2017 Bentley Bentayga Second Drive Review

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Back in the early days of civilization, human options for land transport included walking, running, riding an animal, or riding a wheeled thing pulled by an animal. Before long, the ancient 1-percenters dreamed up a more comfortable and ostentatious mode of transport—sit in a chair borne by two or more 99-percenters. Capable of transiting any terrain human legs can negotiate, the English called them sedan chairs, the ancient Romans lectica, the Vietnamse kiệu, the Chinese jiao, and—well, you get the idea. It was a global concept. The fanciest such litters were the papal sedia gestatoria, mobile thrones in use through John Paul I in 1978. Today’s traveler has plenty of options for getting from here to there over rough terrain at speeds far greater than those achieved by indentured human legs, but modern 1-percenters have tired of making do with tinseled up $200,490 LWB Range Rover Autobiographys that, let’s face it, are tough to distinguish from the plebian $85,945 ones. They long for design flourishes and icons that will instantly identify them as stinking filthy rich from across the freeway in the same way the gilding and ostrich-feather flabella embellished those portable papal thrones. Their wait is finally over with the arrival of this high-ground-clearance Continental/Spur shooting brake dubbed Bentayga. Its design incorporates Bentley’s full catalogue of design iconography: diamond-matrix grille flanked by four round lighting elements, prominent muscular haunches over the rear wheel openings, “Bs” forming the fender exhaust vents and taillight forms. Inside, the dash design features a double-wing look inspired by the winged-B badge, the instruments reside behind scratchproof mineral glass, the seats are diamond stitched, and you can choose between a 40/20/40 folding bench seat or a four-seat arrangement that pretty much duplicates the front thrones in back. (This $11,015 setup gets a fixed bulkhead with ski pass-through, so it won’t accommodate that 60-inch TV.) You can even order a special Breitling clock with a mechanically wound Tourbillion movement, a diamond-studded light or dark mother-of-pearl face, and a rose or white gold case for a sum roughly matching the Bentayga’s $229,100 base price. Ha! Rover doesn’t even offer $50,000 worth of options on its Autobiography. (Order your clock now, though, as the little old man who assembles them can only swing four per year.) Lest you fret that the Bentayga is all tinsel and gilding on an Audi Q7, please rest assured that every body panel is unique and made of aluminum. Its exclusive 600-hp, 664-lb-ft W-12 engine is brand new (see sidebar), and its chassis incorporates a novel new active anti-roll bar system that is the quickest reacting, most impressive such system I’ve sampled. The nitty-gritty of how it works is covered in the sidebar here, but what it does for the Bentayga out on the road is nullify one’s perception of the difference in ground clearance between the Bentayga and a Continental GT in terms of dynamic handling. You read that right. On the pristinely paved, undulating, and winding byways snaking through the rocky hills above Málaga, Spain, this 5,400-pound brute felt virtually indistinguishable from a Continental GT W12 from a dynamic standpoint. When pushing hard, the air suspension hunkers down to the low end of its 9.8 inches of height adjustment, and those roll-bar motors do their gol-dangdest to keep the body perfectly parallel with the road surface, preventing the head toss one gets when hooning some high-clearance power-utes. The giant 285/45R21 Pirelli Scorpion Verde all-season tires on our tester hung on for what felt like at least the low 0.90s on my bio-lateral-g meter. Summer tires are offered, as are 20- and 22-inch fitments if you’re heading for the Nürburgring (where more than 400 hot development laps were run). Speaking of the ’Ring, if you go there, dial up the Sport drive dynamics mode to get frenetic engine revving and crispy suspension feel. Otherwise leave the four-position dial in Bentley mode for optimal ride/handling dynamics. (Comfort is a bit squishier, and Custom is just for control freaks.) The 15.7-inch front/15.0-inch rear steel brakes provided smooth, strong, fade-free whoa the whole way down out of the hills at the kinds of speeds one might expect with mobs of pitchfork-wielding commoners in pursuit, driving Grand Cherokee SRTs. Plutocrats pondering pursuits like the one above should note that Bentley estimates a 4.0-second 0-60 sprint. In their catalogue that’s second only to the Conti GT3-R. With a weight-to-power ratio of 9.0 pounds per hp, the ute carries more weight-per-horse than its W-12 Continental and Flying Spur brethren, and the eight-speed automatic drivetrain ratios are all identical. This suggests that the new engine’s taller and fatter torque plateau—664 lb-ft from 1,350-4,500 rpm versus a best of 607 from 2,000-5,000 rpm in the Conti GT Speed—is responsible for the added hustle. For the record, our test results typically undercut Bentley estimates, and the quickest supercharged V-8 Rover we’ve tested (unencumbered by LWB Autobiography tchotchkes) needed 4.4 seconds. If you need to catch a Bentayga in an SUV, better grab a BMW X5 or X6 M. Top speed is 187 mph, and the cruise control will hold 125 mph. Another observation: The auto-start/stop and cylinder deactivation features are among the least noticeable in the biz. How’s it do off-road? It probably won’t get you far enough into the wilderness to escape determined Land Rover and Jeep pursuers, but with the wheel articulation afforded by those active anti-roll bars, plus 9.6 inches of max ground clearance and the ability to wade through 19.7-inch-deep water, this truck will go farther than its owners ever would of their own accord. The All Terrain Specification package (standard on W-12, optional on later V-8 models) includes one of those dial-a-predicament gizmos that tailors the system for snow/grass, dirt/gravel, mud/trail, or sand. There are also cameras to show you what you’re about to squash in any direction. Of course, what you really want to do off-pavement is utilize the Mulliner lifestyle accessories, from the three-piece picnic hamper set (champagne chiller with crystal flutes, Linley crockery and cutlery, and dry goods) to the “event seat”—a diamond-quilted slide-out bench for luxury tailgating—to the rifle lockers, hunting-dog cages, and more. Most of the gripes I was able to muster sound like plebian whining: Why must we pay an extra $7,870 for a package with active cruise control, lane keeping assist, a head-up display, and night vision? Why doesn’t that lane keeping assist system work as well as a Honda’s? Why, with 17 standard paint colors, do all the cool colors cost between $5,715 and $12,530? We 99-percenters react poorly to option prices. The extras on our 16 test cars added between $39,105 and $82,460. If that shocks you, you probably just don’t get the whole sedan chair thing. If it doesn’t, trust us—this thing is better underneath than it probably needed to be. 2017 Bentley Bentayga BASE PRICE $229,100 VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 4- or 5-pass, 4-door SUV ENGINE 6.0L/600-hp/664-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 48-valve W-12 TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic CURB WEIGHT 5,400 lb (mfr) WHEELBASE 117.9 in LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 202.4 x 78.7 x 68.6 in 0-60 MPH 4.0 sec (mfr est) EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON  Not yet rated ON SALE IN U.S. May, 2016 Technical Highlights Drive Dynamics Control—Bentley’s 48-volt electric active anti-roll bar system is the world’s first. Similar systems from BMW and others typically use hydraulic pressure to impart a twisting forces to the bars, but hydraulics react too slowly to achieve Bentley’s goal of essentially zero body roll even when negotiating a slalom course. Its solution, developed with Schaeffler, employs an electric motor driving a planetary gearbox on the front and rear anti-roll bars. To meet the high instantaneous power these motors demand without running ultra-high-current orange cables like those on an EV, the system operates at 48 volts. These bursts of power are supplied by a single large capacitor that is continuously being topped up by the 12-volt alternator via a DC-DC voltage converter. The system, which adds about 35 pounds, will be standard on W-12 models and available as a standalone option or bundled with the All-Terrain Specification on the forthcoming V-8. Twin-Scroll, Twin-Turbo, Twin-Injected W-12—Many specs appear to carry over, but this engine is completely new, and improved structural optimization has allowed it to shed 66 pounds for a total of 560 pounds fully dressed. Two distinct fuel systems provide port injection at 87 psi and direct injection at 2,900 psi in order to optimize power and torque delivery while minimizing particulate emissions. New twin-scroll turbochargers are welded directly to the exhaust manifolds, the individual scrolls fed by the front and rear sets of three cylinders on each bank. The turbos also incorporate speed sensors so the engine controller can monitor them, optimizing performance and efficiency. Full cylinder deactivation of one bank includes valvetrain shutoff to allow the engine to run as a VR6 under light-load conditions. This along with auto-start/stop (which can shut off the engine while still coasting to a stop) and a “sailing” function that disconnects the torque converter, allowing the engine to idle when coasting, all combine to give the new engine a 10.4 percent improvement in efficiency relative to its predecessor. Three separate water pumps and cooling systems manage the temperature of the cylinder heads, block, and turbochargers independently. Bentayga by the Numbers Billions—The number of possible combinations of 17 standard and 90 “extended” exterior paint colors, 15 hide colors with three different two-tone designs, multiple contrast stitching options, and seven veneer choices. 100 million—Lines of code programmed into the 90-plus ECUs that run its various systems 42,000—Parameters the engine controller is programmed to follow (including 33,000 fixed values, 5,100 matrices, 1,800 curves, and 1,400 maps) 8,500—Components that get assembled during the 130 hours it takes to build a typical Bentayga with 58 people crafting the 15 pieces of wood veneer in a typical vehicle. 1,800—Watts of power on the $4,600 Naim for Bentley 18-speaker, 18-channel sound system. (There’s also a 700-watt, 12-speaker, 12-channel setup and one with 154 watts, 10 speakers and six channels.) Read the 2017 Bentley Bentayga First Drive Review HERE.