Picture for a moment, that you own a large property. For the sake of the story, let’s just call it, Tasmania.
On any given day you need to traverse your estate, from one end to the other, sometimes on-road, sometimes off it. You and your passengers need to travel in comfort, and at speed, all while maintaining the ’88 Romanée-Conti at a constant 14 degrees.
You’ll need a flexible vehicle, both powerful and efficient, with an all-terrain capability and a long touring range.
Sound far-fetched? It’s apparently a more relevant scenario than you might think, as the 2017 Bentley Bentayga Diesel fits the criteria perfectly.
Priced from $335,000 (before options and on-road costs) the Bentayga Diesel may undercut its petrol-gulping W12 stablemate by almost $100,000, but unless you were told which was which, you would be hard-pressed to tell them apart.
The diesel has a different grille, in black, as well as a pair of unique, figure-eight style tailpipes. A standard car features a ‘V8 Diesel’ badge on the lower door flank, but this can be quite sensibly traded for a pair of Union Jack numbers for just $1299 extra.
It shares the same footprint as the W12 (5140mm long by 1998mm wide), and despite having four fewer cylinders, actually weighs 70kg more.
The V8 Bentayga marks the first time Bentley has offered a diesel engine in its 98-year history - but W.O. purists need not despair, as this isn’t some clackety Transit van…
It’s the same 90-degree angle V8 as found in the Audi SQ7, with 320kW and a monstrous 900Nm of torque on tap.
Like the Audi, the Bentayga utilises a trio of turbos (one electric, two sequential) to improve performance efficiency and all-but eliminate response lag, in the process making that near Newtonian kilometre available from just 1000rpm.
That wall of torque is at one’s disposal through to 3250rpm, or right about where peak power hits, at 3750rpm, meaning the big numbers are in that midrange powerband, where you need it the most. There's even a 3500kg tow rating, should you need to cart around a really big boat or perhaps move some of your art collection around.
There’s an 80kg weight saving over the Audi too, giving the Bentley a 0.1-second faster claimed sprint to 100km/h, just 4.8 seconds.
This, combined with a top speed of 270km/h makes the Bentayga the world’s fastest diesel SUV. While this is surely a declaration that will be more often quoted than demonstrated, we tried it anyway.
It might not be the most civilised behaviour, but stalling up the big SUV to 2000rpm, and then letting it run to the horizon, an ensemble of rushing air and muted exhaust rumblings, is quite an experience.
The Bentayga holds triple-digit speed remarkably well, too. It barely raises a sweat or consumption graph under 140km/h, the occupants no doubt relaxed in their near-silent quarters.
Bentley claims a combined fuel consumption rate of 7.9L/100km, and if our experience with the SQ7 is any guide, then we’d imagine your real-world use won't be far off.
This gives the Bentayga diesel a theoretical range of over 1100km. More than enough to explore your map-of-Tasmania estate, from Stanley to Port Arthur and back again.
Our test car was running on the standard air suspension and felt flat and stable through higher speed, banked corners as well as through fast changing country turns. You could excite a little tyre squeal by pushing a bit too hard, but the SUV felt confident at all times and the 400mm front brake rotors proved excellent at washing off pace when needed.
Should you want a more engaging driving experience, a $10,699 option sees the addition of Bentley Dynamic Ride suspension, which is again similar to the active roll bar function as found in the Audi SQ7’s performance pack option.
Here, too, the car’s 48-volt electrical system connects and detaches the car’s sway bars from left-to-right to optimise between flat cornering behaviour and uncompromised ride comfort.
An eight-speed ZF automatic transmission keeps things running smoothly, and while our test drive was confined to a short high-speed loop and winding country road, you can sense that living with the Bentley around town would be a very manageable proposition.
So much so, that Bentley has targeted the Bentayga Diesel at family buyers. Well-heeled, estate-the-size-of-Tasmania-owning family buyers, that is. Remember, it might be a diesel SUV, but it is still a Bentley.
The Bentayga is now the only vehicle on the market to offer a four-seat ($23,874 option), five-seat (standard) and seven-seat ($7,515 option) configuration choice. Boot size doesn’t change between five and seven-seat cars, either, with both offering 484 litres of space.
There is also a number of eloquently named ‘specification’ options to choose from, to help match your Bentayga with your lifestyle.
Select ‘Sunshine’ specification and, for $4482, you’ll get a set of powered rear window blinds and a two-piece visor for both front occupants. Sure, that’s the kind of thing you find as standard equipment on a Nissan Pathfinder, but these are trimmed to match your selected roof lining, which can be leather for an extra $8394.
This theme continues with the $11,922 ‘City’ specification, which is again just the standard set of modern passive safety and driver assistance features you find on a Mazda CX-9. Or the $17,057 ‘touring’ specification, which adds similar adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping functions, that are fast becoming the norm.
In fact, just adding the items you’d expect to find on a top-specification ‘regular’ SUV, will cost you the same as a top-specification ‘regular’ SUV.
But this isn’t a regular SUV, and price isn’t traditionally a barrier for Bentley buyers. So much so that 55 of the more expensive W12 Bentaygas sold in Australia last year. That’s about $30 million dollars worth, or the equivalent of the gross domestic product of Tuvalu (the little Pacific Island nation that owns the .tv domain suffix), in 131,000kg of Bentayga.
So it is fair to say that personalising your car through the selection of options and trims is a big part of the Bentley experience.
To get started, there’s the usual staggering array of colour choices (107 options, before you dip your toe into custom shades and duo-tone pairings), a range of upholstery hides (15 standard selections), as well as eight different species of wood trims to select.
Just in case you want your Bentayga to match your couch, a personal commission of satin paint is a $70,293 option.
But all of these are just dressing on the cake, for one of the more practical option selections for the diesel Bentley is the $13,641 all-terrain package.
This adds a sump guard, surround camera system, luggage organiser (so the LV duffle doesn’t get thrown around the boot) and terrain selection dial with four off-road settings, ‘dirt and gravel’, ‘snow, ice and wet grass’, ‘sand’ and ‘mud and trail’.
Working with the air suspension and media system, the car will rise and lower according to your selection (with four different ride heights), while displaying wheel position, climb and pitch angles and other information on the central 8.0-inch screen.
Our test drive took in a variety of hill climbs and descents, as well as a water crossing and some muddy trails. Not the Kalahari, sure, but certainly more adventurous than the carpark at the Portsea Polo.
In any of the off-road modes, the car will automatically engage (or disengage) a hill descent control system if the vehicle detects a more extreme angle (a gradient greater than five per cent). This speed can be adjusted from the cruise-control stalk on the steering wheel, or by gently accelerating or braking, anywhere between 2 and 30km/h.
Bentley suggests selecting a 19- or 20-inch wheel with the off-road package, but our car on rather snazzy Mulliner 21-inch rollers didn’t skip a beat.
As the second driveline option for the vehicle, the 2017 Bentley Bentayga Diesel may be the ‘entry’ model, but it doesn’t feel any less special than the W12.
In reality, even for our fictional owners of Tasmania, a car like the Audi SQ7, even specified to the brim, makes much more sense than even a ‘base’ Bentayga diesel.
You get the same drivetrain, the same technology, and the same amount of space… but it is not, and will never be, a Bentley.
Sure you can find Volkswagen-group parts and switchgear on the Bentayga, you can spot software similarities and likely shared part numbers, but for someone wanting something unique, special and unmistakable, none of that matters.
A Bentley is a Bentley, regardless of model designation or power source. The Bentayga diesel has all the traits that make the marque special, with modern convenience and practicality thrown in for good measure.
Currently offered from $399,000 drive-away, the Bentayga diesel is almost assured to become the highest volume model for the premium English brand.
There’s about a five-month wait from order to delivery, which is about the same amount of time it will take you to play with all the colour and trim combinations on the website configurator.
We’d go for a Candy Red over Linen and Beluga with Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus trim, you know, for that little local touch, owning Tasmania and all…
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