Laud ship

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - First Drive - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR

MEET the world’s fastest and most ex­pen­sive SUV, the Bent­ley Ben­tayga.

Af­ter teas­ing over­seas test drives, the first ex­am­ple has fi­nally ar­rived on Aus­tralian roads.

Fewer than 50 will be de­liv­ered lo­cally by the end of this year, and the queue al­ready stretches into early 2017 — de­spite the eye-wa­ter­ing price, which is the equiv­a­lent of two Range Rovers, and then some.

At nearly half a mil­lion dol­lars ($494,009 as tested), the Bent­ley shows there are still no bounds — fi­nan­cial or tech­no­log­i­cal — to the world’s love af­fair with SUVs.

With a top speed of 301km/h, it would out­pace most Porsches. With a 0 to 100km/h sprint time of just over 4.0 sec­onds, it would see off most Fer­raris.

Bring­ing the world of SUVs to a new level, the Ben­tayga shares un­der­pin­nings with Audi’s new Q7 and its en­gine is de­rived from that used in Volk­swa­gen’s re­cently dis­con­tin­ued Phaeton flag­ship limou­sine.

The in­gre­di­ents are then wrapped in a Bent­ley de­sign pack­age, which is an ac­quired taste. I’m yet to ac­quire it.

Why on earth does the au­to­mo­tive world need such a ma­chine? That wasn’t the only ques­tion we pon­dered.

It also has the du­bi­ous hon­our of hav­ing the world’s most ex­pen­sive car ac­ces­sory.

A Bre­itling clock in the dash­board is al­most $300,000 — on top of the half-mill price tag. There is al­ready a dig­i­tal clock in the in­stru­ment dis­play.

Bent­ley claims Bre­itling can build only four of these par­tic­u­lar in-car clocks each year, and two are al­ready sold. None are on Aus­tralia-bound cars, ap­par­ently.

Other ac­ces­sories: a $55,000 pic­nic ham­per, a $10,000 leather-lined child seat and $6500 for a dog cage in the back.

Radar cruise con­trol is part of a $15,465 “tour­ing” pack while floor mats are $972.

Sen­sors that en­able you to open the tail­gate when your hands are full — with a deft swing of your foot un­der the bumper — are a $1702 op­tion on the Bent­ley, even though they are stan­dard on a $40,000 Ford Kuga.

A cig­a­rette lighter is $1151. The price of lux­ury.

But the Ben­tayga has an en­gine like no other SUV on the planet: a twin-turbo 6.0-litre W12 (two V6s paired in the shape of a W).

Paired with an eight-speed auto trans­mis­sion and all­wheel-drive, it’s one of the key rea­sons Bent­ley has seem­ingly been able to defy physics and move 2.4 tonnes to great ve­loc­ity in a very short time.

We were cu­ri­ous to see how close we could get to the claimed 0-100kmh time of 4.1 sec­onds (equal fastest with the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S). We were stunned to clock 4.2 sec­onds with rel­a­tive ease af­ter a few at­tempts.

It was all the more sur­pris­ing be­cause — as hard as this may be to be­lieve — it does not feel par­tic­u­larly fast.

That’s be­cause the bru­tal urge of this en­gine is avail­able al­most in­stantly, and lay­ers of sound dead­en­ing make the ex­pe­ri­ence al­most hush quiet.

The senses aren’t star­tled by a rau­cous en­gine and ex­haust note but the body knows some­thing isn’t quite nor­mal — your neck mus­cles work over­time to keep your head from snap­ping back­wards from the sud­den ac­cel­er­a­tion.

The next sur­prise that de­fies the senses is the Ben­tayga’s abil­ity to cor­ner more nim­bly than physics ought to al­low.

Mas­sive 22-inch wheels wrapped in sticky Pirelli P-Zero tyres help work won­ders, as does the well sorted air sus­pen­sion.

To be frank, its cor­ner­ing LIKES DIS­LIKES abil­ity is a big­ger high­light than the en­gine out­puts. And that’s say­ing some­thing.

Down­sides? There is still a ques­tion mark about Eu­ro­pean re­li­a­bil­ity. Bent­ley is owned, af­ter all, by the gi­ant Volk­swa­gen Audi Group.

Our test car, a pre­pro­duc­tion model, had an er­ror warn­ing light for the sus­pen­sion al­though we were as­sured noth­ing was wrong and it drove well.

If it’s any con­so­la­tion, cus­tomers get free business class travel to their des­ti­na­tion if the car breaks down un­der war­ranty.

I had low ex­pec­ta­tions of the Ben­tayga but came away dumb­founded by its breadth of ca­pa­bil­ity — even if you won’t get far off the beaten track, given the spare is a space-saver.

For all its mer­its, how­ever, it is dif­fi­cult to jus­tify the cost. Epic car with an epic price. What a shame it’s wrapped in a bor­ing olden-days de­sign. If only it looked like a Range Rover.

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