Driving Bentley’s Bentayga, with its 6.0-litre twin-turbo direct-injection W12 engine, eight-speed automatic and almost 2.5-ton kerb mass, you can understand the bemusement of the early purists with such brute force. Large, thundering Bentleys so decimated their opposition at Le Mans in the 1930s, that Ettore Bugatti, a craftsman of delicate automotive artwork, called them “the fastest lorries in the world”.
Of course, in this age of electronically managed chassis engineering, Bentley’s first “go anywhere vehicle” (SUV to us) not only offers the stunning performance of its equivalent sedan, it’s delivered with a truly impressive combination of ride compliance and handling poise, effectively defying its mass. Most astonishing is the cabin sound deadening and the almost total lack of body roll in high-speed corners, with no loss of suppleness over broken or patched surfaces.
Bentayga exudes Bentley’s reputation for vault-like solidity and elegantly hand-crafted presentation. Although now owned by the Audi/Volkswagen group (Audi has provided the powertrain and all-wheel driveline components, plus influenced much of the dash hardware), the look and feel remains thoroughly British. Superbly engineered controls and mechanisms are a hallmark.
Whether it’s a power window that glides silently, deployable sill steps, quilted seat bolsters or the ability to do 0-100 km/h in 4.1 seconds, the Bentayga constantly reminds you you’re travelling first-class. And there’s a catalogue of accessories, epitomised by three fitted picnic hampers, hand-trimmed and with the provision to embroider a name, logo or family monogram.
With on-road pricing of our well-optioned test car nudging $600,000, it brings another classic quote to mind: “If you need to ask the price, you can’t afford it.”
Details: 5950cc W12 twin-turbo petrol engine, 8spd automatic, all-wheel-drive. 447kW@5000-6000rpm, 900Nm@1350rpm. 0-100km/h in 4.1 secs. 275/50 R20 tyres. 13.1L/100km (approx). Approx $420,000 + orc.