Bentley's British Summer

Sam Kessler (Online Editor)
Where better to try out the marque's new SUV than its spiritual home in the Cotswolds?

The Bentayga is an impossibility. You expect a lot from a Bentley, any Bentley, and for good reason. Even aside from the price tag their reputation is synonymous with traditional British excellence to the point that anything less would seem appalling. Which just serves to illustrate how unusual the Bentayga is.

Most companies with a reputation for anything traditionally British aren’t the sort you expect to take a chance, but that was before the Bentayga hit the scene. Admittedly it still hasn’t in the literal sense – production’s barely started – but the marque has already had to up production to get anywhere near demand. They have to be doing something right.

To discover just what that is, we were invited to test drive the Bentayga in its natural environment. Which is to say, definitely not on the track. This is a car for recreation, for zipping from stately home to stately home. Where else were we going to take a British summertime break than the Cotswolds?

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That meant getting out of London first. Early morning traffic in Mayfair’s not as bad as some and we left it just late enough to miss rush hour. Still, the stop starting made progress slow. It did however show off the Bentayga’s engine stop which, while we weren’t particularly thinking about the fuel it must have saved, made the whole ride a lot smoother and more comfortable, especially from my vantage point in the back.

I have to say the car’s interior wasn’t as roomy as I had imagined, just a little larger than the Continental. Indeed the car as a whole wasn’t as big as I imagined when I first heard about Bentley building an SUV. But then, an SUV doesn’t necessarily mean a Jeep-ish battle bus, and the rest of the Bentley range has a good amount of space so snug it was not. Plus the in-car WiFi came in very handy when trying to explain recent British politics to a journalist from Dubai.

For the next few hours of motorway there wasn’t much to be said, other than how impressive the sound system was, despite us not having Naim’s ultra-powerful version. We were also lacking the Breitling tourbillon, but at nearly the price of the car itself I wasn’t too disappointed. No, things only really got exciting when I had my turn once we hit the Cotswolds themselves. By god the Bentayga can move.

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Given that we’d already tested its speed a little on the motorway and the Cotswolds aren’t particularly renowned for their Autobahn, I opted for sport mode. A quick turn of a dashboard dial and it changed the entire experience. Suddenly the acceleration got noticeably aggressive, the whole feel of the car from a sedate car for the discerning football mum to a deceptively nimble beast.

It tore through the beautiful forests and rolling trees of the areas, woke up the sleepy villages and disturbed the odd sheep, feeling like a car half its size. Considering our regular political updates from the back that illusion was shattered all too often, but the feel was there. By the time we hit the picturesque Dalesford Farm for a picnic lunch, I was very ready for the break. That much exhilaration gets tiring.

Somewhere like Dalesford is where the Bentayga belongs. If you’ve not been, imagine your childhood image of the perfect farm and combine it with an ultra-zen wellness retreat, one of the few places that you can meditate and have a massage before tucking into a superb home-made quiche. Our line of SUVs fit in just perfectly.

None of that however really sets the Bentayga apart too much from Bentley’s other cars; they combine performance and luxury in just the same way, if a little bulkier. The built-in picnic hamper in the boot was a nice touch too. No, the Bentayga is an SUV, which means it needs to cope with the elements. Now, while we weren’t about to smash them around the woods, we did take them off-roading. Just through a country estate instead.

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It coped flawlessly across the relatively rugged terrain, not missing a beat, the wheels moving to keep purchase on the ground. What was most impressive was what Bentley call their descent control which is precisely as it sounds. You go up or down a steep hill and… well, it does it all for you. It keeps your speed constant and even has the torque to manage what appeared from the car a near-vertical incline at just 2mph.

The fact that the Bentayga exists at all seems strange. Before the announcement plenty of people assumed Bentley would never do something like that. But even the car we now have feels like it should be possible. It matches speed and performance with luxury – a Bentley staple – then throws in some seriously impressive all-terrain capabilities.

It can take everything the world throws at it while your family browse the nearest picnic spots in the back; if there’s an SUV that’s hit the needs of its customers squarely on the head, it’s the Bentayga.

To make an enquiry, CLCIK HERE.


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