A trunk full of champagne and diamonds in the clock – that might sound like a Bond villain’s car wishlist; but in this case it’s a standard feature of a production vehicle. It’s a bold new hyper exclusive world, where luxury is taken to its logical extremes and austerity is just a word to loom over the third world nation whose debts are your assets.
When Bentley, purveyors of fine automobiles for heads of state, dictators and billionaires decide to do an SUV, they take their time. They release multiple “Design Studies” to “gauge customer reaction” and development mules are spied testing in extreme environments like the Siberian plains, the Sahara and stranger still, The Nürburgring. Thanks to the internet, development cycles of cars are now practically public domain. So Bentley has taken the pragmatic approach and literally used their customers as a design focus group, a highly demanding and spoiled focus group. They showed the EXP 9F concept in 2012 as one of their “gauge customer reaction” exercises and they got a resounding “ugh”, so they went back to the drawing board and the Bentayga is what they have come up with.
The Bentley Bentayga is one of those vehicles that just can’t be pigeonholed into a single existing category, so you have to make up new ones. The Bentayga is the world’s first hyper luxury SUV. Is it luxurious? Yes and then some. Is it fast? Like it has no right to be. Can it go off road? Yes, to places you’ll never have to go. Is it expensive? If you have to ask, you don’t need to know. What Bentley has built is a gold plated diamond encrusted Swiss Army knife with every attachment known to mankind and then some that are powered by secret alien technologies.
Forget your Mulsanne’s and your Rolls Royce Phantoms, the SUV is the king of the hill and Bentley is the kingmaker.
First shown to the public at the VW group night at the Frankfurt International auto show (watch this space for more from that night), the Bentayga had the longest presentation of any car unveiled, and with good reason. The sheer list of things this car has is nearly incomprehensible. But let’s try and break it down.
Bentley has gone back and forth with its customers and since the Bentayga will be both their flagship vehicle as well as their volume seller, they’ve gone for a conservative approach. After all, this car has to appeal to billionaires from Beijing to Buenos Aires. The overall design is derivative of the continental GT, which by now has become a design classic and the face of modern Bentley. The profile is characterised by the sweeping front wing line and the kinked hip that echoes the racing Bentley coupes of past. The Bentayga sits on massive 22 inch forged alloy wheels that give the car a sporty, let’s go everywhere stance.
The front end is nearly indistinguishable from the current Continental GT save for the headlamps and the grill. The headlamps feature cutting edge lighting elements and the lamp housings have been knurled, polished and jewelled to give an air of precise engineering and exclusivity. The second round lamp that’s present on the continental GT has been replaced by a Daytime Running Light Ring that invokes the family face with getting a bit too same-same. The grill on the Bentayga is a real talking point since Bentley’s iconic grill design has remained almost unchanged since the Blower Race car from 1928. On the Bentayga the grill takes a new dimension – the entire grill is one piece of aluminium, precision milled on a CNC machine. The level of finish and detailing on this single piece alone is worth every word written about it.
The rear of the Bentayga bookends what is considered an almost conservative design approach, the inspiration is clearly the custom Shooting Brake Bentleys of the past. Overall it’s a very handsome if not striking car.
The exterior is only the tip of the iceberg , the real Bentayga experience begins once you step inside the cabin through its massive doors, that make getting in and out a breeze. The Bentayga is the new benchmark when it comes to interiors, the quality of materials, design, fit and finish is miles beyond any other production offering and closer to NASA in terms of production tolerances.The very finest of wood veneers are used in the Bentayga. They have a few preselected schemes to make the job easier, but beyond that the choice of wood, leather and colours is limitless. Want your seats dyed the colour of the genetically modified lillies that only grow in your garden? No problem. You want seat piping the colour of your favourite shade of lipstick? It can be done. The sheer number of combinations possible would make an actuary cry.
The dashboard is shaped symmetrically with two wings flowing out from the centre console and evoking Bentleys winged logo. Every tactile surface is either the softest gelded bulls hide or bookmatched wood veneer or precision machined aluminium. With a full length electrochromatic sun roof letting light into the cabin, riding in the Bentayga feels like a baroque solarium in the summer getaway of Austrian royalty.
The interior features four zone ventilation and noise cancelling, so you could be watching a movie on the left rear seat and your companion could be catching up on the news in the next seat and the sounds would never interfere. Each passenger gets their own tablet based infotainment system, which not only controls their individual climate zone, their seat position, bolstering, heating ventilation, and massage functions but also functions as a full-fledged internet connected device.
The armrest has the de rigeur built-in fridge which was designed to accommodate even a magnum sized bottle of your favourite bubbly and of course, you get dedicated flutes carved out of bohemian crystal, which naturally fit exactly into the provided spaces. The Bentayga doesn’t have cupholders – it gets a “personal beverage retention system”
The audio system in the Bentayga was designed and manufactured by NAIM – purveyors of some of the best sound systems on the planet… Systems that fool audiophiles in blind tests into thinking they’re at live concerts.
The Bentayga is the new pinnacle of SUV performance. What do you call a two and a half tonne SUV that goes from 0-100 kph in 4 seconds and upto 301kph (limited) all with the A/C running and an exterior temperature of 50 degrees. I would call it a high speed train but Bentley calls it the world’s fastest SUV. The Bentayga is powered by an all new 12 cylinder engine in a W formation, which means there are four banks of 3 cylinders each on a common crank. This results in a much more compact engine. This beast of a power plant develops 600 BHP and enough torque to reverse earth’s rotation. Despite the output the Bentayga is expected to sip fuel at one litre per 8 kilometers.
Thanks to technologies like magnetic suspension and the latest in electronic management, this ridiculous beast can take corners with the kind of speed and confidence that would shame some supercars from less than a decade ago. There’s a full suite of predictive AI technology, the Bentayga is also one of the safest cars money can buy – it even has nightvision for those late night cross country blasts.
What Bentley has built will define what’s possible with an automobile for decades to come and redefines what luxury means in the automotive context.
Hyper Luxury Sports utility vehicle? Nah, just call it the Bentayga.