The standard car rolls on 20in wheels, but 21s and 22s are also available. Soon, Bentley says, Bentaygas will come with both diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrains. This will be Crewe’s first hybrid, although the system is likely to spread through the company’s range as demand grows in export markets such as China. A spoiler-adorned, higher-performance W12, likely to be christened Speed, has also been spotted undergoing tests at the Nurburgring.
The new W12 has stop-start and an efficiency-boosting cylinder deactivation system that shuts down the valves, fuel injection and ignition systems when the engine is turning below 3000rpm or developing up to a third of its torque, provided the car is in at least third gear.
Another efficiency measure on the move is a so-called ‘sail’ mode. If the driver releases the accelerator in fifth to eighth gear, the torque converter disconnects and freewheels, engaging again only when the driver gets back on the accelerator or the car begins to accelerate downhill.
Bentley claims a top speed of 187mph for the Bentayga and a 0-60mph time of 4.0sec - deeply impressive figures for a model with a 2422kg kerb weight and a generous frontal area. Furthermore, Frech insists the car must be able to achieve its top speed in a 40deg C temperature, with no degradation in refinement or cooling performance.
The CO2 output of 292g/km is better than that of previous W12 models but not a vast improvement, and combined fuel consumption of 22.1mpg is the reason why the Bentayga needs an 87-litre fuel tank
The cabin bristles with high-quality materials (“If it looks like metal, it is metal”) and a vast selection of standard and optional new-era equipment. The interior designers’ mission was to set quality standards that exceed any previous SUV and rival other Bentleys.
The fascia design echoes the wings of the Bentley badge, flowing from door to door. A ‘floating’ driver info panel with bright mineral glass as its screen, speaker grilles behind a fine metal mesh, intricate knurling on all important switchgear and new diamond-quilted seats with up to 22-way adjustment are some details.
You can order either a two or three-person rear seat layout, and the rear seat system folds down to carry extra luggage. A seven-seat layout is coming.
The Bentayga is expected to swell Bentley sales volume by more than 3000 cars a year and send total annual volume well beyond 10,000 units. First customers will get their cars early next year.
Q&A with Peter Guest, Bentayga project director
Were you in charge of this project from the start?
“Yes. I picked it up towards the end of 2011, while our Strategy Group was still deciding how we’d expand the company. Building an SUV was the obvious thing to do. Our CEO, Wolfgang Dürheimer, knew that better than anyone. He made it clear from day one.”
Is it daunting, running something like this?
“It is. At first, I was a bit scared, to be honest, even though I’ve been head of body and trim at Bentley for nine years and led plenty of technical projects at TWR before that. But it was the size of this project one tended to reflect on, and the clean sheet of paper aspect.”