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Force of nature
BEN Tay was a pudgy kid I knew in school who skipped PE lessons in the pool because he didn't like getting wet. Bentayga, on the other hand, is an enormous SUV unfazed by large bodies of water and scythes through flood-hit roads like a battlecruiser. It is perhaps fortuitous that recent typhoon-like conditions allowed the Bentley Bentayga to amply manifest its dynamic abilities here in highly urbanised Singapore.
Never mind the unconventional styling or its extravagant luxury. During an intense thunderstorm, the most impressive feature of this full-size SUV must be its ability to forge ahead where lesser vehicles fear to tread. All this while maintaining a cabin atmosphere which can only be described as an oasis of calm.
The Bentayga is the ultra-luxury British marque's first sport-utility vehicle and it is an imposing sight.
Looking like a jacked-up Flying Spur with a tailgate, it is 5.14 metres long and 1,742 mm high with a 2,995 mm wheelbase. But even more intimidating are its width - two metres across excluding the mirrors - and kerb weight - 2,440 kg or twice as heavy as a 1.6-litre Japanese sedan.
Massive wheels - the Bentayga rolls on 22-inch rubber - help it traverse standing water with ease.
But perhaps the real monster resides under the bonnet. The Bentayga has a new version of Bentley's 6.0-litre W12 engine. This twin-turbo 12-cylinder unit is 30 kg lighter and more fuel-efficient because half the cylinders shut down in third to eighth gear when below 3,000 rpm with output up to 300 Nm, thus turning into a V6.
Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, it directs 608 hp and a whopping 900 Nm to all four wheels with a front/rear torque split of 40:60. This Bentley may be a behemoth but it is parked nicely in supercar territory - zero to 100 kmh is just 4.1 seconds.
Climb into the Bentayga and there is the same dramatic handcrafted interior from Bentley.
There are the "top roll" leather wings of the centre console, plus the familiar round chrome air vents and organ stop controls. The wood veneers are as beautiful and so is the quilted leather. The handsome clock on the dashtop has orange-coloured hands to match the speedo and tachometer needles.
The large engine start button on the lower centre console is also a knob for selecting eight driving modes - the four usual on-road programmes (Sport, Bentley, Comfort and Custom) and another four off-road settings. When one of the latter is chosen, the multi-function display's all-terrain information screen will show stuff such as steering angle, individual wheel articulation and vehicle pitch, for example. Meanwhile, the centre display can be switched to the sump camera view to check for obstacles.
Not that you are likely to aim your Bentayga into dirt, gravel or anything resembling a sand dune. But with the air springs providing continuous damping control and variable ride height, it should still be a comfortable experience. And despite being a tall car, you can throw the Bentayga into a fast corner without experiencing body roll, thanks to the electronic Active Roll Control feature.
Most of all, there is that sense of effortless performance from a commanding driving position. A mere tap of the accelerator provides instantaneous forward thrust. The ride can be a bit pillowy in Comfort and Bentley, while slightly firmer in Sport with a bit more direct steering.
But it is never uncomfortable and the Bentley Bentayga remains stylishly unflappable at all times. It has to be one of the most exclusive automotive statements you can make.
Engine 5,950cc W12 turbocharged
Gearbox 8-speed automatic transmission
Max power 608 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Max torque 900 Nm @ 1,350 rpm
0-100 kmh 4.1 secs
Top speed 301 kmh
CO2 emissions 296 g/km
Average OMV S$216,000
Price from S$900,000 (without COE)
Distributor Wearnes Automotive