What does an automotive manufacturer responsible for producing some of the most prestigious and beautiful cars on the roads do next to make a mark? In the case of Bentley, you design and build the fastest, most powerful, most luxurious and most exclusive SUV in the world.
Meet the Bentayga, the iconic British brand’s first SUV model and, it hopes, one that will set the benchmark for all others to follow in the new ultra-luxury SUV segment.
Four years on from the concept stage – and a massive £840 million (RO486,277) investment – the very first production Bentley Bentayga rolled off the assembly line at the company’s iconic headquarters in Crewe, the UK, on December 1 and straight into motoring history.
Deliveries to customers will start in January (2016). There has, says Bentley, been around 4,000 “expressions of interest” for the Bentayga and the imagination runs wild at the thought of who some of these potential clients might be.
Driving the Bentayga would be a mouthwatering prospect for any driver, even one who already has some pretty impressive cars in the garage (as most of those who can afford this car would have). For the record, the biggest markets are predicted to be the US and China, with Russia and the Middle East close behind.
Bentley’s aim was simple: to create a new level of SUV that would combine unparalleled luxury with sporting ability, off-road performance and everyday usability.
The question is: have they achieved it? Oh yes.
Like a rarefied creature, this beautiful car has the refinement and expert craftsmanship that we have come to expect from Bentley, married with a raw power that can take this vehicle from a standing start to 100kph in 4.1 seconds, making it as quick in a sprint as a Porsche Cayenne Turbo. Put your foot down, however, and the Brit will beat the German with a higher top speed.
Everything about the Bentayga (named after a peak in the Canary Islands to drive home its rugged capability) is exquisite, from the gorgeous, flowing lines of the body to an interior made with the finest leathers and woods that money can buy. You wouldn’t expect anything less of a Bentley of course.
It looks effortlessly elegant and timeless, and retains the trademark Bentley features such as the large matrix grille and B-shaped wing vents.
Make no mistake, this is very much a beast of a car, albeit a very well-mannered one, that delivers incredible strength from that huge 6.0-litre twin-turbo charged engine, pumping out 600 horsepower.
If I tell you that each Bentayga takes 130 hours to handcraft – that’s up to six times longer than it takes to build a more average automobile – then you’ll start to realise that this is an extraordinary car.
Step inside and it just keeps on getting better. The detailing in metal, wood and leather showcases exceptional skill and the sort of attention to detail that blows you away. Take, for instance, the leather interior. It’s been subjected to six months’ worth of “solar loading” (subjected to simulated extreme sun) to ensure it doesn’t fade in even the most extreme climates, which buyers in Oman and the Gulf region will be reassured to hear.
Around 15 pieces of hand-selected veneers are used around the interior, shaped by Bentley’s artisans from a choice of seven different woods. There are 17 different colours of body paint.
You get the drift. It’s a seriously amazing car.
It’s also bursting with innovative safety features such as Electronic Night Vision, which uses infrared technology to identify potential obstacles ahead and warn the driver (very handy for camels straying into the road).
It’s spacious, but doesn’t look as roomy in the back as the long wheelbase Range Rover, despite being the same length.
Now, you may well be thinking would you want to take such a stunning car off-road?
Bentley certainly maintains it’s an SUV built to tackle a wide variety of climates and terrains – part of the development programme saw it tried out on the sand dunes near Dubai – and it has the world’s first electric active roll control technology, which helps keep the vehicle stable.
But with a price tag starting from RO92,640 (converted from UK prices), you might be a little reluctant to take it dune bashing in Sharqiya Sands.