by Frank A. Aukofer

Wealthy people have plentiful options for relaxation: five-star hotels and spas, yacht cruises, pricey entertainment and fine-wine dining. Some also choose the 2018 Bentley Bentayga crossover SUV, among the most easy-going vehicles on the planet.

In the current pattern of the runaway popularity of these tall tailgate-equipped conveyances, the Bentayga represents the pinnacle of luxury and power, although its onetime garage-mate, Rolls-Royce, is ready with its new Cullinan and other manufacturers will follow. Among them: Ferrari, Aston Martin and Lamborghini.

Duo_Tone_002When it was introduced as a 2016 model, the Bentayga was touted by its maker as the fastest SUV available anywhere, with a zero-to-60 mph acceleration time of four seconds and a top speed of 187 mph.

All that continues with the 2018 version, which is powered by a 600-hp W12 engine that delivers 664 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels.  A W12 has four banks of three cylinders each – in contrast to a V12, which has two banks of six cylinders.

Not that any of its customers cares, but the Bentayga avoids a gas guzzler tax in the U.S. Its EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption works out to 12/19/15 mpg on premium fuel. Deactivation of six cylinders when cruising economizes somewhat.

Though Bentley once was allied with Rolls-Royce, both companies are now owned by German manufacturers. Bentley is part of the Volkswagen conglomerate, which also includes Audi and Lamborghini. Bavaria’s BMW owns Rolls-Royce and Mini.

Verdant_Bentayga_004The Bentayga’s body is built at a Volkswagen plant in Germany and  shipped to the sprawling Bentley works in Crewe, England, where it is assembled to customers’ tastes with old-world hand craftsmanship. Many Bentayga models are custom-built — or bespoke in United Kingdom-talk.

With a base price of $231,825 and a tested price of $258,910, the  Bentayga W12 obviously is not an everyman’s vehicle. But it is part of the growing public infatuation with crossover SUVs. For example, in 2017 Bentley sold 1,152 Bentayga crossovers in the United States, just 101 fewer than the combined sales of all the other Bentley vehicles — Mulsanne, Flying Spur and Continental.

To augment the lineup, the company has added a lower-priced Bentayga for 2019. Powered by a 4.0-liter V8 engine with 456 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque, it comes with a base price of $197,725. Both the V8 and the V12 engines were developed by Volkswagen, with the Bentayga the first to get the W12.

Sequin_Blue_017It’s hard not to feel a rush the first time you enter the Bentayga environment. Like other Bentley models, the surroundings ooze high quality materials and bespoke craftsmanship. You sit on the finest leather upholstery available, with front seats that have built-in selectable massage choices. Rear seat passengers have burr walnut-veneered fold-down picnic tables. Expert hand-stitching stands out everywhere you look.

The only slightly jarring note in the interior is the sun shield for the panoramic sunroof. Hewing to a current fad among luxury vehicles, it is made of a perforated, cheesecloth-like material that admits too much sunlight. Sun shields should be opaque, although it’s certain Bentley would substitute one at a customer’s request.

Another minor drawback is a smallish cargo area behind the second-row seat. Space is compromised by an inflatable temporary spare tire beneath the cargo floor.

Bentley Bentayga named SUV of the Year by Robb Report UK 07Though you have 600 hp murmuring under the hood, it almost seems superfluous. You’re not likely to floor the go pedal at stoplights to reach triple-digit speeds in seconds. No, the Bentayga’s forte is relaxed cruising in utter silence. Even tire-slap sounds on rough roads barely make it through to the passengers.

The competence continues for off-roading, suggested by the Bentayga name, which is a combination of Bentley and the Taiga, the world’s largest land community of compatible plants and animals that stretches through 10 countries in the northern hemisphere.

Bentley Bentayga-3There are eight driver-selectable settings of driving modes on and off the road, including a system that fine-tunes the front and rear anti-roll bars. Others adjust the engine, transmission and steering. For on-road handling, the all-wheel drive is biased toward the rear. Off-road? Who would bash a Bentayga through the backwoods?

Of course, the Bentayga comes with all modern safety and convenience equipment, active and passive. The tested Bentayga also had $27,085 worth of options that included Bentley-wing escutcheon puddle lamps that illuminate the pavement under all four doors at night.

Duo_Tone_006Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Bentley Bentayga W12 four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 6.0-liter W12, twin turbochargers; 600 hp, 664 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 10 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 109/17 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,380 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 12/19/15 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $231,825.
  • Price as tested: $258,910.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Bentley Bentayga

Photos (c) Bentley