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Bentley Unleashes the World’s Fastest SUV

Combining over-the-top bespoke luxury and unprecedented power—from zero to 60 mph in four seconds—the Bentayga embodies two great extremes

Bentley’s long-awaited first SUV, the Bentayga, was unveiled to the public this week at the IAA Frankfurt Auto Show. Hours later, the new arrival—which boasts an impressive twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre W12 engine—was celebrated stateside at an official debut at the Breitling boutique in New York City.

The behemoth—named after the Roque Bentayga, a peak on Spain’s Grand Canary Island—was in development for about four years. Much of that time was spent ensuring that the vehicle wouldn’t sacrifice any of Bentley’s trademark elegance, luxurious amenities and recognizable design elements while also creating a car that pushed the envelope in terms of sporty off-road capability.

The Bentley Bentayga interior

Indeed, the Bentayga has a distinctive setting that adjusts parameters on the throttle response and power delivery, allowing it to drive over sand dunes. That feature will probably not come in handy for the Queen of England, who is reportedly the first official owner of the SUV, which, thanks to an aluminum body and distinctive steel-and-aluminum chassis, is surprisingly lightweight for its brand and class. The final product achieved a weight savings of some 520 pounds compared to Bentley’s traditional body construction. With a top speed of 187 mph, it gets 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 on the highway.

It also has a number of built-in systems tailored to driving in urban environments: “Traffic Sign Recognition,” which detects an array of signs and alerts the driver; a “Rear Crossing Traffic Warning,” which uses radar technology when the car is in reverse; and “Top View,” a system that displays an overall view of the vehicle’s surroundings from four cameras. Other available options include park assist, electronic night vision and a head-up display.

“The biggest challenge with any SUV is for the designers,” Michael Winkler, Bentley CEO for the Americas, said at last night’s launch event. “Because at the end of the day—and I’ve been counseled not to say this—you’re starting with a box. You then need to make that box look attractive.”

The Bentley Bentayga trunk

The vehicle, which will be built at the company’s headquarters in Crewe, England, has already taken about 5,000 pre-orders—enough to satisfy the first year of production. As many had expected, American consumers lead the pack in terms of interest. “For Bentley the U.S. in any case is the largest market, and with the SUV that will be even more so the case,” said Winkler.

Asked about Bentley’s partnership with Breitling, the Swiss watchmaker, which plans to release a special-edition timepiece for new Bentayga owners this winter, Winkler remarked on the two brands’ apparent symbiosis.

“Breitling, on the one hand, has a lot of tradition, but also likes to push the envelope—in terms of design and what they do technologically,” he said. “But they’re true to themselves. They don’t do anything crazy.”