2017 Bentley Bentayga first drive review

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Spain is a country of contrasts: exclusive estates tower over luxury resorts at the Mediterranean coast, while just a few miles inland, crumbling villages scrape by in picturesque poverty. So, too, the Bentley Bentayga. Not in its economics, of course, but in its character.

As Bentley’s first SUV—which Bentley claims to be the world’s first hyper-luxury SUV—the Bentayga is undeniably a refined, elegant machine, one with an available $170,000 Mulliner Tourbillon timepiece. It’s luxurious in a way that few cars except Bentleys are: luxurious in time and resources as well as money.

Handcrafting each Bentayga takes 130 hours; that’s about three to six times an average car’s production time. The effort shows in every hand-stitched seam, every millimeter-perfect fitment, and every expertly crafted detail—just as it does in every Bentley.

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Accommodations are phenomenal, whether you choose the front-row cloning four-seat rear option or the five-passenger bench. Just don’t expect to seat 4-5 six-and-a-half footers for long; the rear seat works best with the front passenger seat pushed all the way forward (a feat you can accomplish from the right-rear seat’s controls).

Likewise, the Bentayga’s time in development was well spent, despite being the quickest Bentley has ever brought a product to market, at just 48 months from concept to production (which starts November 27, though the first U.S. deliveries won’t arrive until March). But during those 48 months, the Bentayga turned over 400 laps on the Nordschleife, tuning the SUV to enable maximum cornering loads of 1.1 g as well as more hustle than you’d expect out of a high-riding super-luxe beast.

An all-new W-12 engine lies under the hood, too, keeping the bore spacing of its predecessor, but cutting weight, adding port- and direct-injection fueling, and twin-scroll turbos to rate 600 horsepower and 663 pound-feet of torque. Zero to 60 mph? Four seconds flat.

The Bentayga’s driving characteristics are difficult to discern. An industry-first electro-mechanical active anti-roll bar controls body roll much like the hydraulic systems found in other carmakers’ high-performance off-roaders, but reacts three times quicker, thanks to a supercapacitor-powered 48-volt electrical system. An electric motor along the anti-roll bar drives a gearbox that acts like a dynamic spring, increasing roll stiffness as the vehicle leans. The behavior of the active system steps up as you progress from Comfort to Bentley to Sport modes on the console-mounted dial. Those modes adjust the responsiveness of the ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox, throttle response, and dynamic dampers as well.

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