TEST DRIVE: BENT­LEY BENTAYGA 158

Bent­ley’s bold claims about setting a new bench­mark for lux­ury SUVs with the Bentayga are met, and per­haps even ex­ceeded

Revolution (Hong Kong) - - CONTENTS - TEXT BY SEAN LI

Many of the ma­chines that we use in our daily lives tend to get sleeker as they evolve over the years. Take cel­lu­lar tele­phones, for ex­am­ple; you would be hard pressed to carry the very first ones in a bag, let alone a pocket. Tele­vi­sions, although larger in di­am­e­ter, are con­sid­er­ably less vo­lu­mi­nous to­day than in the era of the cath­ode ray tube (some of you may even won­der what I’m re­fer­ring to). Along with this, there seems to be an in­verse cor­re­la­tion with their in­her­ent power; to­day’s lap­top com­put­ers can per­form much more com­plex op­er­a­tions, and store a mas­sive amount of data, com­pared to a decade ago. I still oc­ca­sion­ally come across com­puter mem­ory cards in my draw­ers that hold – wait for it – a whole 32 megabytes. To­day, I have sin­gle im­ages that wouldn’t fit on those cards.

How­ever, there is a par­tic­u­lar type of ma­chine that doesn’t have this in­verse cor­re­la­tion; while they have un­de­ni­ably got­ten more pow­er­ful and en­ergy ef­fi­cient, they have also grown con­sid­er­ably in size. I am, of course, re­fer­ring to cars. Ev­ery gen­er­a­tional it­er­a­tion of a car model seems to get a lit­tle bit wider, longer, more vo­lu­mi­nous. I ac­knowl­edge that much of this is due to mod­ern safety reg­u­la­tions, which have made cars con­sid­er­ably less of a dan­ger, not only to their oc­cu­pants, but to other cars and to pedes­tri­ans as well. Roads aren’t get­ting any wider though; there is a legacy road net­work around the world that sim­ply can’t get torn up and re­placed. Any­one who’s new to park­ing a car in a Hong Kong garage will im­me­di­ately won­der whether the ar­chi­tects sim­ply got their mea­sure­ments wrong – ei­ther that, or they never thought that we just might need to open the doors to get out of the car.

The ul­ti­mate ex­pres­sion of this au­to­mo­tive en­gorge­ment is the sports util­ity ve­hi­cle, com­monly known as the SUV. Orig­i­nally, it’s the util­i­tar­ian as­pect that was the dom­i­nat­ing fac­tor, with mil­i­tary jeeps and off-road ve­hi­cles be­ing taken out of their nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, namely, off the paved roads that we gen­er­ally use, and into ur­ban ar­eas. Whether there was a gen­uine need to this mul­tipur­pose abil­ity was less de­bat­able then than it is to­day. Driv­ers of SUVs ei­ther had a gen­uine use for them, or re­ally wanted to stand out from the crowd.

Fast for­ward to to­day, and it seems that SUVs are now avail­able from just about ev­ery sin­gle car man­u­fac­turer. All of them, from the ex­otic sportscar builders, to the fam­ily sa­loon mar­ques, and even the lux­ury chauf­feured car spe­cial­ists, have ei­ther al­ready built an SUV if not five, or have an­nounced that they will be build­ing one; the only hold­out seems to be Fer­rari, although you have to won­der how long they can re­main so when even Lam­borgh­ini fi­nally un­leashes their Urus SUV later this year. Un­til then, I had the op­por­tu­nity to take the wheel of an­other long-awaited SUV, the Bent­ley Bentayga.

Bent­ley’s lux­ury sa­loons have al­ways been known for com­bin­ing high lev­els of per­for­mance with nu­mer­ous crea­ture com­forts. The mar­que has a sig­nif­i­cant rac­ing her­itage to back it up as well; you may be sur­prised to know that Bent­ley is fifth on the list of Le Mans win­ning con­struc­tors, with six wins un­der its belt, the most re­cent com­ing in 2003. To­day, Bent­ley con­tin­ues to par­tic­i­pate in many GT se­ries around the world com­pet­ing in more than 90 races last year.

Turn­ing to the Bentayga, it was first in­tro­duced, as is to­day’s norm, as a con­cept car named EXP 9 F at the Geneva Mo­tor Show in 2012. It must be said that the pub­lic re­cep­tion was luke­warm, in large part be­cause to the car’s ex­te­rior de­sign, which

high, 2.22 me­ters wide if you in­clude the mir­rors. These dimensions are, in fact, very sim­i­lar to the Fly­ing Spur, save for the height. Sur­pris­ingly, the curb weights are also quite close be­tween the two cars, with the Bentayga hav­ing a slight ad­van­tage; the Fly­ing Spur tips the scales at 2,475 kilo­grams, while the Bentayga weighs in at 2,440 kilo­grams. The gross weight, which in­cludes the typ­i­cal load that each car would carry, tells a dif­fer­ent story; 2,972 kilo­grams for the Fly­ing Spur, 3,250 kilo­grams for the Bentayga. Pow­er­ing all this weight is a 6.0-liter W12 twin tur­bocharged en­gine, de­vel­op­ing 600bhp at 5,250rpm, and 900Nm of torque at 1,250rpm, go­ing to a full-time four­wheel drive trans­mis­sion with an 8-speed au­to­matic gear­box. didn’t gain much of a fol­low­ing. Bent­ley’s de­sign­ers went back to the draw­ing board, and in 2015, fol­low­ing a num­ber of teasers, the Bentayga was for­mally un­veiled. There is no deny­ing the aes­thetic lin­eage, par­tic­u­larly on the front end, with the ex­ist­ing lineup of the Mul­sanne, Fly­ing Spur, and Con­ti­nen­tal. It’s more re­fined than the EXP 9 F con­cept, if I can use that word with an SUV, although the looks are still, shall we say, an ac­quired taste. It must be said though that other car com­pa­nies re­ceived sim­i­lar re­ac­tions when they un­veiled their first SUVs, and it takes time for the pub­lic to get ac­cus­tomed to that vis­ual evo­lu­tion.

There’s also no get­ting around that, even by to­day’s stan­dards, the Bentayga is a rather large car. It has an im­pos­ing pres­ence on the road, be­ing 5.14 me­ters long, 1.74 me­ters

Bent­ley claims that this pow­ers the Bentayga to 100km/h from a stand­still in just 4.1 sec­onds, on to a top speed of 301km/h. these fig­ures would be im­pres­sive enough for any sports car, but for a three-ton sUV, it’s al­most hard to imag­ine. how­ever, af­ter tak­ing the wheel and find­ing a lit­tle bit of clear road, i got a chance to give the ac­cel­er­a­tor a slightly harder push, which made the Bentayga surge to­wards the hori­zon in a way that you sim­ply don’t ex­pect from a car that size. the throt­tle re­sponse is as close as i’ve ex­pe­ri­enced from a tur­bocharged car to a nor­mally as­pi­rated one in a long while, and it feels as though all that torque is in­stantly avail­able at any speed.

You might think though that it’s a one-trick pony, and that if you start to throw some corners at the Bentayga, that all that mass and height will start to have an ef­fect. here, Bent­ley’s Dy­namic Ride comes into play, as it ac­tively works elec­tri­cally to counter any lat­eral forces. as i learn to trust the sys­tem, the Bentayga starts to ex­hibit a be­hav­ior that’s closer to an over­grown hot hatch than a lux­u­ri­ous sUV, con­tra­dict­ing what you may have ex­pected when sur­rounded by the lux­u­ri­ous leather seats and wood ve­neers. You can choose dif­fer­ent driv­ing pro­files as well, us­ing a ro­tary switch, from com­fort, sport, cus­tom, and “Bent­ley,” which

is claimed to be the “just right” setting for a bal­anced ride. in truth, i didn’t per­ceive a lot of dif­fer­ence be­tween the var­i­ous modes on city roads. Per­haps you would be more at­tuned to these set­tings if you were to drive the Bentayga for an ex­tended pe­riod of time. the ro­tary switch also has four ad­di­tional set­tings for off-road trips, through for­est, snow, sand, or gravel, which i’d be keen to ex­plore if i get a chance on to drive the Bentayga in more ex­otic lo­ca­tions.

the Bent­ley Bentayga is cer­tainly a tech­ni­cal achieve­ment. i have no doubt that any ini­tial test drive will be an eye-opener, for you sim­ply don’t ex­pect that a car of that size or profile would han­dle and ac­cel­er­ate as well as it does. While it won’t chal­lenge a pur­pose-built, low slung sports car on a track, it won’t be left that far be­hind, not to men­tion its ver­sa­til­ity when tack­ling less than op­ti­mal roads or off-road con­di­tions. i’m still not en­tirely con­vinced by its ex­te­rior de­sign, but af­ter spend­ing some time be­hind the wheel, i’m al­most ready to over­look that as­pect, and i would cer­tainly be keen to see how the Bentayga evolves in the next few years.

An im­pos­ing pres­ence on the road, the Bentayga’s lin­eage is im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent

The Bentayga boasts a 0 to 100km/h time of 4.1 sec­onds, enough to ri­val any sports car

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