So powerful is the new 2016 Bentley Bentayga SUV, that the only place we could experience its true performance was at a racetrack.
As part of the car’s Australian unveiling, Bentley arranged for us to do a few laps of Sandown Raceway near Melbourne where we could get a feeling for how the ‘fastest SUV in the world’ would perform on local shores.
The Bentayga is the first SUV in the 97-year history of the iconic luxury British manufacturer and is the first step toward a ‘more modern’ Bentley lineup.
Featuring an all-new twin-turbo 6.0-litre W12 engine, with 447kW of power and 900Nm of torque available should ‘sir’ need it, the Bentayga promises some pretty impressive output numbers.
Bentley says it will cover the standing 0-100km/h sprint in a tenth over four seconds (4.1 seconds) and will top out at a whopping 301km/h. It will even manage a respectable fuel consumption of 9.6 litres per 100km while cruising.
Those are supercar numbers, but remember the Bentayga weighs in at 2422kg – about 1000kg more than a Lamborghini Huracan, which has the same amount of power.
As the big Bentley idled along pit lane to prepare for a quick lap, you could really notice how big and imposing it felt.
The Bentayga is over two-meters wide and more than five-meters long. The wheelbase, at just under three-meters, is longer than a Smart ForTwo. It’s only a five seater, but there is a 430-litre boot and a stack of legroom for rear passengers to fill up the space.
The exterior design has polarised opinions since the first EXP 9 concept was shown in 2012, and in final production trim, the Bentayga can’t honestly be called ‘beautiful’, but it is striking. And it is a Bentley.
The quilted interior with rich materials and particularly lovely weighting on the vent controls, feels opulent. Yes there are areas that could potentially be improved, but as a package, there is an air of supreme luxury that envelopes the Bentayga, ensuring you’ll never be lost in a crowd.
Now behind the wheel, we ease on to the Sandown circuit, and one thing is immediately apparent - the noise. Or more correctly, the lack of noise.
The cabin feels almost like a pressurised private jet, the vacuum-like silence bordering on distracting as the big SUV climbs effortlessly well beyond the 100km/h mark.
Loping along in the default 'Comfort' setting, the Bentayga is smooth and effortless, even through the tight corner complex leading onto the back straight where it again climbs well above legal speeds with barely a whisper.
Heading out of Dandenong Road corner for a second lap, we switch into 'Sport' and feel the steering load up slightly as the car readies itself for what is to come.
Last corner exit, open straight, we bury the pedal into the rich, woven carpet.
Now there is noise. A guttural growl as all 12 cylinders beat away, that 900Nm available in the first 1.5 seconds of acceleration.
And yes. It is fast.
Not unlike an Airbus A380 on takeoff, the sheer size of the Bentayga does a great job of reducing the feeling of speed from within the plush cabin. The numbers on the head-up display don’t lie though, and we are well on our way to the double-tonne before needing to reel in the horses and make the corner at Sandown’s right-angle turn one.
For the physics fans out there, at 160km/h the Bentayga has roughly 110,000kg m/s of momentum. Reducing that is no mean feat.
The big brakes (carbon-ceramic brakes are going to be an option, but were not fitted to this car) have a lot of work to do, but from within the sealed cocoon of the cabin, you are not made aware of any of the university physics working outside the car.
It pulls up, and turns in – deceptively nimbly – with barely a hint of roll or squeal of rubber in protest.
Even in the 'Sport' setting, the ride is supremely compliant and smooth even when bumping ripple-strips back down the hill into the left turn at Dandenong Road.
Owners won't likely be doing anything like this, but it is good to know that the capability exists beyond the brochure. The Bentayga is a very impressive machine.
We wanted to put its performance into context so conducted a 0-100-0 ‘go to woah’ test on the front straight. This involves accelerating from a standstill to 100mph (160km/h) and braking back to a full and complete stop.
Watch our video for the full experiment, but to cut a long story short, we were able to achieve a result (that included a maximum velocity of 101.3mph – all measured by the VBox with external satellite antenna) in 15.0 seconds flat.
Pretty impressive given the size and weight of the big SUV.
In all, the Bentayga is a very accomplished machine. It is effortlessly fast, openly opulent and unmistakable for anything else. All hallmarks of what buyers want from a Bentley.
Let us know if you are keen to see us test more vehicles in this manner, and stay tuned to read about how the Bentayga handles Australian streets in a more stately and sensible manner.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by James Ward. Videography by Igor Solomon.