There are certain things the British car-buying public love. Heritage, luxury and SUVs are among them.
Here then we have something that ticks all the boxes. The Bentayga has the heritage of one of the UK’s most iconic brands – Bentley – the brand itself is a byword for luxury, and it’s an SUV.
Okay, so the Bentayga – starting price £135,000 – isn’t going to be for most buyers but it is a reflection of the market. Everyone wants SUVs and the super-rich want their SUVs to be as plush as every other car they buy.
The Bentayga came out last year with an outrageous 600bhp, 6.0-litre W12 petrol engine that carried this 2.5-tonne leviathan to 60mph in four seconds and on to 187mph. New for this year is a 4.0-litre V8 diesel that promises nine tenths of the performance with half the number of visits to your local Esso.
Of course, this a Bentley so it’s not any old diesel. A development of the unit from Audi’s SQ7, it’s got two turbochargers and an electric compressor to help it produce 429bhp and a staggering 664lb/ft of torque while offering 35mpg.
The engine really is the Bentayga’s crowning glory. In the cabin there’s never any hint that this is an oil burner. In fact, under almost all conditions you’d be hard pressed to tell that there’s any sort of internal combustion engine at all, it really is that quiet.
That is true of the whole driving experience. Despite the size and shape of the car, there’s no wind noise and only the slightest hint of rumble from the tyres. It’s as quiet and refined a cabin as you’ll find anywhere.
But for all the refinement it’s still a beast. Sixty appears in 4.6 seconds on the way to a top whack of 168mph. With a wide throttle it makes progress in a way that a 2.5-tonne vehicle just shouldn’t be able.
Bentley Bentayga Diesel
Price: From £135,000
Engine: 4.0-litre, V8, triple-charged, diesel
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic driving all four wheels
Top speed: 168mph
0-60mph: 4.6 seconds
Fuel economy: 35.3mpg
CO2 emissions: 210g/km
Straight line speed is one thing, proper handling is another. To help with this, the Bentayga has a state-of-the-art 48V electrical system marshalling the suspension setup. At pace, you can see this in action as the Bentayga corners unbelievably flat for such a tall and heavy vehicle. For the most part, roll is barely perceptible.
Underneath all this is a four-wheel-drive system based on Audi’s latest quattro developments which means prodigious grip as the automatic system monitors and adjusts torque distribution depending on the conditions.
The only downside to this sporty performance is that the ride remains firmer than some soft-riding rivals, even in comfort mode. It’s not exactly back-breaking but there’s a firmness there you won’t find in an air-sprung Range Rover, for instance.
So it drives brilliantly, but as a luxury SUV, it’s got to do more than that.
It has to be luxurious for a start, and it is. Everywhere you look there’s the best quality leather and wood, all beautifully crafted and hand assembled to the highest standards. If a switch or handle looks like metal it probably is and, while it lacks some of the bespoke switchgear of something like the Mulsanne, everything screams quality (in a very restrained way).
At 5.1 metres long and 2m wide, the Bentayga is massive even for an SUV, which means there is loads of room inside. Five people will fit easily and four could circumnavigate the globe in the utmost comfort. Our test car also had the seven-seat option which adds another layer of usability to the car. Set up like this, the Bentayga brings a new facet to the brand. Bentley owners no longer need to defect to Range Rover to get the spacious, practical family SUV they need.
In fact, the Bentayga Diesel really is a car without compromise. It has a fast, responsive and sporty drive that belies its SUV appearance and stature. But it’s still an SUV and has all the family-friendly benefits that brings. There’s acres of space, a bit boot, up to seven seats and a 4×4 system that’ll crush most obstacles. Plus the diesel returns a respectable 35mpg. And on top of that it’s still a true luxury car with all the quality and prestige that the Bentley name implies.