This new SUV is every bit a Bentley, finds Charlie Flindt, who overcomes the “What’s it for?” conundrum and silly name to discover it can be put to some surprising uses
Once you look beyond the silly name the Bentley Bentayga has some surprising uses, as Charlie Flindt discovers.
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The thing about the Bentley Bentayga is this: it’s not so much a car as an exercise in automotive philosophy. I discussed it during shoot lunches with fellow muddy-booters and the over-riding sentiment was: “What’s it for?” Even a gathering of family yoof – two of them philosophy undergraduates – produced no real answer but did decide that the name “Bentayga” is very silly.
But when two-plus tons of dark-blue metal throbbed its way into the farmyard, it all became a little clearer. You just have to accept that Bentley has decided that an SUV should feature in its portfolio and there it is and that’s all about it, as my father used to say to end an argument.
Being a Bentley, it was never going to be a shrinking violet. It needed to have the whopping great W12 engine and it just has to be the size of a bus. Anything but the price tag of a small house would be considered an insult by the many thousands who have already placed their order. It seems odd that, after all that, the styling is at once unorthodox and relatively restrained.
Enough philosophy; what about the driving? Once again, however, it gets you pondering. It’s fabulously quick, with enough horsepower to handle that incredible bulk with ease, and it’s full of gadgets and gizmos to keep you on the straight and narrow. But you’re somehow kept at arm’s length from the driving experience, thanks to the soundproofing and double-glazed windows.
Wafting is the Bentayga speciality. You gobble up the miles almost indecently. The ride is so smooth, the noise so muted, the damn thing so fast that you are at legal limits in the blink of an eye.
The interior raises more questions. Why does all the diagonal stitching on the leather remind me of Husky coats worn by senior country ladies (HM The Queen, for example)? Why are the buttons that control so many of the functions so small that they can only be read by young people? I know you’re supposed to go into palpitations about the leatherwork crafted by Amazonian virgins by the light of the Snow Moon in a Leap Year, but I tend of think of a seat as something you put your bottom on.
Curiously, the Bentayga shone the most not while doing 175 down the Mulsanne Straight, or engaging multiple off-road settings before attempting the Redington Pass, but when it was called upon to get me and my piano to a local gig. The curious, retro-styled hatchback revealed a vast boot and in went huge organ, stool, stand, seat and Roland amp. Off we went in another late-winter storm, revelling in the Bentayga’s surefootedness, mentally running through the opening Hammond chords to Bohemian Like You. Not sure it’s a trip that you’ll find on the Bentley website, but there we go.
Finally, it all made sense. A two-ton philosophical puzzle had been successfully addressed. All was well, until news of Bentley’s new “Momentum” thudded into my inbox: it’s a perfume. I had to go and lie down for a bit.
♦ Engine: 5,950cc W12 petrol
♦ Power: 600bhp
♦ Max speed: 187mph
♦ Performance, 0 to 60: 4 seconds
♦ Combined fuel economy: 21.6mpg
♦ Insurance group: 50
♦ Price: £160,200