BENT­LEY BEN­TAYGA DIESEL

Bent­ley are the masters of op­u­lence. Now they’ve dropped com­pres­sion ig­ni­tion into Crewe’s first ever SUV. EGMONT SIP­PEL took the Ben­tayga Diesel for a drive and was blown away.

Driven - - CONTENTS -

Who says lux­ury and agri­cul­tural juice don’t mix?

Please al­low me to in­tro­duce my­self I’m a man of wealth and taste

In the mod­ern au­to­mo­tive world, diesel is that devil, right? Oil burn­ers are pub­lic en­emy num­ber one and the ar­gu­ment is sim­ple: through the pro­duc­tion of par­tic­u­late mat­ter and ni­tro­gen ox­ides diesel mills con­trib­ute to the pol­luted air linked to the deaths of about three mil­lion peo­ple per year, glob­ally.

On a so­cially ac­cept­able level, the last nail in the diesel cof­fin seemed to have been ham­mered home by the Volk­swa­gen emis­sions scan­dal of 2015. Clean diesel turned out to be a dirty lie; big govern­ment had to act. Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mex­ico City want diesel ve­hi­cles “to be re­moved” from their streets by 2025.

In the real world, though, peo­ple judge oil burn­ers by a whole dif­fer­ent met­ric.

If you’re not a man of wealth and taste, for in­stance, the fo­cus would be on the ad­van­tages of com­pres­sion ig­ni­tion: cheaper fuel bills, am­ple low-end torque, and bet­ter longevity.

If you are a man of wealth and taste, how­ever, the cons will over­whelm the pros: un­re­fined ig­ni­tion, heavy duty me­chan­i­cals, and nar­row power bands with low rev ceil­ings – and rich peo­ple aren’t into con­stric­tion. They hate be­ing caged.

What’s the point of hav­ing mil­lions, if not to be set free?

SMOOTH AND UT­TERLY SILENT

Bring on cars that can rev to the sky

and be­yond and, more im­por­tantly, do so ef­fort­lessly, which also im­plies smoothly. The fore­most req­ui­site for wheels serv­ing the rich is re­fined power, yes sir.

Does that mean the sounds of si­lence, as well?

Not nec­es­sar­ily. Peo­ple of wealth and taste court two kinds of ve­hi­cles: lux­ury, and sports.

The lat­ter is driven by the boss him­self and apart from stir­ring the soul in a way that even the Rolling Stones strug­gle to match, the mo­ment of ar­rival is also best served by a con­spic­u­ous an­nounce­ment from afar, via a sym­phony of sound.

Lux­ury, by con­trast, re­quires a sym­phony of si­lence. It paci­fies the senses, as si­lence equates, in many re­spects, to vast un­fath­omable spa­ces which, in turn, speak of time­less­ness.

That’s pre­cisely why char­i­ots of the rich are of­ten chauf­feured, to al­low the boss to waft away into the outer reaches of a self­pam­per­ing slum­ber.

And nope, a diesel mill ain’t gonna de­liver the req­ui­site sym­phony of si­lence.

Flash back then, for a mo­ment, to Richard Carter dur­ing din­ner at the world launch of Rolls-Royce’s Wraith, in Septem­ber 2013, in Vi­enna’s im­pe­ri­ous Palais Coburg. South African Carter is RR’s Di­rec­tor of Global Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Half­way into pro­ceed­ings he came up to me and said: “So where do we go from here, Eg­gie, as Rolls-Royce just don’t do sport cars, SUVs, diesels . . .”

SUVs? Not at the time; a shin­ing di­a­mond

called the Cul­li­nan was yet to be born.

Diesels? Well, no, never. They’re just too noisy, un­re­fined and clat­tery. Too trac­tor-like. Too un­charis­matic.

Think again. Bent­ley has just en­dowed its luxo-SUV with a triple-charged 4.0-litre V8 oil burner. Or that’s what the PR peo­ple on the re­cent lo­cal launch event told me prior to start-up - that the wheels I was about to roll on, was pro­pelled by diesel.

Prob­lem was, at that point, I couldn’t be sure whether the en­gine has re­sponded to the starter but­ton. Ev­ery­thing in­side the Ben­tayga re­mained as it was. No sound. No vi­bra­tion. No body shimmy on the sus­pen­sion as en­gine mounts were briefly torqued be­fore the big V8 lulled into an ut­terly un­de­tectable idle.

ON THE ROAD

OK. That’s an ex­ag­ger­a­tion. There was a far-off mur­mur, and a sooth­ing one at that, from some­where up north, as if from an­other world.

So, how about a clue from the rev counter? Yep, there it was, the red line, start­ing at 5,000 r/min. Ver­i­fi­ca­tion on the road? Well, am­ple torque, huge torque, mas­sive torque, moun­tain­ous torque; in fact, 900 Nm of it via all four wheels, at 1,000 r/ min and up­wards, in com­bi­na­tion with 320 kW . . . and still yield­ing fru­gal­ity to the tune of 8-litres/100 km.

All the pros then, of diesel, and none of the cons, in a 32-valve V8 with a power band as wide as the Grand Canyon.

Crewe’s first SUV, a 2.4-tonne monster, fur­ther­more rides on air sus­pen­sion that frankly, makes a mock­ery of road im­per­fec­tions; noth­ing else of this height, weight and gut clear­ance, with a top speed of 270 km/h and a zero to 100 km/h sprint in less than five sec­onds, can ride the magic car­pet like a Ben­tayga.

It helps, of course, that the eight-speed ZF auto box is smooth as silk and that the rest is pure clas­sic Bent­ley, all real wood and sump­tu­ous leather in a cabin as lav­ish as Istanbul’s Dolmabahçe palace; the Old Turks just do it bet­ter.

LAST WORD

Yet, a Diesel Palace was to be ex­pected: the op­u­lence, the com­fort, and the per­for­mance.

What came as a shock, al­beit a nice one, was the gi­ant leap in oil burn­ing re­fine­ment. In an­tic­i­pa­tion of Bosch’s im­mi­nent and de­ci­sive break­through in diesel tech­nol­ogy, with NOx emis­sions set to be cut by a fac­tor of 10, a rev­o­lu­tion com­pa­ra­ble to the in­tro­duc­tion of com­mon rail in­jec­tion two decades ago is on the cards.

The demise of diesel has been ar­rested. Sym­pa­thy for the devil is no longer needed. The bo­gey has been re­moved.

It is ex­actly then in mat­ters of taste that the fi­nal ques­tion re­sides: Does the Ben­tayga’s un­com­fort­ably styled ex­te­rior match the ex­pec­ta­tions har­boured by men and women of wealth?

Prob­a­bly not, al­though you’d be hard pressed to tell, analysing sales fig­ures.

The Diesel will up the ante even fur­ther. It is, sim­ply put, an as­ton­ish­ing en­gi­neer­ing achieve­ment.

RANGE ROVER AU­TO­BI­OG­RA­pHY SDV8R2,844,889COM­pETI­TOR

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