A good SUV should be able to surmount just about any impediment. The new Bentley Bentayga is showing itself adept at overcoming one of the biggest obstacles of them all, pushing into pricing territory far beyond any SUV currently on the market.
First teased in the form of a concept car more than three years ago, the new Bentley Bentayga will make its formal debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show next week, but TheDetroitBureau.com was given an advanced preview of the vehicle Bentley is calling “the fastest, most powerful, most luxurious, most exclusive SUV in the world.”
Even though it’s still months from reaching Bentley showrooms around the world, the Bentayga is already having a significant impact, helping convince virtually every other premium luxury brand – from Aston Martin to Lamborghini to Rolls-Royce – that they also need to add utility vehicles to their line-ups.
“We predicted when we started the project we would be the first, but (ultimately) wouldn’t the only premium luxury SUV in the world,” said Marcus Abbott, head of product marketing for Bentley.
If anything, there were plenty of skeptics when Bentley first revealed the EXP 9 F concept during the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, the chunky design and awkward face of the show car coming in for a fair bit of derision.
The production model, the Bentley Bentayga, is a far more elegant and exclusive-looking vehicle that picks up on key brand cues, including familiar meshed grille and offset LED headlamps and running lights.
“Bentayga is truly the Bentley of SUVs,” proclaimed the brand’s Chief Executive Wolfgang Durheimer.
While no lightweight, Bentley did take some significant steps to cut mass. The sweeping, almost coupe-like body side is a single, large aluminum pressing, the largest ever used by the industry, in fact. Lower weight will help boost fuel economy, as well as performance, Bentley officials note.
The Bentayga is powered by a 6.0-liter W-12 engine – though other options, including Bentley’s first plug-in hybrid, a V-8 and a diesel will follow. The engine features fuel-saving cylinder deactivation and uses an unusual combination of both direct and port fuel injection to boost both performance and mileage.
While final figures have yet to be released, the target is “well above 550 horsepower” and 590 pound-feet of torque.The big beast will launch from 0 to 60 in “well under five seconds,” according to Aboott, with a top speed of 186 mph, even faster than the Porsche Cayenne Turbo.
There’ll be a functional side to the Bentley Bentayga, company officials stress, Abbott promising it will be “highly off-road capable. The Bentayga will take the Bentley customer to anyplace their want in the world.”
The SUV will have a towing capacity of 7,700 pounds, enough to pull a large boat or horse trailer, and its air suspension will be able to lower the vehicle by nearly four inches, among other things, making it easier to hitch up a trailer or simply climb into the vehicle.
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While the U.S. will be one of the largest target markets for Bentayga, Bentley also will be going after the growing Chinese luxury segment, as well as the Middle East, where SUVs are a functional status symbol among affluent buyers. Engineers had to make sure the new mode could straddle some of the region’s most challenging sand dunes, for one thing.
“You can never have too much power when you go into the sand,” explained Durheimer, who previously served as chief engineer at Audi.
Picking up on technology pioneered by the slightly less exclusive Range Rover, the driver of a new Bentayga will be able to adjust 19 different vehicle parameters – from steering to gearing, braking to engine acceleration – with the turn of a single knob, dubbed the Charisma Switch.
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The Bentayga is loaded with the latest safety technologies, in some cases, more than even on the flagship Bentley Mulsanne. That includes advance infotainment systems, front and back, as well as forward collision avoidance technology that can detect not only a stopped car but also a pedestrian.
The new SUV will be offered in both four and five-seat configurations, and a three-row, seven-seater is likely to follow, company insiders confided.
That doesn’t include the “Event Seat,” a slide-and-fold system that can be used to tailgate party in style. Not only are there comfortable, fold-out seats but the Bentley Bentayga can be ordered with a built-in picnic basket. Make that a portable catering system, as there are bins for china and silverware, as well as a compact powered food cooler.
Everywhere one looks, Bentley designers and engineers have worked a bit of magic. There’s even a hidden disk that pops up, when needed, to wash the headlamps. “It’s our 007/Inspector Gadget concept,” laughed Sangyup Lee, the head of exterior design on the Bentayga project.
The SUV features the fastest available mobile processors, Bentley claims, allowing not just a suite of infotainment technologies, but some useful functions such as a 4-camera system that provides a 360-degree view around the vehicle.
Bentley has undergone some major growth over the last few years and the Bentayga is likely to only spur that on, according to Durheimer. That’s prompted dealers around the world to pump millions into the brand, including a new 5-story showroom in Dubai.
Despite those early skeptics, Durheimer said it only makes sense for Bentley – and its competition to get into the SUV market. Utes have replaced conventional passenger cars for millions of buyers in more mainstream segments, and he expects they will do the same thing in the rarified world Bentley competes in.
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