Nestled between the less geographically-specific towns of Blythe and Indio, where the low growl of Interstate 10 meets the more sedate State Route 177, you can find the almost forgotten village of Desert Center. Only around 150 people live here, there’s not much more than a post office, a café and a few old buildings making up downtown, but they do have something for many city dwellers to envy— they’ve got the Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, where Karts, bikes, Mustangs and Porsche Cup Cars have all been known to run.
Presently though, this dusty berg is the temporary home to a fleet of shiny new Bentley Bentaygas, Crewe’s deluxe SUV based on the very successful Audi Q7 platform— which, channeling Troy McClure here, you may remember from such other hits as Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne. And sorry Cayenne owners, you no longer own the most exclusive member of the Q7 clique, the Bentayga will be the most expensive and powerful of the group.
The Bentayga is all about the comfort, convenience and safety features you expect, nay, demand from a Bentley. Add to which, there’s a bespoke Mulliner picnic set from Linley that you can option for around 100,000 AED or so.
For a little more, the Bentayga adds carbon fiber bits, most notably on the rear spoiler. And while it might seem gauche to mention the “R” word here, Bentley is surely aware how Rolls rakes it in with customization, and they’re offering all sorts of add-ons like contrasting piping on the seats, a rear seat entertainment system, and a good deal more.
Regardless of the scenery, Bentley loves a nice “torque plateau” and the 6.0L twin turbo W12 is no exception with its 663 lb-ft. Paired with the excellent ZF 8-speed automatic transmission, and with 600hp on tap, the car will do 0-100kph in around 4 seconds and continues the run all the way up to 300kph. The car rides on Bentley Dynamic Drive Control; an AWD-all-the-time job that offers 4 suspension settings in the, er, base car, and eight in the all terrain spec car.
We tested the suspension first in“comfort” mode out on the track, noting the fast and smooth power delivery, but with appreciable body roll and less-than-insane throttle response. Slap on sport mode and the SUV’s demeanor sharpens up considerably. Throttle response is on par with a sports car, and the track becomes your play thing.
Off road, the Bentayga handled the dunes with ease. I wouldn’t want to traverse the stony Rubicon trail in one, but if you’re the sort of driver who needs to rock the same ride on track and sand, this is an interesting offering. Whatever we threw at it, the Bentayga found its grip and carried us through, it was remarkable. Our time was seemingly without incident, but the thing about off-roading in one of these beasts is that, for mere mortals, any body repairs would be quite dear. Then again, if you are seriously pondering a Bentayga, you may not concern yourself with such trifling manners anyway.
Inside the Bentayga is, as expected, quite lovely. Crewe offers 15 interior colors and, all manner of bespoke enhancements are on offer in the material selection. There’s no mistaking the guts of this car for anything but a Bentley, the signature diamond quilted upholstery makes sure of it. The seats are quite comfortable, whether lolling about in the back on a country drive, or gripping the wheel on the track. (Check out the below interior photo gallery)
The driver’s position feels a tad lower than average for SUV-land, but feels great when you’re focused on spirited driving, without distracting from day to day visibility or ergonomics.
As stated, the Bentayga boasts 600HP, but it’s also not much of a showboat and it runs both smoothly and quietly. To improve fuel economy, the mighty W12 employs both cylinder deactivation and stop/start functionality, both of which run almost imperceptibly and never at the expense of the car’s premium feel. This is, after all, a very large and heavy vehicle, and it’s not like you don’t notice. But at the same time, like the Cayenne, it’s very impressive what the big gal is capable of.
Open the throttle, and the world is your oyster, overtaking is a cinch and you’ll be blowing away all but the most exotic SUVs. There’s also plenty of optimization possible via the driving mode selector custom mode so, for instance, you can dial in the steering feel to your liking. All told, this is not a limousine in SUVs clothing, it’s an SUV that wants its master at the wheel as much as possible.
This is a car that, while the subject of much print and internet whining about tradition and taste, is bound to be a huge success here in our SUV loving region. Starting at around 800,000 AED, the Bentayga is, love it or leave it, a face you can expect to be seeing a lot more of.
By: Adel Habib | Photos: James Lipman