PEBBLE BEACH, California — The Bentley Bentayga not only represents the British luxury brand's first and long-awaited foray into the SUV segment, it also pushes the boundaries of the segment in terms of performance, capability and most notably price.
Though the styling is at first glance restrained and unmistakably Bentley, a closer look reveals the subtle creases and character lines that are far from easy (or cheap) to accomplish given the use of aluminum.
The use of lightweight aluminum also keeps weight down. At 5,340 pounds, the Bentayga is still hefty, but it's actually about 200 pounds lighter than the last Bentley Flying Spur we tested and roughly on par with a long-wheelbase Range Rover.
That only makes the performance potential of the 6.0-liter W12 engine under the hood all the more enticing. Despite its similarities to Bentley's current 12-cylinder, the W12 in the Bentayga is, in fact, an all-new engine. It features a slightly smaller displacement, cylinder deactivation, auto stop-start and both direct and port injection to maximize performance and minimize emissions. It is paired to standard all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic. Output is 600 horsepower and 663 pound-feet of torque, and Bentley estimates the Bentayga will go from zero to 60 mph in 4 seconds, a number bested by only much smaller, more performance-oriented SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S.
The Bentayga is meant to excel both on pavement and off of it. An adaptive and height-adjustable air suspension, available off-road protection package and up to eight driving modes that cover a variety of driving situations and terrains add up to a surprising amount of off-road potential that should at least approach the capability offered by the Range Rover. At the same time, that suspension features electric active roll technology that promises to keep the Bentayga flat through high-speed cornering.
Bentley announced that diesel and hybrid variants will be produced in the future, but did not specify if the United States would receive them or when they would arrive.
Inside, the Bentayga is far more indicative of the Bentley brand, with acres of the finest leather, exquisitely detailed switchgear and no shortage of beautiful veneers. With a wheelbase that falls in between the short- and long-wheelbase Range Rover, there is an abundance of rear seat room to be found whether one opts for the standard three-person bench seat (an expected 80 percent take rate) or the two-seat configuration that features eight-way adjustment, heating and ventilation, six-setting massage and a center console. There will eventually be a seven-seat option.
Although its wheelbase slots between the two Range Rover models, its overall length is greater, due almost entirely to its cargo area. There isn't much height above the cargo cover due to the fast liftgate angle; however, it is a very wide and deep space. As seems fitting for Bentley, an available "event seat" and integrated "hampers" have been designed to be that ever-special accessory at your next country picnic or perhaps polo tournament tailgate party.
Should you be bringing the polo pony with you, the Bentayga features an innovative power-deploying tow hitch. From its hiding place behind the bumper, it lowers itself, rotates 90 degrees then rises into position. A tow rating has not been announced yet.
Naturally, all the latest entertainment, convenience and safety technologies will be available on the Bentayga, along with items best described as indulgences. Full LED headlamps, a full-length panoramic sunroof and 22-way power front seats are just some of the standard items.
The Bentayga will make its world debut at the 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show, with customer deliveries beginning in early 2016. No pricing was announced, but Bentley officials have said previously that the Bentayga will venture into new territory for luxury SUVs, so expect a price well north of the most expensive version of the Land Rover Range Rover and Porsche Cayenne.
Edmunds says: We're about to see if there's a market for a $200,000 luxury SUV from one of the world's most prestigious automotive brands.