Car reviews - Bentley - Bentayga - W12
Opulent luxury, surprising dynamics, delightful options, cabin comfort
Room for improvement
Exhaust note too tame in Sport mode, expensive options
17 Mar 2016
MELBOURNE’S Albert Park racing circuit had been commandeered for something or other so our track-side breakfast concluded with a short helicopter trip to the nearby Sandown track to meet Bentley’s new big baby.
Unlike some of Victoria’s other great racing circuits, the track in Melbourne’s east is not known for a silken surface like a panther’s back, and features a few lumps and bumps that cause a gripe for almost everything that races there – except for today.
Unlimited speed and a few undulations are exactly what we needed to put the Bentayga to the test.
To start our very brief encounter with the Bentayga we left the switchable drive mode selector in Comfort and set off for a lap with moderate pace to sample the extensive comfort features offered for your $423,600 before on-roads.
As you might expect, the cabin comfort is pure, unadulterated Bentley with delicious leather adorning almost everything, and fine quality metal or wood gracing the remaining components that were not hidden behind an entire herd of cattle.
Leather extends to the delightful Event Specification seat, which unfolds to the edge of the boot allowing occupants to watch the polo from the shelter of the opened tailgate, but enough sitting around.
Our time behind the wheel was too short to play with the extensive infotainment systems, but after an initial flutter over the tactile knurled bits and stylish bobs, we set to work on the most important controls.
Out on the track the Bentayga moves with such elegance that we found it hard to find just one word to describe its ride quality, and the level of insulation from outside interruptions is simply world class.
If it were not for the windows, at times it would have been hard to detect any sense of motion at all with track and wind noise imperceptible at lower speeds, and all but the largest lumps almost completely ironed out.
Even in the most comfortable setting, the Bentley resisted roll in corners and dive under braking better than expected.
So a Bentley offering a good ride might not be the most surprising revelation ever reported by GoAuto, but switching the drive mode select to Sport provoked a more eyebrow-raising result.
This time the clever active anti-roll-bars and standard air suspension was even more suborn to roll in corners, virtually eliminating body movement through the various tight twists of the Sandown circuit.
Along the “drag strip” from the exit of turn five, we opened the taps on the 6.0-litre 447kW/900Nm W12 and managed to race to a rather high speed, thanks to a mountainous torque push and lightening gearshifts from the eight-speed auto.
With confident stabs of the vast brakes, corners were cleaved away with ease before demolishing more meters of raceway. Despite some serious pace, the Bentayga didn’t break a sweat with smooth steering and only a slight complaint from the massive tyres when provoked.
We failed to find the fade limit of the big brakes, but sensed another lap or two would have pushed the iron rotors to maximum capacity, but it was remarkable how composed the 2500kg car remained during fairly animated driving.
On return to the pits, only the plumes of brake smoke indicated the Bentley had been doing anything out of the ordinary.
A little more exhaust note might be a fitting reminder of the unorthodox engine configuration lying under the bonnet, but a shouty Bentley may be a bit uncouth.
Quite how the Bentayga will perform in the real world remains to be seen, but an initial fleeting blast on a closed road has left us wanting to come back for more.
BMW’s X5 M feels more athletic during dynamic driving, and has some friends that can come close to the Bentayga’s straight-line performance for less cash, but for outright luxury that feels like there is no other version like it anywhere in the world, the Bentley is the new standard.
If you are after an SUV with quintessential Bentley luxury and have the wallet to endure the bespoke options list you have just one choice.
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