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Bentley Bentayga 2016 review

2016 Bentley Bentayga at Sandown racetrack
EXPERT RATING
9
Paul Gover track tests and reviews the Bentley Bentayga with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at Sandown race track in Melbourne.

Twelve minutes on a racetrack is not much of a first drive. Even so, it's more than enough time to learn that the Bentley Bentayga has rewritten the rules for top-end SUVs.

This one tows three tonnes, can get seriously into the desert and is also a top-drawer luxury car with lounge space for five.

It makes a Range Rover Sport feel a bit dainty and just a little suburban. And it can really crack along, as I discover during the Australian preview at Victoria's Sandown Park.

The big Bentley thunders to 100km/h in just over four seconds a couple of times a lap, easily tops 200km/h on the closed course run where V8 Supercars clock just 250, yet is also whisper quiet, rivals a Rolls-Royce or a private jet for all-out luxury, and has a giant boot.

If you have to ask the price you're obviously not a Bentley buyer but the first deliveries of the Bentayga — called, not surprisingly, the First Edition and loaded with extra standard equipment — have a list price of $627,400.

When you get up off the floor, remember that the Bentayga (never mind the silly name) is a limousine-sized SUV and there is nothing extra to spend. Well, unless you want carbon-ceramic brakes or bespoke colours or tailored trim from Mulliner.

Or the very special clock, unique to the Bentayga and developed by Breitling. It costs $250,000 and comes with a desk mount so you can take it home.

Once things settle down, you (maybe not me) will be able to buy a regulation Bentayga W12 for a mere $423,600. When the lesser V8 turbo model arrives next year, the list price will be nearer $350,000.

At the top end, there is also a seven-seater Bentayga in the works. The development program over the next two years includes a diesel and a plug-in hybrid.

"Although Bentayga is a four- door vehicle, it's a completely different proposition," says Bentley Motors regional sales chief Dave Simpson.

"It's the Bentley to use every day. We are blazing a trail, creating a new sector in the luxury SUV segment."

Big talk yet the Bentayga is a giant in every way — more than five metres long, weighing 2.5 tonnes and its W12 engine — three banks of four cylinders — makes 447kW/900Nm.

"We have targeted to sell approximately 50 Bentaygas in Australia this year. They will be the First Editions, and then the standard W12," says Simpson. "We have 19 deposits and over 50 ... have expressed an interest.

"Supply will be very limited this year and we're already looking at a full order bank. The ramp-up has been very slow, so most of our allocation will be in the second half of the year."

But there is nothing slow about the ramp-up at Sandown. We have joined potential buyers who are helicoptered from the Bentley VIP suite at the Australian Grand Prix to try two right-hand drive Bentaygas in the pitlane. Some choose helmets for hot laps with Bentley racer David Russell.

On the road

For me, it's about seeing how the car drives at 'normal' speeds. So, even though I can go much quicker, my first laps are between 60km/h and 80km/h.

That is when I savour the sumptuous leather seats, the incredible detail on the chrome plating and wood panelling, and the heft to the controls.

The nose rises like a speedboat under full power, the engine thunders, and we've passed 100km/h before I can credit it.

On a light throttle, the Bentayga starts with a refined whoofle from the twin exhausts and rolls smoothly away. It's super-quiet, the steering is responsive and the brakes well-modulated.

I jump on the throttle in the 'comfort' drive mode and the response is wicked. The nose rises like a speedboat under full power, the engine thunders, and we've passed 100km/h before I can credit it.

But the car still rides gently over the artificial bumps created by racetrack kerbs and never threatens to upset the composure of my passenger.

On the track

So now it's time for the 'sport' settings, on which the Bentayga hunkers down tight and the engine gives all of its urge, all of the time.

It's hard to believe something so massive can drive so well. Yes, I'm conscious of the bulk and I wonder how a Range Rover Sport would feel in the same conditions. The Bentayga is far sportier than I expect, way beyond a regular Bentley, Mercedes Maybach or Rolls-Royce Ghost.

Yes, it's that good to drive, and the 6.0-litre twin-turbo engine always seems to be in the right place for the right gear. I love the torque — imagine the overtaking response with 900Nm on tap.

The icing on the cake comes with another full-throttle start. Thanks to tricky electronics and suspension programming, the nose pulls down hard to keep the front wheels gripping and the Bentayga launches like a jet off an aircraft carrier.

For now, that's it. Come in PG, your 12 minutes is up. And that's more than enough.

Verdict

It's a monumental car in every way, from the price to the performance, and I can't wait to take one home to see how it performs family SUV duties.

What's new

Price - The bottom line is way, way up there. It's not as expensive as Bentley's Mulsanne or a Rolls-Royce Phantom but the introductory model gets close.

Technology - The twin-turbo W12 engine would work well in an aircraft but it also comes with all the regulation safety gear and push-button luxury.

Performance - The sprint time of 4.0 seconds from rest to 100km/h is other-worldly for something this big and heavy. And it will also get seriously into the bush.

Driving - It's never going to be easy to park but it is surprisingly easy to handle at around-town speeds. Top-end whack rivals a Ferrari but it can carry five.

Design - It's not pretty but megastars and billionaires will love the instant impact.

 

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

Pricing Guides

$397,595
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$250,250
Highest Price
$544,940

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 6.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $321,640 – 369,710 2016 Bentley Bentayga 2016 (base) Pricing and Specs
DIESEL (4 SEAT) 4.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $254,320 – 292,380 2016 Bentley Bentayga 2016 DIESEL (4 SEAT) Pricing and Specs
DIESEL (5 SEAT) 4.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $254,320 – 292,380 2016 Bentley Bentayga 2016 DIESEL (5 SEAT) Pricing and Specs
DIESEL (7 SEAT) 4.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $250,250 – 287,650 2016 Bentley Bentayga 2016 DIESEL (7 SEAT) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
9