The Bentayga tackles these with no run-up, its demo driver picking a course to minimise the shaving of its overhangs (ramp and departure angles are the one area where the Range Rover is ahead, says Bentley). It makes the climb, of course, but the almost animal-like slitherings of its rear end confirm the effort and finely calibrated traction required, even if the W12 does its job with a minimum of unseemly revving.
It’s this easy effortlessness, in virtually every circumstance, that impresses deeply, especially because it’s combined with such wieldy handling, deft steering, earth-shrinking performance and mind-balming civility.
This is a go-anywhere car of a different kind, and although the most restrictive terrain it’s likely to encounter will be the world’s most exclusive valet parking addresses, Bentayga owners will doubtless be content that it can also tackle the planet’s most challenging roads and tracks with potent nonchalance.
On the the wintery North Cape in the Bentley Bentayga
Somewhere along the long and complex development road that has produced the Bentayga SUV, the company’s engineering bosses hatched a plan to take a couple of near-production prototypes to North Cape, at the very top of Norway.
It was especially appropriate, they felt, for a car deemed close to the pinnacle of European automotive engineering to visit the top of the continent itself, and to do it in late winter while there were still icy lakes to drive on, while the landscape was still a back-drop of wintry magic, and while the icy roads were still a decent test for the vehicle’s all-roads ability. This select group, led by Bentley engineering director Rolf Frech, decided to take a couple of hacks along for the ride.
The cars were already in situ, so we flew from London to Helsinki, then on to Ivalo, Finland, to meet Bentley’s engineering teams about 260 miles south of North Cape.
It was a goal well within our reach under normal conditions, but a combination of snow showers and powerful crosswinds held the potential for abrupt road closures. Pausing only for a short briefing, we headed briskly north.
There’s much more in the main story here about the Bentayga’s mechanical refinements, but two things stood out. First was the clever decisions that have guided the Bentayga’s size and layout.
The further we drove in quietness and refinement, four up, the wiser it seemed to have made the car about the same size as a long-wheelbase Range Rover, but 60mm lower, and to have given it a relatively snug front compartment and reserved the sprawling space for the rear.
Second was the supreme influence of the suite of electronic aids: head-up display, radar cruise control, height-controlled air springs, a new level of tyre pressure monitoring, an especially clever roll control system and much, much more.
The weather intruded only twice — when we stopped to change a tyre (the monitoring system warned us even before it had fully deflated) and were practically flattened by crosswinds, and later in the afternoon when we reached North Cape; the wind was so strong that you could literally lean into it.
We stayed locally in Honningsvag, then high-tailed it back to Ivalo in the early morning, both because even higher winds were threatened in the north and because we wanted to grab the opportunity to try the stability gizmos at speed on a convenient icy lake. It was a short episode, but very, very sweet.
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