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Bentley Bentayga 2016 Review

EXPERT RATING
7
Damien Reid road tests and reviews the 2016 Bentley Bentayga with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its international launch.

First drive of reputedly the fastest SUV ... ever.

This is the car that Bentley Motors hopes will not only change the face and perception of the 96-year-old marque but will also allow it to double production from 10,000 this year to 20,000 by 2025.

We're the first to drive it among both the rocky hills and rivers of Spain as well surfing 200m-tall sand dunes in Dubai.

Apart from being the fastest and most powerful SUV ever, the Bentley Bentayga is the company's most important model since the 2003 launch of the Continental GT.

Underscoring its significance, Bentley Motors chairman and CEO Wolfgang Durheimer sent us off to sample the first production cars that initially will be priced from $600,000 in Australia.

It weighs in at 2420kg. Aluminium construction gave Bentley a reputed weight saving of 200kg over steel, giving the design team more freedom to go large on the interior comforts.

These include nine choices of timber veneer, 15 quilted leather hide options, deep pile carpeting and hand turned, knurled aluminium air vents with chrome-dipped, solid brass, organ-stop sliders.

The star of the interior is the optional Breitling Tourbillon by Mulliner, a mere 150,000 euros

However, the star of the interior is the optional Breitling Tourbillon by Mulliner, a mere 150,000 euros. Yes, that's a $225,000 clock, making it almost as expensive as the base version of the car itself; it's the work of one craftsman, whose annual output is just four.

Bentley likes to reinforce the fact that it's a unique product within the Volkswagen Group SUV range, with a bespoke chassis and air suspension developed exclusively for the Bentayga. It's still very much a derivative of VW's modular MLB platform, which debuted under the Audi Q7 and underpins the VW Touareg as well as future Q5, Q3 and Tiguan variants.

For the launch there is one formidable engine, the 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 (two narrow-angle V6s fused on to one crank), to be followed by V8, diesel and V6 hybrid options. There is a full order book for the 447kW W12 until 2017 so there's no rush to bring the others online just yet.

The 12-cylinder engine is 90 per cent new and 30kg lighter than the predecessor. Its revised internal lubrication prevents surge and collects oil from the turbos when it's on extreme angles. It also shuts down six cylinders to save fuel when coasting.

Bentley claims a 0-100kmh time of 4.0 seconds, going on to 301km/h.

Take it off road, however, and the real story is evident. Peak torque of 900Nm from just 1350rpm and a range of driving modes — now becoming the norm for all-terrain vehicles — will churn through the soft or tough stuff.

The Bentayga's eight modes of drive dynamics fit within what's known as "Charisma", with the ability to tackle snow, wet grass, sand, mud, gravel, comfort, sport. The "Bentley" mode is a compromise to suit most conditions.

Each mode mixes and matches settings for the centre diff, transmission and the 48-volt powered anti-roll setup for the air suspension.

Further adjustments are made to ride height, traction control, throttle sensitivity and change points on the eight-speed auto transmission.

The approach and departure angles are no match for its nearest competitor, the Range Rover

Its ability to handle loose and slippery gradients was impressive given its size. It seemed as comfortable crawling over obstacles with a sensitive throttle, at one point with one wheel perched high in the air, as it was earlier in the year when we joined the development team in the sand dunes of the Middle East.

Back then as the thermometer nudged 60 degrees, it was consistently bouncing off the 6500rpm rev-limiter as it hurtled over skyscraper-sized dunes in the middle of nowhere.

The Bentayga team worked hard to ensure the ride was as smooth as possible. This is where the powerful electric motors in the anti-roll gear come to the fore, twisting the rear anti-roll bar in the opposite direction to the forces to keep it as flat as possible.

Given the size of the car and the angles we traversed, it did a remarkable job of getting over the hurdles without anything flying around the cabin or our needing to reach for the grab handles.

However, one thing was apparent equally in the emirates' sands and in the Spanish hills — the approach and departure angles are no match for its nearest competitor, the Range Rover.

Two intercooler radiators are mounted in the front bumpers so it's wise to approach steep hills with caution to avoid digging in.

For those who plan to work the Bentayga, it has a 500mm wading depth and a towing capacity of 3500kg.

Verdict

Chances are though, it will see little more work than a school run and a steep drive to the hotel valet parking.

 

Do you think the Bentayga is a worthy rival of the Range Rover? Let us know in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Bentley Bentayga pricing and spec info.

Pricing Guides

$400,895
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$252,340
Highest Price
$549,450

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 6.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $324,280 – 372,790 2016 Bentley Bentayga 2016 (base) Pricing and Specs
DIESEL (4 SEAT) 4.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $256,520 – 294,800 2016 Bentley Bentayga 2016 DIESEL (4 SEAT) Pricing and Specs
DIESEL (5 SEAT) 4.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $256,520 – 294,800 2016 Bentley Bentayga 2016 DIESEL (5 SEAT) Pricing and Specs
DIESEL (7 SEAT) 4.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $252,340 – 290,070 2016 Bentley Bentayga 2016 DIESEL (7 SEAT) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7