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£161,375 when new

Car specifications

Budget
£161,375
Brake horsepower
600bhp
Fuel consumption
21.6mpg
0–62 mph
4.00s
CO2
296g/km
Max speed
187Mph

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A quick recap, please.

We’ve already driven Bentley’s new über-SUV (as in top-end, rather than designed for purveyors of private hire), but this is the first time we’ve managed to get one on UK roads, in a slightly less insane specification than the launch cars. Real UK roads and a slightly less ridiculous spec might reveal a little more.

Thus we’ve got hold of a dark blue example, on the slightly smaller 21-inch wheels and without the £110,000 Tourbillon timepiece stuffed into the dash like some kind of Fabergé investment timebomb. Cue clock investor confusion in 2035 when they find themselves buying a time-piece with a free Bentayga as a box.

It’s all relative, though. Even in a less ostentatious format, this is still an SUV with a basic price starting north of £160k, whose ‘usual’ options see it happily past 200, and with an engine that is an unapologetic 600bhp/664lb ft 6.0-litre twin turbo petrol W12. All of the hardware means that even if you go light on the carbon fibre Mulliner gilding and bespoke leather tanning, a Bentayga will still manage 62mph from rest in 4.0-seconds flat and happily gallop to 187mph.

No more variants on offer then?

For the moment, no. There is talk within the Bentley camp of a forth-coming V8 variant - as in the Continental GT - hybrid and even a diesel at some point in the furture, but for the moment, the W12 is where it’s at. This is a car based on a similar platform to the Audi Q7, don’t forget, so there are engine options aplenty - it’s just figuring out what the Bentley marque will stand.

What’s it like on a typical B-road?

Bluntly, better than expected. Remarkable, in fact. At getting on for two-and-a-half tonnes, the Bentayga really should be a bit of a messy landslide of woody marquetry and self-conscious bling, but it really isn’t. The electric anti-roll control, which runs at 48 volts for faster responses than the regular 12v passenger car applications, makes the Bentayga taut and interesting without losing any of the ride quality. You’ll only hear the barest of thumps from big expansion joints - like a cannon battle in the next county - and all but mineshaft potholes are seen but not heard. Couple that with an engine that’s possibly the quietest motor on sale this side of a Rolls Royce, and driving one feels like you’ve gone slightly deaf.

In fact, with the endless swell of torque on offer - there’s 664lb ft from 1,350rpm - and the eerie quiet, the Bentayga does a fairly good impression of electric power. Seriously, the W12 drivetrain ends up feeling very much like a Tesla Model S P90d. You can also catch the 8-speed ‘box out and create a small stall of indecisiveness if you’re on and off the throttle a lot though, even in Sport mode, but the fact that you can hustle this slab down a backroad is testament to the package. It doesn’t even feel that big. Which it undoubtedly is.

So how is it doing it?

Possibly witchcraft. But more likely those clever electronics. There are several road settings from the rotary switch in the centre console and a variety of suspiciously Land Rover Terrain Response-ish off-road menu choices, but you’ll probably end up using Sport and Comfort the most. Actually, you’ll end up using the compromise ‘B’ for ‘Bentley’ seeing as it’s the default, but really the car only needs slow and comfy or fast and anti-rolly.

The slightly smaller 21-inch wheels seem to help with everything, too: slightly less edgy ride, a tad quieter, slightly more communication about grip levels. And the Bentayga can do with some help with that: the anti-roll can disguise the general physicality of the car and make cornering at really very high speeds feel a bit… fake. You might not be completely aware of just how fast this thing is going. And because it’s quite easy to thread down both A and B-roads, that might be irresponsibly fast. Allegedly.

Whatever, the transition to the UK’s horrorshow of tarmac hasn’t changed our mind that this is a very complete and well sorted car, even if it is dealing with a hysterical amount of physics to deliver a driving experience that is endlessly impressive but essentially numb. You won’t be going for a drive in a Bentayga just for the hell of it. Unless it’s to go drag racing - the all-wheel drive 0-60 drag doesn’t seem to ever get boring, and it’s damnably repeatable. Plus, pulling out of slip roads actually becomes much safer, because you can match already-moving traffic speeds within about forty feet.

It’s also got plenty of tech - certainly the most of any Bentley product I’ve ever encountered - though it’s all pretty well hidden. Anti-collision, lane-keep, sort of semi-autonomous traffic radar cruise, night vision - all the stuff you may reasonably expect on an S-Class Mercedes. But this is a Bentley, so it’s not quite as obvious amongst the rather lovely wood and quilted leather. Seriously - from the inside it still feels and acts like a Bentley, just … more so. I’d possibly buy it just for the Naim stereo. Turn that right up and you better be ready.

This is also the first Bentley I’ve ever driven that wantonly advertises a very respectable 3,500kg towing capacity. Now someone pass me a trailer that can do 180+mph and I think there’s a record worth setting.

Does it look any less… er… ‘challenging’?

Well, as we’ve said in previous tests, you can make your own minds ups on this one. Personally, I’m not really a fan. As pretty much every-one has noticed, Bentayga is hugely colour sensitive. The Sapphire blue car we had looked a bit sombre, but the colour also make the chrome grilles and front end look a bit overwrought. The body-colour headlamp washer in the centre of the second, smaller light on the front also looks odd, and there’s one or too too many creases for comfort running down the side. The back is a bit humdrum and despite the wide, wide spadelike exhaust tips, you can plainly see the pair of small-er pipes attached to them when following. And despite the 21’s ability to help with dynamics, there’s no doubting that the Bentayga can take an awful lot of wheel before calling time - this is one of the few where 22s look just about right.

Verdict?

It’s a Bentley SUV. So it does exactly what you expect, and levers open a new niche for the brand. The tech is there, the dynamics are better than expected - especially on rubbish UK backroads - the feeling of poshness is spot on. It’s a really well-sorted vehicle. The only contentious bit for me is the styling, and maybe in China, Russia and North America, they have a different idea. But I can’t get past that front end…

What’s the thinking on TG.com?

Specs:

Price: £160,200 (without options)
Engine: 5950cc, W12 twin-turbo petrol
Power: 600bhp @ 5000-6000rpm; torque 664lb ft @ 1350-4500rpm
Efficiency: 21.6mpg (combined); CO2 296g/km
Performance: 0-62mph 4.0sec, top speed 187mph
Powertrain: 8-spd automatic, all-wheel drive
Kerb weight: 2,440kg

What do you think?

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