Can a $485,000 Bentley Bentayga actually cut it off road?
EXCLUSIVE pony club car parks, Monaco's Hotel de Paris, Middle East luxury malls and hip LA nightclubs. The natural environments, one would opine, for Bentley's ultra-luxe Bentayga SUV.
Mud on the flanks sullying the Union Jack badges? Well, that simply wouldn't do. Certainly not for the vast majority of owners of this most regal of SUVs anyway.
But we're here to show the well-heeled Bentley buyer there is ability beyond traversing a slightly soggy polo club field.
After all, the British brand asks you to part with $427,300 for a 6.0-litre W12-engined Bentayga and $335,000 (all before on-roads) for its new diesel stablemate. For such coin, it would be nice to know your hard-earned had bought the true "go-anywhere grand touring capability" Bentley promises in the showroom, even if you never intend to use it.
Cue a Bentayga Diesel Adventure Drive for journalists not afraid to get muddy...from the comfort of heated Mulliner Diamond Quilted seats, naturally.
This being Bentley there'd be no sausage sizzle brekkie before a two-week odyssey along the Canning Stock Route. Instead, prosciutto and smashed avocado were served in a Bentayga's boot equipped with optional $55,000 Linley Hamper set, before a gentle cruise towards NSW's Hunter Valley wine region and a reasonably tame off-road course.
Tame it may have been, but how wonderful to actually put to good use the undoubted all-wheel-drive smarts of these elegant brutes.
Our steeds were all Bentayga Diesels, Bentley claiming them to be the world's fastest (270kmh) and most powerful (320kW/900Nm) luxury diesel SUVs available. In nearly a century of existence this is the first diesel offered by Bentley, and the brand obviously didn't want to play second fiddle.
Audi's SQ7 ($153,616) shares its platform and 4.0-litre triple-charged (twin-turbo with electric supercharger) V8 with the Bentayga Diesel, but Bentley claims a 0.1-second quicker sprint time to 100kmh with 4.8 seconds. The Brits don't like being beaten by the Germans.
All 900 of those Newton metres arrive at just 1000rpm, and there really is no detectable lag thanks to that 48V-powered electric supercharger filling in the blanks as we cruise out of Sydney.
Acceleration is monstrous, the engine note meaty and distinctly non-diesel like, and with foot planted you are gracefully pulled to silly speeds in a sumptuously cosseting cabin.
Fuel economy? It's quoted as 7.9l/100km but we found around 6.5l/100km on the highway, and a combined 8.3l/100km by mixed-road journey's end. An incredible return for such performance, and the 85-litre fuel tank should allow over 1000km between stops.
So to the dirty stuff. We wouldn't be tackling anything hardcore as our 'Taygas all had 22-inch wheels rather than the standard 20s. These smaller rims are suggested should you option the All-terrain Package ($13,641) for the more serious off-roading millionaire, which brings four different off-road settings, a sump guard and 360-degree camera. Bentley Australia hasn't seen much take-up by the way.
But out of the box credentials are good. You score a Torsen centre differential, open rear diff, hill descent control, hill hold and the air suspension can raise to give a 500mm wading depth and 245mm ground clearance: handy, but not a patch on a Range Rover.
Despite its 22-inch wheels the palatial SUV easily crawled up dusty inclines, hill descended a reasonable gradient with aplomb and then rolled its way through a string of muddy puddles that half-covered the wheels.
The V8's wads of low down torque made everything feel too easy. Powering your way out of trouble would seemingly solve most problems here.
Our adventure, despite being on the tame side by Aussie off-road standards, was more testing than what 99.9% of Bentayga owners will ask of their Bentley. And without doubt the Brit could handle plenty more, should you ever wish to attempt it.
So very few will though, so rest assured the rest of the Bentayga experience is delightful, albeit at a price.
Luxury at a price
At over 2.5 tonnes with two on board the road holding almost defies physics as the hefty thing confidently changes direction, with good firm steering feel with Sport mode selected. Even without the optional Dynamic Ride (the world's first electric active roll technology), body roll was no cause for complaint at speed. Save your money and tick more luxury boxes instead.
Of which there are plenty. Our three test cars all featured Bentley's Mulliner Driving Spec ($40,812) bringing, amongst other things, the required diamond quilted leather finish inside. With a few other additions each of our test Bentaygas cost between $470-$485,000 once on-road costs were added.
Other cost option gems included a City Spec (park assist, reverse traffic warning, etc.) for $11,354; Touring Spec (adaptive cruise control, heads-up display, night vision, etc.) for $16,245; Rear Entertainment (two tablet screens, wi-fi, mobile gaming, etc.) for $14,064; contrast stitching at $4090, handsfree tailgate for $1788 and a seven seat option for $7157.
Two of them had fancier paint for $12k a pop, while it was even $1180 for the little British flag badges on the doors. Gotta have 'em.
The finer things
Specified as such the cabins are glorious and truly befitting of the Bentley experience. The exterior of course polarises opinion, but in the metal the rear and side views are imposingly beautiful, not least when the suspension is at lowest "access" setting.
Half the fun of owning a Bentayga would be the buying experience, as long as you have deep pockets.
There are over 100 optional Bentley colours on offer, numerous leather hide hues and countless ways to spend extra thousands on the finer things in life.
And shoppers need not be put off by the "cheapie" diesel Bentayga. It's a talented and sumptuous torque-filled weapon in any language, and despite its salubrious skin, won't shirk its off-road duties when called upon.
Marvellous, old chap.
What matters most
The good: Ballistic performance with negligible turbo lag, you wouldn't know it's a diesel, remarkable handling for such a heavy thing, enough off-road talent as standard, glorious luxury cabin when specified correctly.
The not so good: Plenty of technology missing at this price point so cost of the options quickly blows the bill out, front end looks are polarising.
AT A GLANCE
Bentley Bentayga Diesel
PRICE From $335,000 before on-roads
WARRANTY 3 years/unlimited km
CAPPED SERVICING Not available
SERVICE INTERVAL 1 year/15,000km
SAFETY Untested by ANCAP, 6 airbags
ENGINE 4.0-litre V8 twin turbo diesel with electric supercharger, 320kW/900Nm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed auto; AWD
PERFORMANCE 0-100kmh in 4.8 seconds, 270kmh top speed
DIMENSIONS 5140mm(L), 1998mm(W), 1742mm(H), 2995(WB)
TOWING 3500kg (braked)