We find out what it's like to live with the British firm's groundbreaking first SUV

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.

Bargain Bentleys: why they're more tempting than ever

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.

Opinion: What the Bentayga has done for Bentley

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

Our Verdict

Bentley Bentayga

The big-in-every-way Bentley SUV lands. We assess the impact

Join the debate

Comments
26

9 May 2017
It's just ticking boxes to select things you like. Really not that difficult.

9 May 2017
I would not buy one of these. The automotive equivalent of having "knob" tattooed on your forehead.
Spanner

9 May 2017
I'm very rich and self-confident enough to do what I want. I've exquisite taste and when I want to go to my ski-lodge or my home in the South of France I enjoy the comfort and luxury that my hard work has allowed me to achieve.

9 May 2017
johnfaganwilliams wrote:

I'm very rich and self-confident enough to do what I want. I've exquisite taste and when I want to go to my ski-lodge or my home in the South of France I enjoy the comfort and luxury that my hard work has allowed me to achieve.

Wow! The owners must work EXTREMELY hard. I also work hard. I know a lot of people who work hard. Very hard, in some cases. And yet we all only have one or two cars, one or two houses, and no Bentleys. I guess we need to work harder. That, or you are almost unfathomably clueless.

9 May 2017
No, just knob.

9 May 2017
I had the opportunity to have a good look round one at the Guineas Festival at the weekend and I have to say the interior is an absolutely spectacular place to sit. It seems quite reasonable to say that, if (that's a big IF) I had the resources to drop a couple of hundred K on one of these, I wouldn't give a monkeys what some pleb on the internet thought about it.

289

9 May 2017
Here Here!
Its a hell of a bit of kit.

9 May 2017
supermanuel wrote:

...if (that's a big IF) I had the resources to drop a couple of hundred K on one of these, I wouldn't give a monkeys what some pleb on the internet thought about it.

100% agreed.

As beautifully engineered and trimmed as it is, the Bentayga and in SUVs in general just don't appeal to me. But if you have the money and this kind of thing appeals to you, then go for it and don't give a rat's whatsits about the (serial) moaners.

9 May 2017
City Pack = £3925 ! The same kit on my Audi cost £1800 and also included the 360 camera, auto park, cruise assist etc. FOR THE SAME BITS FROM THE SAME SUPPLIERS! And I expect the same kit on a Skoda would be even cheaper again. I'm a slight muppet for getting the Audi not a Skoda but a Bentley buyer ?

 

 

 

9 May 2017
It'd be cheaper still on a Duster, but I think that's missing the point.

To the people who buy these they're not particularly expensive. And it's all very well calling people "fools" for having more money than you, but I doubt they care at all.

It's a bit like when someone posts "more money than sense" - you know they really mean "more money than me", or "so much more money than me that I don't understand them at all".

Just relax, and hope that most Bentaygas aren't black, because from the couple I've seen in London they're enormously less ugly when they don't look like a cross between a Maxi and a Taxi.

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Kia Stonic
    First Drive
    18 October 2017
    Handsome entrant into the bulging small crossover market has a strong engine and agile handling, but isn’t as comfortable or complete as rivals
  • Hyundai Kona
    First Drive
    18 October 2017
    Hyundai's funky-looking Kona crossover with a peppy three-cylinder engine makes all the right noises for the car to be a success in a crowded segment
  • Citroën C3 Aircross
    First Drive
    17 October 2017
    The Citroen C3 Aircross has got funky looks and a charming interior, but it's another small SUV, and another dynamic miss. Numb steering is just one thing keeping it from class best
  • Skoda-Karoq 2.0 TDI 4x4
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Diesel version of Skoda’s junior SUV is unobtrusive and undemanding, but we’d still go for the silkier petrol version of the Karoq
  • Audi Q7 e-tron
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Expensive and flawed but this understated diesel-electric Audi Q7 has a lot to offer