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Not the sort of behavior that would normally be expected of a Bentley but this is their new Bentayga AWD 6.0-L V12 that is set to mix technology and super luxury in its climb towards the pinnacle of the premium SUV market.

Bentley takes SUV to super premium level

W. O. Bentley would have been intrigued and certainly impressed that the company bearing his name is producing what it claims as the “fastest, most powerful, most luxurious, and most exclusive SUV in the world.” In addition to the initial gasoline version, diesel and plug-in hybrids of the new Bentley Bentayga, getting its first public viewing at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, are also on the “to do” list.

He saw his cars achieve success both at Le Mans and in the world’s most prestigious showrooms, mixing technology (supercharged sports cars) and ultra-premium styling with cabin ambience. Now, the W12 6.0-L 447-kW (600-hp) all-wheel drive 301-km/h (187-mph) Bentayga adds the ability to blast a Bentley across sand dunes and race over frozen lakes.

The Bentayga was tested over more than 1 million mi (1.6 million km). “Testing has been extremely thorough,” said Cameron Paterson, Bentley’s Director of Whole Vehicle Engineering. “However much chamber testing is done, you can’t beat taking the car out and testing it properly under a very wide variety of conditions: for us, -30° to over +53°C (-22° to over +127°F), [though not a lot of our] customers will drive this car in sand dunes! We also completed a high-speed durability course on closed test tracks including at top speed (301 km/h) for extended periods.”

First seen as an SUV concept in 2012, but extensively aesthetically changed after a “so-so” general reaction, the production car carries strong styling cues of its siblings to better meet the relatively conservative tastes of its moneyed potential buyers.

The Bentayga enters the top level of the globally burgeoning premium SUV sector that will see offerings from Lamborghini (like Bentley a Volkswagen Group company) and Rolls-Royce, that in terms of cost and its associated image projection, will overshadow SUVs that currently carry a premium label.

Rolf Frech, Bentley’s Engineering Director, said of the Bentayga: “It defines the future for Bentley. With this car, we take big, big steps on the engine, the chassis, the electronics.” It will put down the markers for the technology of all future Bentley models.

The car is aluminum-intensive and has a bespoke version of the VW Group’s MLB-EVO architecture, that has already been applied to the Audi Q7 and will be used for other VW Group models, including the next generation Porsche Cayenne. Curb weight is 2422 kg (5340 lb), Bentley estimating weight savings via use of composite materials to be 236 kg (520 lb).

Dimensions include a 5141-mm (202.4-in) length, 1998-mm (78.7-in) width, 1742-mm (68.6-in) height, and 2992-mm (117.8-in) wheelbase.

48-V system

Peter Guest, Product Line Director for Bentayga, stated: “The chassis (suspension includes four double wishbones front; trapezoidal multi-link rear, self-leveling air system, Continuous Damping Control) is all new from ground up, and includes a very innovative active roll control.” This uses a 48-V system to provide “silent, instantaneous responses and sufficient power on hand to deal with all road surfaces."

The new SUV introduces Bentley Dynamic Ride. The company regards use of conventional anti-roll bars as a compromise between body control and comfort. But Bentley’s adaptive and reactive system provides variable torsional resistance to allow the Bentayga to be "both dynamically capable and comfortable for all occupants at all times.”

Wheels are 20 in standard, 21 or 22 in optional, fitted with Pirelli tires. Brakes are 400-mm (15.7-in) ventilated iron discs front, 380-mm (15.0-in) ventilated iron rear.

The UK-built engine, described as having been “specifically designed” for the car, delivers an 11.9% efficiency improvement, is shorter, and about 30 kg (66 lb) lighter compared to the existing W12 powertrain. It is positioned longitudinally, and it uses both direct and indirect fuel injection, switching between them depending on power or torque requirements.

Ian Malpas, Functional Manager, Engine Design, explained that turbos have been engineered to minimize response time: “There is 900 N·m of torque from 1250 to 4500 rpm and 447 kW output to make this the highest performing engine in any SUV. It has variable displacement; intake and exhaust valves, fuel, and ignition are switched off on the left-hand cylinder bank to enable the right-hand bank to run in a far more efficient operational mode.”

All this helps towards a 292 g/km CO2 figure and combined fuel consumption of 12.8 L/100 km (EU cycle) and 16 mpg (combined, U.S. EPA cycle)—both numbers subject to type approval.

The transmission is a ZF eight-speed automatic. In 5th to 8th gear, when pressure on the accelerator pedal eases sufficiently, the torque converter is opened, facilitating the engine to idle, creating what the VW Group terms “sailing” for improved efficiency. It re-engages if the car detects a road downgrade or if the throttle is opened. The car’s AWD system has been strengthened to better cope with the high torque figure and off-road driving.

Performance figures include a 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) time of 4.1 s.

Electronic driver-assist features include the typical stability, traction, and hill-descent control and park assist.

Peter Guest, Bentayga Product Line Director, added: “The car has an array of sensors to provide real-time information about the environment it is in. It can park, stay in lane, avoid accidents in low-speed traffic. It also has a night vision system with infrared camera that displays on a cabin screen hazards that are beyond the range of the headlights, such as pedestrians and animals in the road.”

Inside story

More than most other cars, it is the interior that defines the new Bentley’s status.

Geoff Dowding, Director, of Mulliner Operations (which focuses on delivering bespoke and coach-built Bentleys), explained: “During development we spoke to over 500 customers on a one-to-one basis. What we learned from that is that they are all very different individuals who all want an individual type of experience with the Bentayga. So we have technologies that enhance the driving experience, and a whole suite of features which enable different lifestyles.”

The car has hand-selected veneers (a choice of seven) shaped by Bentley’s artisans. The dashboard, which takes Bentley’s wing motif as its visual cue, is highly polished with hand-crafted metal elements. Some controls are knurled.

Front seats have 22-way adjustment and six-program massage. All seats are of “finest bull hides” sourced from cool European climates. A seven-seat variant is planned.

The car has head-up display and a new 8-in touchscreen controlling a 60-GB hard drive that controls the major functions in the vehicle. In the rear is a touch screen remote that can control seats, air conditioning, and many other features. The Bentley Entertainment Tablet provides a removable 10.2-in Android device with 4G, WiFi, and Bluetooth.

New levels of sound system include one with almost 1950 W of power.

An opening panoramic glass roof with acoustic interlays, covering about 60% of the roof area, is standard. The company speaks of “meticulous tolerances between elements of trim.

Six lifestyle-orientated specification packages will be available when the car goes on sale early in 2016, including two styling packs. In addition to these options, the Bentayga is available with the widest range of lifestyle accessories ever offered by Bentley brand, such as the load-assist tray and wet-gear stowage.

As with all Bentleys, the Bentayga can also be given added individuality by craftspeople at Mulliner. A bespoke mechanical “Mulliner Tourbillon by Breitling” clock can be specified, automatically wound periodically by a dedicated high-precision mechanism within the car. It is machined in solid gold, with a choice of either mother-of-pearl or black ebony face and decorated with diamonds.

That really is premium.

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