Bentley Bentayga: On-Road Elegance, Off-Road Warrior

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Bentley may be a little late to the high-end SUV party, a soiree that Range Rover has attended for years and has been joined more recently by Porsche and, to some extent, Jaguar, Maserati, BMW, Mercedes and Lexus, with interesting competitors on the horizon from Alfa Romeo, Lamborghini and then Rolls-Royce.

So how do you make a grand entrance when the festivities are well underway and the party is chock-full of luminaries? Arrive dressed to impress, with a look that says “Bentley” at first glance and with a capability list a mile long—a 600 HP SUV with a torque-monster 664 pounds of twist pumped out by a W-12 twin-turbo motor, which will move what is perhaps the world’s fastest grocery-getter from 0 to 60 in four seconds on its way to a top speed just shy of 190 mph. How quick is that? I bought milk and two dozen eggs and was back home before I left.

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The Bentayga is gorgeous, but it’s not just another pretty face. Every performance and luxury box is ticked:

Big family? Options provide seating for four, five even seven people.

Off-roader? It can handle lateral and lon- gitudinal angles of up to 35 degrees. Most impressive, the anti-roll bars are loaded and unloaded using 48-watt electric mo- tors that can adjust in about half a second to lighten a wheel that’s in a rut or straight- en the body and make it lean, like a motor- cycle, into a turn.

Trailer or boat? It can pull over 7,700 pounds.

Wheel bling: Available wheels come in 20-, 21-, and even 22-inch styles. Dubs for your B-car!

Luxury: Quilted seats, high-luster veneers and a Breitling clock. There’s even an event seat, a padded leather item that folds out, so one doesn’t have to sit on the bumper (and you know how you hate having to do that!).

Tunes: “Mine” had a Naim sound system ($4,690, please) that was terrific. As a con- noisseur of loud music (reminds me of my Haight-Ashbury days, no doubt), I found that during a 30-minute drive at the upper- decibel range, I actually lost weight.

So what’s it like to drive? I’d say it’s a good combination of practical vehicle (with plenty of legroom and headroom, and terrific visibility) and the Millennium Falcon, with the ability to hit warp speeds so quickly and effortlessly it defies logic. In an SUV weighing just short of three tons, you now can blow the doors off most any boulevard challenger (and then tow it home after you’ve gathered up the pink slip). And with what seems like an excellent candidate for the world’s largest sunroof competition, there’s a Domeliner feel for all passengers to experience, which stretches well over half- way back on the roof.

Being an L.A. guy, my foray into off-roading in the Bentayga probably was similar to what most Southlanders will experience—a couple of potholes here, a few “calming humps” in residential neighborhoods there, and an occasional parking spot just off the pavement. So I can’t provide much insight into the desert-stormer chops of this vehicle, but much has been written about how amazingly capable it can be, in sand, mud, loose dirt, and gravel (not to mention snow and ice), with crazy inclines that present no challenge whatsoever.

Some have questioned Bentley’s need to provide such terrific off-road abilities for a vehicle that will likely never need it, but that’s just how Bentley rolls— provide more than the driver could ever utilize and maybe, just maybe, perhaps someday it will come in handy. It’s absolutely the perfect transportational choice if you have to cross the moors and slog through the bogs on your way to that black-tie event at Dromoland Castle.

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Driving the Bentayga is to experience that rare combination of elegance and power. Of course it feels substantial because it most certainly is. But with the seamless power of a double-turbo 12-cylinder engine, the torque gives one the feeling that this vehicle can handle anything you throw at it and barely break a sweat.

And here’s the word of the day for the Bentayga: effortless—elegance and speed with- out having to work at it, with the driver and passengers nicely ensconced in sumptuous woods and leathers, with a power plant more capable than anyone likely ever will need, with a sound system to rival a modern concert hall, and a ride that is deceptively supple yet firm. Bentley knew that with its SUV coming in at a base price a bit under $230,000, one adds a bit of this and a touch of that, and we’re approach- ing 300 large. For that price, its new baby has to be good…and it sure is.

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