Bentaygus Maximus. A breed possessing lithe feline powers and the cargo-hauling ability of a pachyderm, typically found in its region of origin, Crewe, near Cheshire, England. A wild new species of Cheshire Cat? You could say that. Us commoners just refer to it as the 2017 Bentley Bentayga.
When Bentley first started shopping their idea for an SUV
around, the great unwashed scoffed at such a plan. The Bentley EXP 9 F concept was first shown at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, and gathered um, tepid response at best, owing to its rather upright and boxy design. In fact, its original profile pronounced more like a vintage ambulance or hearse.
Back to the drawing board.
Honestly, we agreed. The new design falls much more in line with typical Bentley DNA and is a far bit more attractive on so many levels. Sure, it is built on the Volkswagen group MLB architecture, which serves as the basis for the Audi Q7 and A8, so it is starting naturally with some good bones. From there, Bentley designers took over to impart its distinctive British-ness to the vehicle. The jury is still out on the rear haunches, but overall we would say the Bentayga is really quite handsome in a Porsche Cayenne sort of way.
Biggest, baddest, most luxurious. Let us count the ways.
According to Bentley officials, the Bentayga is the fastest, most powerful, most luxurious of SUVs. In other words, it is truly the Bentley of SUVs. Using a totally new version of the Bentley signature W12 engine, it now sports 600 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque.
That’s good for 0 to 60 times of four seconds, and a terminal velocity of 187 mph. That’s not too shabby for a vehicle that tips the scales at 5,379 pounds. As we were reminded by the Bentley Boys (and Girl), these are numbers more commonly associated with a two-door sports car, rather than a sport utility vehicle. But this is not just any sport ute.
Performance is nothing without the control. To that end, this newest Bentley rides on a suspension comprised of a four-link double wishbone kit in front, and the optional, and industry-first, 48-volt electric active anti-roll control system. It gives the ultimate comfort when you want it, with each wheel acting independently for the most comfortable ride.
When you are on the track you switch to sport mode for a much more engaging ride where the Bentayga feels planted and firmly set up for a flat go-round without wallowing or God forbid, any side-to-side “head-toss.” At the rear is a trapezoidal multilink kit also with the optional 48-volt electric active anti-roll bar.
Ride height and comfort can be adjusted with a center console-mounted dial that switches the suspension from Bentley, Sport, and Comfort options. They are joined by settings for snow, grass, desert, off-roading, etc. By changing the dial, the characteristics of the entire vehicle changes. Various ride heights are available to ease vehicle loading, or when off-roading or other types of terrain come into play. Speaking of off-roading, this Bentley is proficient in off-the-pavement excursions too, with over a million miles of testing under its belt. Bentley drivers and engineers studied the Bentayga in Antarctica, as well as on the sand dunes in Dubai. Bentley claims a very balanced performance both on and off-road.
Sadly, though, and Bentley admits this from the start, most of the Bentaygas sold will never be subjected to such rigors, but it’s certainly reassuring to know the capabilities are there. In the words of a Bentley official, if a customer wanted to, the car could do it. Well, we wanted to and found a steep descent path leading from the helipads at Lime Rock Raceway, in Lime Rock Connecticut. Moving over the edge in hill descent mode found us creeping warily downward with nary a misstep, creak or groan while working our way to the flatlands.
Good looks are expensive.
Bentley customers are a demanding sort. Some may even want to customize the Bentayga to their particular taste, but fear not, as Bentley design consultants are available to protect you from yourself. To those buyers, appearance is everything, and as a result, the Bentayga’s proportions needed to be right.
The car, er, truck, er SUV, features a very long front hood, er bonnet, with a very short overhang. Conversely, the rear has a very long overhang and a very short rear window. The car’s wheelbase is 117.9-inches long, which, as an aside, lends itself to plenty of rear seat legroom. The visual dynamics make for a well-planted look while on the road.
All Bentaygas are equipped with a full panorama sunroof.
This Bentley’s front clip (comprised of the hood, grill and front fenders) is SuperFormed to avoid the use of multiple pieces of sheetmetal. This technology super-heats a single piece of metal that is blasted with very hot air to help the metal presses achieve the actual desired designs.
The hood dominates with its sharp creases while the fenders flow seamlessly into a bold powerline. That line, which suggests motion and strength, runs to the signature Bentley “haunches” (other brands call them knees) as seen in the rear fenders.
Twin LED headlights look as though they are floating in the air. Details include Bentley logos within the headlight housings and “Bs” in the taillights. So Bentley-ish, even the headlight washers are hidden beneath the running light housings that appear outboard of the main headlamps. The metal matrix radiator grille returns and in the case of some of our samplers was equipped with an added cost chrome lower grille.
From the side, the rear fender creases are more pronounced. Buyers can select the wheels of their choice, ranging from base 20-inchers, which are more suited to off-roading, while 21- and 22-inch options exist for on-road cruising. Available in painted, polished and dark tinted, you can order them to suit your inner-gangster.
The inside line.
Bentleys are known for their exquisite use of leather, veneer, and electronics that instantly let you know you are in a car that more resembles an event than a conveyance. Design for the interior starts with the Dashboard and moves rearward. There is enough wood veneer throughout the cabin to panel the Vanderbilt Family Library.
The front seats are throne-like in their ability to cool, massage and coddle their occupants, and feature a wood veneered central console with every conceivable control on it. In the rear, there are four and five seat configurations that can be covered with a variety of hides, stitching options, colors and textures to truly make this Bentayga your own. The available four-seat model offers more of an executive feel with better adjustability and its own central console. There will be an available refrigerator when the Bentayga goes on sale in the States.
The second rows of seats in our test vehicles were equipped with available twin 10-inch (android-based) tablets, which are part of the rear entertainment system. Removable, they can be used to type an email or a letter while you are being driven to work, and once you have arrived, you can remove the tablet and take it with you inside where you can continue the letter. In car 4G WiFi allows video streaming from the Interweb.
Bentley does not dabble in mere pedestrianism. Keeping that in mind, your Bentayga will come equipped with a 700-watt, 12-speaker Bentley Signature audio system. It this is not to your liking, you can swap it out for a 22-speaker, 1950-watt Naim Audio system mated to a 300-watt subwoofer in the boot. Apple CarPlay is standard.
The rear cargo area is standard enough, if there is such a thing in Bentley-speak, but can be equipped with an optional “Event Seat,” which customers requested as part of the Bentley feature content. Company officials found that customers did manage active lifestyles that included tailgating and spectating from the rear hatch, so Bentley devised a leather-covered bench seat that owners could sit and enjoy the polo matches whilst sipping a Pimms Cup cocktail. When not needed as a seat, it can be folded and used as a luggage divider. But wait, there’s more: Also on offer is the Bentley Picnic specification, which for $28,000 will equip you with a champagne cooler, storage for your flutes and a sideboard for you fine china and silverware.
With 600 horses all trying to have their way, acceleration is neck snapping. Literally. Still it is easy to control with virtually no torque steer, as it bangs through the eight-speed gearbox. Equipped with fulltime all-wheel-drive, the Bentayga seems to remain well-planted regardless of where we placed it on the course at the legendary Lime Rock raceway in Lime Rock, Connecticut.
Switching to sport mode takes a bit of the softness out of the ride, but honestly, it’s where we like to be.
Offering a more connected driving feel, it allows us to really have a sense of what this cat is doing, and to our seat of the pants feel, would be perfectly comfortable for most around town driving situations.
Driving on a slalom course we experienced the Bentayga’s industry first 48-volt active roll control system. Accelerating from a standing start to nearly 70 mph, we then slammed on the brakes to incur the full wrath of the ABS
system, and then managed to do a lane change all the while not feeling the tiniest bit of wallow while avoiding cones that represented cars and pedestrians. We think it was a great execution of a necessary safety tool.
The full ride.
The Bentayga is head and shoulders above any other SUV we have driven. Everyone laughed when Bentley began shopping its SUV concept around. Critics scoffed at the mere idea that Bentley test these waters. Well, yes, they did that, and with extremely posh results, we might add.
As the old saying goes, he or she who laughs last, laughs loudest with this Bentley of SUVs.