At first glance, the bentayga seems a little understated and passive. Buckle up and get ready to meet the worlds’ fastest off-roader. By Simon Clarke; Photos by Henry Chiu.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

At first glance, the bentayga seems a little understated and passive. Buckle up and get ready to meet the worlds’ fastest off-roader. By Simon Clarke; Photos by Henry Chiu.

My Reading Room

IT SEEMS THAT EVERY THIRD OR FOURTH car on the world’s roads today is some kind of Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) and with potentially massive market share figures at stake, it prompts all car manufacturers to offer their versions of the ‘urban off-roader’. There’s a similar thing happening in the yacht industry with explorer yachts (see Features), which much like their car counterparts will seldom see much of the serious action that they were built to endure.

The world’s most luxurious car marque has done a lot more than just dip its toe in this huge and ever-increasing car market. Bentley, in true fashion, has set out to create a game-changing automobile, and write a new rulebook on what a luxury SUV should be.

Direct competition to the new Bentayga may include Range Rover, Maserati, Porsche, possibly the new Jaguar or perhaps, from a something special point of view, the new Tesla Model 3. However the starting price of the new Bentayga (HK$4.85 million) suggests that it is targeted at a consumer market far above that of its current competitors.

Bentley Hong Kong extended an invitation to find out what sets the Bentayga apart from any aforementioned competitors or indeed, anything else on the road today.

The Looks.

At first glance, the Bentayga seems a little understated and passive. However a few seconds of careful scrutiny reveal a somewhat elegant SUV, which is actually a very difficult challenge to accomplish.

A lot of Bentley’s current signature design elements have been carried – the familiar haunch of the rear wheel arches, the unmistakable large matrix grille with four round headlights and the B-shapes wing vents. The Bentley bloodline is tastefully and respectfully presented in the lines of this stately SUV.

An illuminated graphic of the iconic ‘B’ symbol has been incorporated between the tail lights at the rear – a design first for the Crewe-based company. A few other features worth a mention include the functioning front skid-plate that has been integrated into the lower section of the front bumper, and a huge panoramic glass roof that makes up almost 60% of the total roof surface and floods the interior with natural light.

The Interior.

It would be only fair to say at this point that the quality of the fit and finish, outside the car and inside, is nigh-on flawless. Bentley buyers may expect an uber level of excellence when it comes to their new automobile, however the most pampered prince could spend hours in here with a magnifying glass and not find a single concern – very impressive indeed.

The exquisite wood and leather used throughout the interior have been meticulously selected and tailored by the exceptionally skilled crafts people at Bentley to produce what Bentley boasts is “the world’s finest automotive cabin”. The familiar diamond-stitched seats are supremely comfortable offering 22-way adjustment, heated and cooled ventilation and a sumptuous massage function.

All the clocks and dials are manufactured to jewellery quality and, as an extremely expensive option, Bentley has partnered with Breitling and Mulliner to offer the Mulliner Tourbillon Clock. This magnificent and unique timepiece is fitted to the dashboard, machined from solid gold and decorated with no less than eight diamond inlays.

Other extravagant interior gadgets and gizmos, which are too many to list, include a cutting-edge 8in touch screen with 60Gb of hard drive storage together with Bentley’s world-class navigation technology.

Further options include a pair of removable 10in tablets with 4G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for high-speed, on-board connectivity. There are also several sound systems available including the Niam. Made exclusively for Bentley, it is the most powerful sound system available in an SUV.

My Reading Room

The Drive.

It’s easy to forget that Bentley’s heritage all started with racing, especially when sitting in this awesome SUV. A turn of the key, or rather a push of the button, reminds you of that Bentley bloodline. The all-new 6.0-litre, twin-turbocharged, direct-injected W12 engine erupts into life with a tame yet delicious roar, raising a few hairs on the neck, yet it’s able to settle back down to a surreal silence when at idle.

There are a myriad of drive selections available including four for on-road driving and four more for off-road with electronic roll control thrown in for good measure. Selecting the ‘Bentley’ mode, which I have been told is the most suitable for town driving, I slip the transmission into drive and we’re off.

Immediately, Bentley’s infamous standards of luxury bombard my senses as I waft effortlessly along but what’s most striking of all is the sheer silence inside the cabin. There is no apparent road noise whatsoever, whatever the road surface. In fact, the noisiest thing is the tick-tick of the turn signal when changing lanes.

The active suspension and beautifully light steering combine to make this 2,422kg SUV feel exceptionally nimble and easy to drive and in my view, the easiest of all in the Bentley range around town. The elevated driving position is neither too high nor too low, resulting in a perfect view of everything going on around you and helps to shrink this more than 5m-long SUV down to an easily manageable size.

The Rush.

The city drive obviously offered no chance to test any of the acclaimed off-road capabilities of this so far awesome machine. However, a long and quiet stretch of road near the old Kai Tak airport tempted me to check out the sport mode. Even though having been told (or rather warned) that this car is fast, I wasn’t ready at all for the sheer blast of raw thrust as all 600bhp explodes at once. The acceleration is past surprising, in fact, it’s quite alarming!

Here is a heavyweight SUV that can produce 900Nm of torque and a massive 600bhp resulting in a 0-60mph time of 4 seconds and a claimed top speed of just under 190mph, beaten only by supercars such as Lamborghinis and Ferraris. What’s more, the power just keeps on coming and with silky smooth, almost unnoticeable changes from the 8-speed transmission – it feels like you are strapped to the front of a rocket.

Disbelief keeps my foot planted and my eyes widen to surpass the size of my boyish smile. Only a few seconds of this W12 adrenalin rush could put me well over ‘licence-losing’ speeds and the fear that SUVs don’t stop or handle like a supercar prompt me to step on the brakes. I needn’t have worried though as the brakes are every bit a match for all that power and easily stop this rocket off-roader with almost as much surprise.

The sport mode feels completely different, too, as the active suspension transforms this weighty SUV into something very well capable of handling a corner or two, which again, is a very difficult challenge to accomplish. There is surprisingly little body roll and those extremely comfortable seats work well through the bends proving yet again that Bentley have got the mix of maximum performance and maximum luxury just right.

The Bentley Bentayga is currently unrivalled until we see what Rolls- Royce and Lamborghini offer in the near future. This is a unique SUV and well worth an investigation if you’re looking for something a little special to shuttle the kids to private school a bit quicker, or get to that perfect picnic spot, or take the long and bumpy route to the yacht.