop-style pulls, highly lacquered wood veneer and an aroma from the leather that was nearly intoxicating.
The new eight-speed gearbox’s manual shifts are controlled through discreet steering-mounted paddles which are an improvement on the column-mounted, large padded coat hanger-style ones found in the Continental GT and Flying Spur.
Drive mode with corresponding ride height and damping modifications is selected on one side of the dial around the ignition button. Select from Sport, Bentley, Comfort with an option to customise the ride stiffness relative to rev holding. What’s Bentley mode? That’s where the ride and handling dynamics are optimised for you by the chassis engineers in Crewe.
Analog meters for speed and revs continue the “classic” theme on the instrument panel though the electronic driving, performance and parking aids are entirely 21st century. As standard, the Bentayga comes with four identical sized electrically-adjustable reclinable seats with ventilation and massage functions at the front and ISOFIX fittings and foot rests for the rear.
The rest of the standard equipment list is not long but includes the eight-speed automatic gearbox, panoramic sunroof, air suspension, eight-inch infotainment touchscreen monitor, 10-inch frameless Android-based entertainment tablets for the rear seat passengers, GPS system and LED headlights with high beam assist and hill descent control.
Soft-closing doors and triple seals on all apertures and insulation against any noise or vibration create cabin serenity but should passengers become bored by all that cosseting, there is a 20-speaker audio system or detachable 10-inch entertainment tablets linked to the car’s infotainment system and Bluetooth headphones to preoccupy them.
The boot is small at 430 litres, in comparison Range Rover’s 550, but pull back the rear cover and it goes up to 590 litres. Cargo volume for those with bench seats is a bit more flexible as they can be split and folded.
There’re more engine variants in the works but currently, there’s only one engine capacity, an all-new six-litre W12 which is a brute. It was specifically developed for the Bentayga. It produces 600 bhp and 900 Nm of torque compared to the 552 bhp and 650 Nm in the previous W12, but is lighter by 30kg. The twin-scroll twin turbos give faster spooling, and there are both port and direct injectors, and special pumps so that the Bentayga can be tilted at up to 35 degrees in any direction without the engine dying.
The Bentayga has permanent four-wheel drive in a 40 front, 60 rear torque split, Hill Descend Control, torque vectoring, electronic stability and traction control, 245mm of ground clearance and a wading depth of 500mm to get it through most situations.
The Bentaygas on our test drive was fitted with optional All-Terrain Specification: denoted by the four off-road modes on the right of the Drive Select dial: snow and grass; dirt and gravel; mud and trail, and sand dunes. Details of the vehicle’s longitudinal and transverse angle, individual wheel suspension travel, steering angle, altitude and compass baring would have been displayed on the Driver Information Panel.
Is it possible to complain that an engine sounds too refined? The W12 lacked that certain low timbre that should come from something with such great performance. It has so much available torque that it negates the need for a low range gearbox. Also, because peak torque is available at 1,350 rpm there’s not much call for sport mode for everyday driving. This though, might be considered good for fuel economy if it were something Bentayga owners had to worry about.
Auto start-stop, sailing function to decouple the engine when cruising and full cylinder shut down – one bank so it runs as a 3.0-litre VR6 – help with fuel conservation but having three separate water pumps and cooling systems to manage engine temperature is still thirsty work. It may be 10 percent more efficient that the earlier W12 but the 14.9 litres per 100km claimed on the urban run isn’t going to be anything like that in KL traffic conditions.
To recap, a few points about the Bentayga’s weight, power and acceleration: some 2.4 tonnes, 600 bhp and 900 Nm, triple digit speed in 4.1 seconds. Have we mentioned before, that it’s the fastest SUV in the world?
So there were a few surprises when we were hauling the Bentayga at full tilt on the track. First was how quickly it moved for its size: the 0-100km/h time is just a figure until it’s your foot spurring it on. When the instructors realised just how much ground the Bentayga could cover in how little time, the handling track was shortened by five metres so that it would stop safely because the track was still slick from rain.
Second was the incredible power of the brakes. A power to weight ratio of 248 hp per tonne, compared to the 219 hp per tonne of the Flying Spur effectively made it an SUV-shaped rocket. Yet from full speed to dead halt, the Bentayga stopped in a shorter distance than the lighter, V8 powered Conti GT and the Flying Spur and with remarkably little yaw considering the amount of weight it was carting in front.
There was no indecision from the gearbox to hamper smooth driving and the electric power steering itself felt weighty without being heavy, providing good amounts of feedback so it never felt like handling a lumbering mass.
Which comes to another surprise: despite the elephantine body, the Bentayga was elegantly fleet-footed as it wove its way around traffic cones during the slalom. There was incredible body control and handling precision in comfort mode with ride buffering that was refined, stiff but not jarring. In sports mode there weren’t any noticeable suspension changes but the tone of the revs dropped and were held for longer with crisper steering responses.
The suspension technology was also newly created for the Bentayga. The air suspension mopped up shakes and bumps to keep it as stable as possible through sensors in the active anti-roll bars. In comfort mode, they were ready to stiffen the dampers to sport mode levels if they detected a change in how the car was moving.
Called the Bentley Dynamic Ride, body roll is countered by electric motors at each corner of the car, which stiffen and relax the anti-roll bars to keep the SUV level through twists and turns. The continuous active damping is powered by a specially developed 48-volt system, separate from the standard 12-volt system. It’s quite a feat of engineering to control the forces of physics so exactingly, especially on something as tall and muscular as the Bentayga but it worked and fast too. It wasn’t easy to destabilise the Bentayga – I tried, hard. Pity my passenger.
IS THIS CAR FOR YOU?
This mobile temple of excess would definitely cement your place at the top of the social pile. The only thing you’d need is the patience to wait for the delivery of your perfect Bentayga.
Land Rover’s most lavish top-of-the-range four-wheel drive is the £165,500, 550 hp, 680 Nm petrol V8 Range Rover SVAutobiography LWB. It can’t compete in the personalisation stakes but then the Bentayga’s possibilities are, frankly, dazzling: 102 exterior paint colours, five alloy wheel options, 15 leather upholstery colours of which are 14 main hide and 12 secondary hide choices with four ways in which those colour options can be combined. Then there’re seven wood veneers to select from before moving on to the small yet still important details: stitching, piping, carpet and seat belt colours. The Bentayga’s diamond stitched upholstery also gives it the upper hand in cabin ambience.
Pitch the two on the open road and the Bentayga would easily outgun the Range Rover. It is 1.5 seconds faster in the century sprint and boasts a 301km/h top speed. But alter the landscape and the Bentayga would be the lagger because the Rangey has the full off-road caboodle: Terrain-Response 2, All Terrain Progress Control and a low range gearbox fitted as standard with the added advantage of steeper approach and departure angles, higher wading depth and ground clearance.
If you absolutely have to go off the beaten track in your Bentayga, make sure your trailblazing buddy is in a Range Rover because the Bentley’s 85-litre tank’s range is limited compared to the the Range Rover’s 105 litre reservoir and lower burn rate.
The Land Rover comes prepared for every eventuality – all available options are fitted as standard. The Bentayga has permanent four-wheel drive but to be able to compete under tougher conditions, owners would need All-Terrain Specification, a £4,520 (RM24,000) option that adds undercarriage protection and traction management systems to handle more varied surfaces. To come up to the same kit level as the SVA would require two more packages: City Specification at £3,925 (RM21,000), and Touring Specification at £5,900 (RM31,000), making the top-up cost of the electronic driver aids almost £15,000 (RM79,000). It’s small money to any Bentayga owner so it’s surprising that Bentley isn’t just throwing them all in.
The Bentayga was sold out for 2016 even before the first one had been driven. At this stage, the chances of getting one for 2017 are slim but that’s not a bad thing because it means you get more time to mull over the multitude of options and combinations and also to treat yourself to a few very special order options like a mechanical Breitling clock that takes three months to handcraft. Add that and the price of your Bentayga would double before any other options are specced.
This is a rarefied world so if being amongst the first is even more important then there is another newer yet no less exclusive waiting list to get on to: the Rolls-Royce SUV that will debut in 2018. And after that is the Lamborghini Urus.
As there is no official quoted price for the Range Rover SVAutobiography LWB (short for Long Wheelbase) in Malaysia, we used pounds sterling (£) to compare between the Bentayga and the equivalent SUV.
|Bentley Bentayga||Range Rover LWB SVAutobiography|
|Type||W12, petrol, twin-turbocharged||V8, petrol, supercharged|
|Type||Electric Power-Steering||Electric Power-Steering|
|Transmission||8-speed, auto||8-speed, auto|
|Type||Front/rear||Double wishbone/multi-link||Double wishbone/multi-link|
|Front||Ventilated disc||Ventilated disc|
|Rear||Ventilated disc||Ventilated disc|
|TYRE & WHEELS|
|DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT|
|Max Kerb weight||kg||2422||2523|
|Luggage Capacity (VDA)||L||430||550|
|PRICE (without insurance)||RM||POA||POA|
WOULD I BUY IT?
With so many customisation options to choose from, I’d need have two.