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Driven: Five powertrains for Bentley Bentayga

The fastest: Bentley’s triple-turbo V8 diesel Bentayga is claimed to be the world fastest diesel SUV, managing 270km/h.

Two down, three more powertrains to go as Bentley empowers Bentayga

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Bentley logo24 Mar 2017

By RON HAMMERTON

BENTLEY’S game-changing ultra luxury SUV, the Bentayga, is set to get up to five powertrain choices within the current model cycle, with four of them due on the Australian market by next year.

The German-owned British company chose the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Melbourne for the Australian launch of the diesel-powered Bentayga – the second powertrain variant after the flagship petrol W12 broke the ice for the large SUV last year.

It is Bentley’s first-ever diesel in its first-ever SUV. The company has confirmed it will make more history within 12 months with the arrival of its first plug-in hybrid petrol-electric powertrain in Bentayga.

Before then, Bentley will slot a petrol V8 – borrowed from Bentley’s existing models – into Bentayga too, coming to Australia by Christmas.

The company is also working on an all-electric powertrain for Bentayga – and most of its other models – within five years under parent company Volkswagen Group’s push into battery powered vehicles in the wake of Dieselgate.

Of all of the Bentayga variants, none will dominate sales in Australia like the $335,000 (plus on-road costs) Bentayga Diesel that is billed as the fastest diesel SUV in the world.

Capable of a 270km/h top speed and a zero-to-100km/h sprint time of 4.8 seconds, the Bentayga Diesel boasts 320kW of power and 900Nm of torque from its triple-turbo 4.0-litre V8 that it shares with sister company Audi’s SQ7.

Bentley expects this variant to not only appeal to a wide audience in the diesel-centric Australian large SUV market but, as the most affordable variant in the Bentley line-up, put the brand within reach of many luxury car buyers for the first time.

It is $43,197 cheaper than the $427,300 petrol-powered 6.0-litre W12 Bentayga flagship, although more expensive than any diesel Ranger Rover except the top-of-the-line long-wheelbase SV Autobiography ($347,900).

Coinciding with the launch of diesel power, Bentley’s big wagon – more than 5100mm long and a tick under two metres wide – also becomes the first large luxury SUV to offer three seating alternatives – four seat, five seat and seven seat.

The four seater has two contoured rear seats with all the gadgetry usually associated with luxury front seats – including ventilation and massage functions.

The seven seater has a third row that seats two, folding away beneath the floor when not in use.

While the Bentayga W12 was launched in five- and four-seat configurations, it too now gains the seven-seat layout, should the buyer wish.

Bentley expects Bentayga to grow its sales by 50 per cent, with a great many of the conquest sales coming from diesel in markets such as Australia.

Last year, Bentley sold 190 vehicles in Australia – up 20.3 per cent on the previous year. Of those, 55 were Bentayga W12s from half a year of sales.

Once deliveries of the Bentayga Diesel start in the middle of this year, Bentley Asia-Pacific regional sales and marketing manager David Jackson expects a substantial up-kick.

Top end Range Rovers aside, the Bentayga has the super-luxury SUV market to itself right now, but that is set to change with the likes of Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini and Maserati all in various stages of large SUV development.

Compared with the Bentayga Diesel, the Bentayga W12 retains the edge in acceleration and top speed, clocking 4.1s for the sprint and hitting 301km/h flat out, but the smaller 4.0-litre diesel matches the petrol unit for torque that peaks at just 1500rpm and runs right across the rev range.

Of course, the diesel has a fuel economy advantage, returning 7.9 litres per 100km on the combined cycle and offering a driving range of more than 1000km on a tank. The W12’s claimed fuel figure is 12.8L/100km.

The diesel engine’s three turbochargers comprise two normal twin-scroll exhaust blowers and one electric unit. The latter, which runs on 48 volts, is designed to light up instantaneously to blow away turbo lag.

Externally, the Bentayga Diesel is almost identical to the W12, with only a black-painted grille, different exhaust tailpipes and V8 Diesel badge on the flanks to set them apart.

Because the diesel engine is heavier than the W12 engine that also originates from within Volkswagen Group, Bentley engineers had to beef up the front suspension a little, although they say they fitted slightly softer anti-roll bars.

Extra insulation, including a thicker windscreen, was also added to counter the diesel rattle, while a special acoustic exhaust pipe was included.

Like the W12 engine, the V8 diesel is hooked up to ZF’s ubiquitous eight-speed automatic transmission and a constant all-wheel-drive system that runs a Torsen centre differential.

There is no low-range gearing, but Bentley engineers say this is not necessary with such a deep well of low-down torque on tap.

Ten-spoke 20-inch alloy wheels are standard, but 21-inch Mulliner units are available, as are 19-inch off-road wheels that offer a taller tyre profile.

Air suspension with four selectable ride heights is standard, even allowing the driver to lower the back of the vehicle to make it easier to load cargo. For extra cost, buyers can tick the box for Bentley Dynamic Ride – an electrically activated anti-roll system.

The Bentayga Diesel marks the debut of a new wood veneer finish, Liquid Amber.

The full range of driving aides such as adaptive cruise control, hill descent control, park assist and infra-red night vision that debuted on the W12 are included.

While the driver gets an 8.0-inch screen with 60gb of storage in the front seat, rear-seat passengers win a 10-inch removable Android tablet equipped with 4G connectivity and WiFi.

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