The new Bentayga SUV is large, imposing, powerful, expensive, luxurious and just a little bit ostentatious. Every bit a Bentley, then.
Nothing on the road is more conspicuous than me right now, and for a change, I’m not entirely thrilled about it. If somebody painted an elephant pink, strapped a wailing siren to its back and sent it charging across the road, I doubt anyone would even notice. Big luxurious SUVs tend to stand out a little, and Bentleys – with their surfeit of chrome and bling – stand out a lot. So, imagine what it’s like being at the wheel of a 16-foot-long, bronze-coloured Bentley SUV, stuck in bumper-to-bumper gridlock traffic on the outskirts of Mumbai. I slump down into the soft, quilted leather to try and hide myself.
This is not how I felt a few hours ago. No, back then, the Big B was in its element, coursing majestically down the Bandra-Worli Sea Link with a massive reserve of power bubbling away under my right foot, waiting patiently to be unleashed. There were stares, but they were stares of recognition and acknowledgement, accompanied by more than a few thumbs up. You see, it may be rare and exclusive, but a Bentley is something most people can identify these days, if not by the Flying B logo, then certainly by the design. Big, bulging, LED-ringed headlamps are a staple of the modern Bentley, as are the pronounced haunches, and let’s not forget the massive, massive chrome mesh grille. The Bentayga has all of that and then some.
21-inch wheels on any car, you’d think, would look like they’re scraping layers of metal out of the wheel arches, right? Not here; here, they look almost normal sitting on their 45-profile tyres, and you can get 22-inch wheels as an option! Then there are the subtler details (if you can call anything on a Bentayga ‘subtle’), like the ‘B’ motif in the flank, finished here in carbonfibre, the other ‘B’ motif in the LED tail-lamps. But you tend not to notice these details because all you can see is the sheer size of this thing. It’s 16 feet long and seven feet wide, and it’s hard to imagine that under that lavishly sculpted bodywork sit the mechanicals of a straight-laced Audi Q7. It’s perhaps not quite as regal looking as the Mulsanne and certainly not as purposefully sporty as a Continental or Flying Spur, but for sheer presence, there’s just nothing like it. If you see it in your rear-view mirror, you instinctively get out of the way.
This, of course, doesn’t apply when you’re stationary and surrounded by trucks. In any other car, I’d have squeezed my way through the crowd and made it out in half the time, but in the world’s most expensive production SUV, I should probably just be patient. And besides, I’ve been meaning to have a poke around the new interior anyway, so what better time than now?
The Bentayga uses only the softest leather, the finest wood and solid metal. It’s an exceptionally well-appointed cabin, save for a few plastic buttons that feel relatively low rent.
The cabin is not so much a collection of parts as it is a series of sensations. The leather has a distinct smell to it, for example, that you don’t seem to get in any other brand of car. The Lambswool carpets are the type you’d expect to find in front of a roaring fireplace at some manor in the Scottish highlands, and I’m tempted to take my shoes off and dig my toes in. And obviously, Bentley doesn’t do faux wood; you can be sure that the polished slab across the dash is very, very real. The paddle shifters behind the leather steering wheel are solid metal of course, but just to make sure you don’t accidentally miss a shift, they’re knurled for a better grip. And yet, in the midst of all of this, one thing sticks out like a sore thumb. Yes, it’s much better than what you get in the Continental and Flying Spur, but the handful of basic-looking black plastic buttons almost undo all the hard work that’s gone into the rest of the cabin. The touchscreen may have a shiny new Bentayga skin on top, but appears to function like the last-generation VW Group unit; the new one used in Audis and Porsches just feels so much slicker. I do like the new rotary dial that lets you select drive modes and doubles up as the engine-start button though – it’s properly classy, and so are the trumpet-toggle style switches to control the AC airflow strength.