DUBAI: It was big news ago five years ago when Bentley made their first foray into the luxury SUV space with the Bentayga.
The illustrious British carmaker, renowned for over a century for its elite handcrafted saloons and touring cars, reckoned that the fast-growing SUV market was ripe for a new entrant. That decision has been amply justified by demand for the Bentayga — 20,000 have been sold, making it one of the most popular vehicles in the upmarket SUV space.
So the launch of the New Bentayga is a major event in the luxury car calendar. The 2020 version will be delivered later this year, and Bentley — owned by German car giant VW since 1998 — is getting ready for the rush, especially in the Middle East.
(Arab News' reviewer Frank Kane gets behind the wheel of the Bentley Bentayga)
Luxury-crazy drivers in the region certainly seem to have taken the original model to their hearts. In Dubai, it can regularly be seen parked in prime spots on the forecourts of five-star hotels or zooming down the outside lane.
Firas Kandalaft, Bentley’s UAE-based head of marketing, explained that there was a rush in Saudi Arabia to get buying orders ahead of the recent VAT increase. At around SAR800,000 (a little over $213,000) for an entry-level Bentayga, the tax saving would be significant.
In particular, affluent women in the Kingdom appear to have taken to the Bentayga to enjoy their new driving freedoms, Kandelaft explained.
I had the pleasure of driving a pre-production model of the new version around the tracks and roads at Dubai Autodrome, and have to report an exhilarating experience.
It is certainly a handsome car, with sleek lines and contours topped off with the legendary “winged B” badge that pays tribute to Bentley’s heritage as an aircraft engine manufacturer and also hints at the near-airborne experience that awaits you once behind the wheel.
The Bentayga exterior has been redesigned front and rear, adding an extra layer of aerodynamism to the body. It displays none of the ‘boxy’ characteristics of some other luxury SUVs. “Elliptical” is the buzzword, especially for the style of the cut-crystal lighting.
Get behind the wheel and you are immediately impressed by the sheer sophistication of the steering wheel and dashboard complex. A new digital combination display has all the driving information you need, while the center console provides touch-screen convenience — including a range of Apple connectivity services. All topped off by the classic Bentley analogue clock nestling above the AC vents.
Bentleys are all hand-built in the car’s historic works in Crewe, England, though there is a distinct feel of German “technik” in the electronics and navigational systems — but with more or a flavor of Porsche than VW.
On the road, the New Bentayga is a thrilling experience. A 4.1 liter V8 engine generates an impressive 542 brake horsepower, to get you from 0-100 kph in 4.5 seconds.
The top speed of 290 kph is unlikely to be legally hit anywhere, but it is good to know you have so much in reserve within the legal limits, and the acceleration necessary to get out of any tricky spot. Flooring the gas pedal produces a satisfyingly deep-throated growl of power.
There will be a W12 version available in the future, likely to become a luxury-car driver’s icon, but with a price tag of more than $500,000.
Excited women drivers, adventurous families, off-roaders and speed merchants will all get a kick out of the new Bentayga, as will aficionados of grande luxe. I have a feeling we will be seeing, and admiring, a lot more of them on the roads of the Middle East.