Mo­tor­ing Alan Judd

ALAN JUDD

The Oldie - - CONTENTS -

A PRICE­LESS RIDE

When spray­ing oth­ers with good ad­vice, we com­pla­cently preach that – on the whole, all things con­sid­ered, taken in the round etc, etc – you get what you pay for. Yet in our own lives, we strive to get more than we pay for and are made wretched to think we might have got less. I was mus­ing thus, cruis­ing along the seafront last week in Bent­ley’s Ben­tayga, its big, much-praised and sought-af­ter SUV.

Prices for this two-and-a-half tonnes of lux­ury start at £138,000 but most cost a good deal more when ex­tras are spec­i­fied. Com­pare this with a range­top­ping Range Rover start­ing at £80,035, an Audi Q7 at £51,425 or a Porsche Cayenne at £55,965 and you soon find your­self wan­der­ing into value-for-money ter­ri­tory. Can it be worth the ex­tra? The short an­swer is no. All those cheap­ies – not to men­tion other big SUVS such as Volvo’s XC90 (in which it claims no one has ever been killed), VW’S Touareg, Jaguar’s F-pace, BMW’S X5 and the Mercedes GLS – will do all that the Ben­tayga does in great com­fort and prob­a­bly as re­li­ably. They’ll also be cheaper to own and run. Ad­mit­tedly, the Ben­tayga is said to have out­per­formed the Range Rover and the Q7 in an off-road test, but few own­ers are go­ing to chuck their new ba­bies around in quar­ries. Nice to know you could, though.

So much for the short an­swer. The longer an­swer is: you’re ask­ing the wrong ques­tion. Years ago, Bent­ley’s mar­ket re­search told it that the aver­age Bent­ley buyer owned seven cars. He – they were usu­ally he – al­ready had the com­pe­ti­tion. He might have to choose be­tween a Bent­ley and an­other yacht but mostly it wasn’t an ei­ther/or de­ci­sion; it was sim­ply a ques­tion as to whether the Bent­ley ap­pealed.

Viewed from that per­spec­tive, it’s easy to see why the Ben­tayga is such a suc­cess story for the com­pany and why it sold the first two years of pro­duc­tion from the draw­ing board. It is so su­perbly and dis­creetly com­fort­able that it’s easy to for­get you’re driv­ing. En­gine choice is be­tween the 6.0 litre W12 petrol and a 4.0 litre diesel V8. I had the lat­ter, which is al­most sound­less and con­fig­ured to pro­duce the tra­di­tional Bent­ley tidal wave of torque up to 168mph. It can also re­turn about 37mpg. The A, B and C pil­lars are all fairly wide and the rear view isn’t the best for re­vers­ing, though the cam­era helps. Load­ing the boot is made easy by the lack of boot lip and, un­like with many mod­ern cars, you do get a spare. Tyres cost up­wards of £500 a cor­ner.

Hav­ing thought I wouldn’t, I par­tic­u­larly liked the head-up dis­play; not just be­cause I could pre­tend I was a fighter pilot. Doubt­less all man­ner of data can be re­flected in front of you but I chose only speed of travel and the speed limit for the sec­tion of road I was on. It was un­in­tru­sive, undis­tract­ing and help­ful, the fig­ures ap­pear­ing as if slightly out­side the lower right-hand cor­ner of the wind­screen. Un­canny but ef­fec­tive, it made for a re­lax­ing drive in a car in which it is easy to dou­ble the speed limit with­out notic­ing. Brakes, gear­box, air con­di­tion­ing, sound sys­tem, dial-up sus­pen­sion, four-wheel drive and ter­rain re­sponse all func­tioned seam­lessly.

Would I buy one if cost and val­ue­for-money were ir­rel­e­vant? Of course – why not? Not be­cause it’s a Bent­ley and be­cause it will go off-road – I have a De­fender and a trac­tor for that – but for the sheer plea­sure of driv­ing it. Be­fore amass­ing the cash, though, it’s nec­es­sary to ac­quire at least six other cars to go with it.

For the haves and have-yachts: Bent­ley's Ben­tayga

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