Test drive: Bentley Bentayga

By daryl, 12 June 2018
Bentley Bentayga

One of the biggest ironies of Kuala Lumpur’s metropolitan landscape is the impossibly narrow basement car parks of some of its tallest and glitziest skyscrapers. The subterranean parking facility of the Etiqa Twins along Jalan Pinang is among the capital’s more forgiving spaces, its walls still unscarred by its patrons, the guys from Bentley Kuala Lumpur included. But to say that we weren’t worried about desecrating the Brodgar paintjob of their RM1.9mil Bentayga while manoeuvring out of the car park would make us a bringer of fake news.

Unlike the British-spec Bentayga V8, this kitted-out local tester packs Crewe’s flagship six-litre, twin-turbo W12 – a 12-cylinder monster of an engine distantly related to Bugatti’s otherworldly W16 powerplant. It’s one of the reasons behind the steep asking price to one of the world’s fastest SUVs on sale today. Then again, you’d be hard pressed to find something with more than eight cylinders, two seats and 500bhp in a single spec sheet without flying past the RM2mil mark.

Bentley Bentayga

The Bentayga-favouring arithmetic took our minds off the fear of scuffing it over the last couple of ramps. And in no time, we were weaving around the city centre’s infamous traffic as we would in this writer’s 12-year-old Mazda, such is the ease of use from inside a cockpit lavished in Camel and Beluga hide. No humped or humpback-like mammals were actually sacrificed for the Bentley’s ostentatious and equally high-tech cabin. But a little controversy might have given us some much needed heat because things were getting more predictable and comfortable with every kilometre travelled.

Apart from the occasional beep and the accompanying tightening of the seatbelt triggered by KL’s edgy motorcyclists, our first 10 minutes in the Bentayga were surprisingly serene. At town speeds, the 600bhp W12 engine could pass off as a 300bhp V6, thanks to the Variable Displacement system’s ability to deactivate half the engine’s cylinders under light loads. The powertrain’s intelligence makes the Bentayga as easy to operate as a Honda CR-V, with just marginally more fuel consumed over the combined cycle. Well, you don’t splash nearly RM2mil for easy and efficient, do you?

Bentley Bentayga

In true SUV fashion, then, the Bentayga is a Bentley that wealthy non-enthusiasts yearning for something with a bit more pizazz than an Audi Q7 can easily enjoy on the daily grind, even if it means hours of driving in school zones and upmarket shopping districts where traffic is often bumper-to-bumper. It’s a car to be pampered in and a car to be seen in. But beyond the Tattler-worthy qualities presented by the Bentayga on a silver platter is another dimension of talents laced with the scent of petrol to intoxicate the racers at heart. This is where the TopGear review really begins.

The magic begins with a stab of the throttle. While other high performance cars react to a sudden input by leaping into a manic sprint, the Bentayga simply stops the clock and makes every car in view look like it’s travelling in slow motion. With air suspension, a smooth-shifting 8-speed auto and heavy soundproofing at work, there’s hardly any discernible inertia under heavy acceleration. This masks the fact that the W12’s full dose of 900Nm is loaded onto all four wheels from 1,350rpm. That’s twice the twist you’d get from a Porsche 911 Carrera at that stage.

The smooth-sailing Bentayga trivialises road anomalies that would otherwise ruin someone’s day

With all 12 cylinders rallied, the engine note fortifies with speed. But in the comfort-oriented Bentayga, the burbling W12 doesn’t quite hit the lofty heights of aural bliss as it does in a Bentley Continental Supersports. Hold out for that high at your own peril because the Bentayga pulls off an award-winning impression of a subservient 90kph alarmingly close to 200kph, such is the car’s expert sound insulation. If we had to nitpick, the panoramic glass roof amplifies wind noise at higher speeds. But the sense of airiness it adds to the cabin’s opulence is a justifiable trade-off.

If wind noise is a pet peeve, you can always turn up the Naim Audio system which transforms the Bentayga’s glorious insides into an amphitheatre using 20 speakers backed by a 1,920-watt 21-channel amplifier. Part of an optional ‘Audio & Communication’ package, this system, with more speakers than your average Ted Talk, is paired to a rear seat entertainment system made up of a pair of removable Android tablets. There’s plenty of tech to keep you distracted from the fast-changing outside world if you’re a passenger. We just wished it were enough to rewrite the laws of physics.

These laws do not concern potholes, invisible bumps and patchy tarmac. The smooth-sailing Bentayga trivialises road anomalies that would otherwise ruin someone’s day, if not his car, even when tempting the authorities in a straight line. You hardly feel any of it even though the Bentley’s 2.4-tonne mass is propped up by killer 21-inch footwear (22-inchers are also available, but good luck in telling these two ridiculous sizes apart). Instead, you’re more likely to be thrown off when sudden steering input is applied at high speeds given the car’s high centre of gravity.

With 1,724mm separating its roof from the ground, the Bentayga is taller than the average Malaysian teenager. And while we’re confident in its permanent AWD chassis to keep things planted under hard cornering, even the sportiest of driving modes does little to alleviate the fear of turning turtle when gunning down an uneven highway. The likelihood is obviously slim. So maybe it’s just that the Bentayga’s stratospheric limits are way above our own, not that it’s a reality we’re afraid to concede. After all, there are matters such as its 301kph top speed and the ability to conquer a multitude of terrains which were left untested but never doubted.

Bentley Bentayga

We’re talking about thresholds that even the most brazen of Bentayga owners are unlikely to broach. And that’s fine because a RM1.9mil Bentley is supposed to be a car of excess, especially one that’s a high-riding SUV fishing for attention everywhere it goes. On the flipside, its value game is unexpectedly on point. Crunch the numbers and you’ll find the Bentayga to be the most cost-efficient 12-cylinder luxury ride given its SUV practicality and cheaper road tax versus traditional sportscars (since the Bentayga is an SUV, you only pay RM6,360 annually versus RM15,405 if you had, say, a Continental GT). So there’s some sensibility in there as well.

Bentley Bentayga

Put simply, Crewe’s biggest offering is two-faced in the most likeable way possible. One moment, we’re sweeping the fast lane of the Maju Expressway clean and, before we know it, we’re beneath the Etiqa Twins again, backing the Bentayga up into a parking lot without breaking a sweat thanks to its crisp, top view camera. Sure, half the gadgetry in it can be found in a sub-RM200k car these days. But to buy a Bentayga is to buy one of the most definitive luxury SUVs in the market today for your daily use, plus an all-terrain supercar on the side for when you’re feeling adventurous, all with a single cheque.

The likes of Ferrari and Rolls-Royce, who are in the midst of developing high-end SUVs of their own, will have to bring their absolute A game because the Bentayga’s Flying B truly stands for benchmark.

 Price  RM1,851,548 (as tested)
 Engine  5,950cc twin-turbo W12, 600bhp, 900Nm
 Transmission  8-speed auto, AWD
 Performance  0-100kph in 4.1 secs, 301kph
 Economy  13.1L/100km, 296/km CO2
 Weight  2,440kg