Car’s width can be disconcerting, but it’s a proper mile-muncher
Bentayga glides everywhere and is quiet at any speed
W12 packs 600bhp and 664lb ft for effortless (and sometimes shocking) thrust
To get to our new long-term Bentley Bentayga, which stands resplendent at the front of our family’s heated motor house, I have to walk past quite a varied array of motors.
There’s the notional Mercedes-Benz estate we have for taking the dogs around, the notional Ferrari 458 I use for fun, the notional Mazda MX-5 I bought a couple of years ago for the kids to mess about with, and the notional Ford Ranger the gardener uses. The nanny has a notional Volkswagen Polo, of course, and over there against the pillar is my other Bentley, the notional Continental GT Speed I couldn’t bring myself to sell when the Bentayga arrived.
Luckily, today we’re a little less crowded than usual, because the missus is visiting a friend in the notional Volkswagen Golf R she bought for quick trips into town.
The point I’m trying to make is that to make any sense of running a Bentayga – which we will do for the next six months – you have to become a different person. Bentayga owners have six or seven cars each. They have the houses and yachts or jet to go with them. And they tend to make maximum use of the help available in this price bracket to specify and finesse them.
That, to tell the truth, is lesson one. Despite the fact that I went to the press launch of this most radical Bentley in nearly a century, I couldn’t have specified it as has been done. In my armchair at home, I’d never have dreamed up the sophisticated trim combinations of our car, or understood the various optional equipment packages (we have seven). Like as not, I’d have lacked the bottle to order up a cool £36,950 worth of options to add to a car that starts at £160,200, bringing the buying price within a whisker of an awe-inspiring double century. A real owner would be encouraged to sit with a dealer expert (or a Bentley designer at Crewe) to get these things right. In this bracket, every car has an owner’s name on it. I know I’m now in the system.
The spec is magnificent. Our paintwork, a kind of restrained light charcoal, is called Thunder. We have two hide colours inside: a beige and a kind of faded light blue, respectively called Brunei and Portland (irreverently, I wonder if there’s a Crudwell or a Snodland). The Brunei primary hide is hand-stitched with contrasting Portland thread, a £1485 option that looks great. Doing the same on the hand-sewn steering wheel adds £155, which is something of a bargain compared with a few of the other options.
Then the packages begin. All Terrain Specification (£4520) adds extra off-road settings and powertrain controls, a top-view camera, protection for vulnerable under-bits and a quality luggage retaining system. On it goes: City Specification (£3925) warns of pedestrians you might hit, sees traffic signs, warns if you’re about to reverse into traffic and more. Front Seat Comfort Specification (£2670) heats, cools and remembers settings, Sunshine Specification (£1550) adds double sun visors and sun blinds on the rear side windows, and Touring Specification (£5900) adjusts and controls your speed by radar, scans the road for potential accidents, keeps you in lane, provides you with a head-up display and much more. You get the point, I think. This is an amazingly well-specified car – and I haven’t even touched on the rear-seat entertainment screens or the handsfree tailgate.
Start driving and you instantly know you are in something imposing. People look. Kids photograph with their phones. The Bentayga is one of those cars people converse about as you stand behind them in the filling station payment queue. Which you will do quite a bit, once you realise how effortlessly the car consumes miles – and that 22mpg is about the best fuel economy figure you’re likely to see from it.
We have many miles to travel together, the Bentayga and me. Even over a two week break, we racked up 2000 miles without thinking about it. So far, this much I know: this is a bigroads car. It is absolutely as wide as you’d ever want a car to be in the UK, although the length (about the same as a Range Rover LWB) presents no difficulty. Luckily, the Bentayga has quite precise steering and a fairly small steering wheel, so it can be placed accurately in tight spaces. But don’t take your eyes off the road.
Be gentle with the twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre W12 engine’s 664lb ft torque output and the Bentayga simply glides everywhere. Mechanical and wind noise are the same at high speeds as at 50mph. And like the best premium SUVs, road noise is low at any speed. The ‘Bentley’ suspension setting provides the ideal balance between softness and control. But bury your boot and the response is enormous, almost shocking in the way it hurls you forward with a complete lack of warning. There is no wheelspin and not much engine noise – just an instantaneous departure.
Mind you, why you’d want to drive like that defeats me. Save it for the Ferrari. The truth is that the Bentayga isn’t tied down like a sporting car and you are sitting quite a long way up in the air, so body motions are amplified. Better to concentrate on gliding and use all that potential for neatly passing people or ignoring gradients of whatever severity. Then the Bentayga will be in its element, and so will you.
BENTLEY BENTAYGA W12
Price £160,200 Price as tested £197,150 Options Naim audio system £6300, Touring Specification £5900, rear seat entertainment £5365, All Terrain Specification £4520, City Specification £3925, Front Seat Comfort Specification £2670, Sunshine Specification £1550, contrast stitching £1485, Veneer Specification £1050, TV and radio tuner £920, hands-free tailgate £650, Smoker’s Specification £440, heated steering wheel £375 Economy 21.1mpg Expenses None