What is it?

The Bentayga is, according to Bentley, the best SUV in the world. At AED 1.3 million, it’s certainly one of the most expensive, but it’s also one of the fastest, and absolutely one of the most luxurious. But the Bentayga is more than a simple collection of superlatives shoe-horned into the SUV package that every carmaker is desperate to offer. It’s actually the answer to a problem that Bentley’s had for years – what to offer customers with a family and dog to ferry around. For that, the Continental GT certainly won’t do, and the Continental Flying Spur and Mulsanne aren’t exactly ideal. Really, the Bentayga is the only model you can consider if you’re dead-set on a Bentley, but want to use it for the school run.

How does it drive?

First, let us give you some numbers. The Bentayga comes with a heavily reworked version of Bentley’s 6.0-litre W12 engine, which here develops 600 bhp and 663 lb ft of torque. That means that this 2.4-tonne beast will do the 0-100 km/h dash in 4.0 seconds flat, and go on to a top speed of 300 km/h.

The thing is, the Bentayga isn’t actually as extreme to drive as any of those numbers suggest. Press the starter button by the centre armrest, and the big W12 comes to life with a gentle purr. Even when you put the pedal to the metal, there’s very little aural drama to go along with the enormous surge in speed.

That said, the speed is vastly entertaining. Flick the drive selector into sport when you’re stopped at a set of traffic lights, and you brace yourself as the suspension lowers by a few inches. From start, full-throttle results in an almighty kick to the stomach as the physics-bending performance of the Bentayga is unleashed. It’s outrageously fast, this thing. But it gathers speed with very little drama. The automatic gearbox upshifts smoothly; the engine hums rather than snorts. It’s a bit like being in the first-class cabin of the Japanese Bullet Train. You build vast momentum very quickly, but you’re largely unaware of the messy details that go into said momentum-building – you just kick back in your luxurious seat and watch the world fly by.

Indeed, this is a car that puts luxury ahead of driving thrills. The steering is light, the gearbox silky smooth, and the suspension immensely supple – as far as the driver is concerned, the road surface simply changes colour when going over speedbumps. The Bentayga was clearly designed to make piloting such a wide car effortless. And it’s largely succeeded in that mission. That it’ll devastate all but the fastest Porsches in a drag race is simply the icing on the cake.

All of that said, the Bentayga feels surprisingly good around the corners. However, ‘good’ is relative in SUV land. It won’t pitch and roll like, say, a full-fat Range Rover will (thanks to its new 48-volt active anti-roll system), but it doesn’t have the sharpness of the Continental GT, either. Still, the Bentayga feels much lighter than it is through the bends, and the grip is mighty impressive. You can get on the power very early on the exit, and the car will just go.

The Bentayga will go off-road, too. While we weren’t allowed to test it in the dunes, a cursory search on YouTube will show you that this big Bentley can take plenty of off-road punishment. Not that you’ll let your AED 1.3 million Bentayga anywhere near the desert if you own one, mind.

Interior quality and tech

This is a Bentley, so of course the interior is astonishing. Plush, quilted leather adorns the seats and side-sills, intricate stitchwork holds the materials together, and thick carpets cushion your feet. Our test model had the optional panoramic sunroof fitted, and it’s an option we recommend ticking – it’s a phenomenal piece of engineering, stretching all of the way to the back of the rear seats.

There are plenty of cubby holes in which to store your bits and pieces, and rear leg room is excellent – never mind the kids, you could transport a government minister in the back of this thing and not be embarrassed. And there’s a large, carpeted boot where the dog (or the mother of all shopping loads) can go. Naturally, it’s electronically operated.

On the tech side, the Bentayga has been fitted with a more-than-capable eight-inch, touch-screen infotainment system that finally brings the Bentley range up to modern standards. Functionality-wise, it’s pretty standard Volkswagen Group stuff, meaning Bluetooth pairing and media playback is a cinch. Meanwhile, you can spec rear TV screens, and load up the on-board 60 GB hard drive with films to keep the kids entertained on long drives. There’s also adaptive cruise control, lane assist, an excellent 360-degree park assist system and a configurable TFT display in between the rev-counter and speed dial.

However, those classic Bentley issues with tech did rear their head on our test car. The check engine oil light refused to turn off throughout our time with the Bentley. And once, when switching to sport mode while on the move, the system had a meltdown and displayed massive warnings on the screen telling us to have the car checked at our Bentley dealer. Another time, the driver’s door (which has a self-closing mechanism) failed to close properly. A quick restart of the car solved two out of three of these issues, but you get the impression that they wouldn’t have come up if you were in a BMW, Audi or Mercedes.

Running costs

Okay, you’re spending AED 1.3 million on your car. You don’t care about running costs. Still, in terms of fuel economy, you’re looking at 25.3 l/100 km. Using some quick MotorGeeks maths, this means you’ll be filling up the 85-litre fuel tank with Super 98 for AED 180 every 350 km or so. For insurance, you’ll be paying anywhere between AED 26,000 and AED 50,000 for a fully comprehensive policy. And, upon driving out the showroom, you’ll immediately knock something like AED 300,000 off the resale value. Is that a price worth paying for your own slab of ultimate Bentley luxury? Some will say yes.

Our verdict

This is arguably the most capable Bentley currently available. It may not have the sleek looks or the sportiness of the Continental GT, but it delivers so much more space, luxury and practicality that that’s a trade-off worth making. If you want a Bentley, this is probably the one to have.

You might look at the Bentayga’s price tag and conclude that the Range Rover represents much better value. And you’d be correct. But this is an SUV for the super-elite. It defies logic in its pricing, and instead looks to attract buyers for whom car purchases are an emotional, rather than logical, decision. Plus, Bentley is largely correct when it says that the Bentayga is the best SUV in the world. Having driven it, we’d struggle to disagree.