Premium SUVs are a funny concept—the words “sport” and “utility” are in general tension with the notion of “luxury.” The reality is, most customers will never push their SUVs (or sports cars for that matter) as far as they’re capable. But somewhere between having peace of mind and wearing a badge of honor, luxury car customers seem to want it all. Enter the Bentley Bentayga. With a base price of $229,100, it’s the most expensive production SUV launching this year and we had a chance to push its limits on-road, on-track, off-road and even on sand dunes in ways that few of the 5,000 soon-to-be owners ever will.
The Range Rover SVAutobiography, perhaps Bentayga’s nearest competitor, is the most civilized truck we know. By contrast, the Bentayga is the most capable car we’ve driven. The difference between “car” and “truck” is all in the drive feel. Aside from having a higher vantage point on the road, Bentley’s SUV feels a lot like a car when behind the wheel and regardless of terrain. In terms of appearance, the basic two-box SUV design comes on-brand with a strong Bentley face, lateral “power line” through the doors and distinctive haunches over the rear wheels. The design is more like a Continental SUV, whereas the original EXP 9 concept was more Mulsanne.
On the off-road course the Bentayga performed exceptionally, moving through all obstacles with ease. The course represented more of a challenging logging track than a craggy mountain overpass, but again, it was more aggressive terrain than most customers will ever see.
There are many over-the-top features available in the Bentayga. An 18-speaker, 1950-watt premium sound system option from Britain’s Naim Audio was our favorite by far—especially as Bentley has upgraded all of their infotainment technology and even supports Apple CarPlay. And why not add the bespoke picnic set featuring three bins (one holds china, one is refrigerated and the third is for dry goods) that double as seats and fit neatly in the boot.
As with any Bentley, the interior represents the ultimate expression of craftsmanship that’s achieved through a perfect balance between handwork and technology (see more on this in our 2011 Bentley factory visit video.)
We previously thought Skijoring was the most fun you could have in a Bentley, but we have a new favorite activity—driving on sand. Dunes are another adventure most customers will only aspire to, but will be comforted to know the Bentayga can do it with relative ease. The trick of dune driving is to not sink, which requires enough power to stay on top of the sand—the reason why most dune buggies are super light. Inside the Bentayga, however, is a new 600hp W12 engine that has plenty of power to keep the 7165-pound vehicle afloat.
To end our tour of excessive capability we hit the race track. The Bentayga has a top speed (governed) of 187mph and goes from 0-60 in four seconds. With that much power and over 7,000 lbs to haul around, Bentley had to develop 400mm brakes—the biggest on a production car—to stop the vehicle with equally impressive performance. For an SUV its track performance was stunning, especially in “sport” mode with a tightened suspension to rip through corners with minimal body-roll.
Few can afford the Bentley Bentayga, but for those who have deep pockets, a taste for luxury and a spirit for adventure—and want it all satisfied by one car—the Bentayga is here.
Images by Josh Rubin