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.