When I first looked
at the spec sheet of the Bentley Bentayga, the first word that came to mind was overkill. But I like overkill. So even if I’m not too crazy about SUVs in general, I grabbed the opportunity to drive the craziest SUV on sale today with both hands.
The first difficulty in reviewing a car like this — I suppose we still have to call it a car — is that one has to transport oneself into the skin of a potential Bentayga owner to understand it. That’s easier said than done. Give me a car budget of 20 million roubles or so, and I’ll probably buy 2 or 3 different cars, most of them lacking rear seats and carrying a big wing on the back. So to imagine myself in a world where I’m sitting at a Bentley dealership, sipping a cup of tea and mulling over which exact shade of beige I’d like my Bentayga’s seats to be, requires considerable effort. I leave it up to you to judge the result.
We do need to talk numbers first, because they are ridiculous. The Bentayga is the work of a thousand engineers, costing three quarters of a billion dollars to develop. Its leather interior requires the hides of 12 bulls. It has 90 computers controlling its various systems. The car takes 130 hours to assemble. The W12 version comes with a 6 litre 12-cylinder engine, turbocharged to 600 horsepower. Its 900 Nm of torque are available from a mere 1350 rpm. It weighs two and a half tons yet goes from 0 to 100 in about 4 seconds. And it can go on to a top speed of more than 300 kilometres per hour if you let it.
But none of that really matters. The one thing on the Bentayga that really breaks records is an optional clock that sits on top of the dashboard. Not just the regular Bentley clock, which keeps time just fine but apparently screams poverty in a way that would make some buyers go for the Mulliner Tourbillon by Breitling option. It’s not a cheap extra, I’ll be honest. Actually it’s pretty expensive. This automotive timepiece, studded with diamonds and lined with gold, costs a cool one hundred and fifty thouuuuuusand dollars. Give or take a few thousand. It’s 2/3rds the way to buying a second Bentayga, in fact. Or a whole new Porsche 911 GT3. Or ten ordinary cars for your servants to use. You get the idea. Whilst I doubt that anyone in their right mind, outside of China or the odd Sheikh in the Middle East perhaps, would actually think this is something worth having anyway, I wish Bentley would have refrained from offering an option this vulgar altogether. It’s not like the Bentayga needs any insanely expensive bling to set it apart from normal cars. Until Rolls-Royce launches its SUV (which they will refuse to call an SUV, obviously) the Bentayga sits lonely at the top of high-seated motoring.
Ignoring that one particularly ridiculous optional extra for a moment, it’s worth noting the staggering amount of custom ordering you can do when you configure your Bentley. Even though they manage to have something like 10 different types of «white» in the catalog, you can pretty much get anything painted in whatever colour you want as long as you can give them a sample. And a lot of money, obviously. There’s a million different possible combinations, meaning there is very little chance of 2 fully identical Bentaygas ever being made. I am quite literally unable to describe the extent to which you can customise these cars, so I suggest you go to Bentley’s online configurator and play around with it yourself. But in the unlikely case you can’t quite find what you want there, for Bentley very little is impossible to do if you ask them.
On to the actual car, then. The first impression you get when walking up to a sparkling blue Bentayga press car is that it looks pretty much as huge as it does on the pictures. She’s a big girl, no surprise there. The car also has a presence that makes it appear solid and heavy, as if it was chiseled out of a solid steel mountain. However, once you get in it, everything seems surprisingly normal. Well, normal by Bentley standards that is. Having reviewed a Continental GT previously, the Bentayga interior is rather similar. Copious amounts of the softest leather, the shiniest wood and the sturdiest metal gear selection lever of any car in existence. And that is before you get to the stitchings. All the leather trim pieces are stitched together by hand, with a level of accuracy and dedication that would not be out of place for the Queen’s mantle. If you wanted to define a truly luxurious car interior, a picture of the Bentayga’s cockpit would do very nicely.
It’s no surprise then that the Bentayga drives in a similar fashion. It’s an extremely comfortable, unhurried experience. Unless you really plant your right foot down all the way into the fluffy carpet, there is no sign of the 600 horsepower. Unless you put it in Sport mode (blasphemy, surely) the throttle response can only be described as ’relaxed’. The delay between requesting more power and actually getting it is a bit similar to a captain of an old ship shouting orders down to the engine room. It’s not quite immediate. Which is fine, really. It does take the edge off driving in Moscow’s hectic traffic. Aboard the Bentayga, life simply happens at a different pace. Of course, if you really want to move forward at a huge rate of knots, you can. There won’t be much sound from the massive W12 engine, at most you will hear a mildly annoyed growl when you ask the beast to come out of hibernation for a few moments, but it will kick you in the back and hurl you down the road in a catapult-like fashion. The Bentayga W12 is most definitely fast enough.
Some of its speed is definitely unnecessary, though, which would make me opt for the slightly more sensible Diesel version which is coming. The Bentayga Diesel gets a 4-litre V8 diesel engine with two turbochargers and an electric supercharger to counteract any turbo lag. The result is an engine which has just as much torque as the big W12, but it’s available from only 1000 rpm. Though its 430 horsepower may look like a lot less on paper, in the real world it will hardly be any less fast. But, unlike the W12, the Bentayga Diesel has a range of more than 1000 kilometres on a full tank of fuel. Convenience aside, that also means you’re being a bit kinder to the environment, and the car is less expensive with the new diesel engine as well.
Away from all the numbers though, the Bentayga W12 simply feels like an occasion to drive. It’s a celebration of the fact that when life is good, it can be very good indeed. Inside the cabin, there is a general silence to the point that all you really hear is the sound of the tires rolling over the pavement. Alternatively, you could crank up the near-2000 Watt sound system of course. Another record. Of course there is no getting around the fact that, to other road users, you might look like a bit of an arrogant ***** sometimes. In found that the best way around this was to be extraordinarily courteous. It confuses the hell out of some people though. Perhaps a sign that I am really not made to be a Bentley driver, I derived considerable pleasure out of giving other cars, even old Ladas, the right of way. No sir, after you. I’m not in a hurry when driving the Bentayga and my blood pressure is just fine.
The Bentayga most certainly isn’t perfect, but I guess it would not really be a car if it was. Being imperfect makes a machine like this more real and less of a pipe dream. That being said, the press car I drove had less than 10,000 kilometres on it, but at the end of the first day I was greeted by a check engine light which would stay illuminated for the duration of my test. It did not appear to affect the car’s behaviour or performance in any way, probably just a harmless incorrect sensor reading somewhere, but if I really was the owner of this car I probably would have been a bit miffed to encounter an engine related fault this early on with a car this expensive. Or perhaps Bentley’s extraordinary customer service would have made it all worthwhile. Take your pick.
I imagine that Bentley owners tend to be people who know what they want, and Bentley knows its customers. The Bentayga is a product of this understanding, so it’s no surprise that it has outsold planned production numbers by a long way. Considering the low volume and high priced nature of the product, it can only be called a huge success. It does exactly what Bentley promised it would do: break records. Some of those records make sense and some do not, but it’s a massive achievement and the truth is, you can feel it when you drive it.