Two friends recently joined me for a weekend morning drive to breakfast in a 2017 Bentley Bentayga. One buddy wore a fedora for the occasion, the other a touring cap. Another friend dressed up for a lunch meeting. It wasn’t for the restaurant’s stature, but for his passenger’s role in the plush sport utility vehicle.

The 2017 Bentley Bentayga is the most powerful SUV available.
The 2017 Bentley Bentayga is the most powerful SUV available.

(All images © Michael Kahn, https://www.mklibrary.com)

Bentley does that to people. It’s the manufacturer of cars for royalty, including the Queen of England’s 2002 limousine. It’s the original car author Ian Fleming selected for his James Bond character to drive while wearing his custom-tailored suits. Beyond its elegance, Bentley has won the 24 Hours of LeMans six times.

Bentley will turn 100 in two years and the English carmaker, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, recently invested a queen’s ransom into the brand, and it has a few new vehicles — a rarity among exotic cars.

The Mulsanne sedan, which I recently reviewed, is more than 18 feet long and six feet wide. It was first unveiled in 2009 and its more powerful sibling, the Mulsanne Speed, in a 2014 model. They’ve remained the same generation. But for the 2017 models, they’re joined by a new Flying Spur V8 S model.

And then there’s the Bentayga. It’s the 600-horsepower, SUV for celebrity soccer moms with an appreciation for racetrack driving and variable front and back seat massage capabilities in their vehicles. Or, it’s the appropriate vehicle for car fanciers with $300,000 to spare and who’ve grown tired of every other SUV on the road looking identical.

The Bentayga, named after a rugged peak in the subtropical Canary Islands, is the one percent of the SUV phenomenon. It’s the fastest growing car segment, and so Bentley and Maserati have new elite people haulers while Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini have SUVs planned.

Billed as the fastest SUV ever made, the Bentayga has a top speed of 187 mph and gets the rating via its six-liter W12 engine. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode. It accelerates from 0-60 mph in four seconds, quick enough to appease performance-obsessed souls. Equally impressive, the Bentayga glides down the road as a quiet heavyweight. It’s a high-sitting luxury sedan with SUV tendencies.

Like its siblings, the new Bentley’s exterior is understated, with one exception. Its massive shiny front grille can likely communicate with interplanetary satellites, but its rear end is plain. Several observers noted they didn’t recognize the vehicle as a Bentley or anything else exotic until they viewed the “Winged B” Bentley logo.

The interior exudes refinement rather than flash. Top-grade quilted leather with superior quality cross stitching dominates the cabin. Wood inlays are personalized via customers’ preferences. In my test vehicle, the dark-stained burr walnut ideally complemented the leather motif like an homage to Architectural Digest. The sound system was concert hall quality, the safety and technology features state of the art. Comfort reigned.

Environmentalists would likely cast a scornful attitude since the Bentayga has ratings of 12 mpg in city driving and 19 mpg in highway treks. But that’s the nature of the massive horsepower, powerful machines. Green car honors aren’t part of the equation.

Bentley has never been a high volume manufacturer. A reported 5,000 Bentayga models are set for 2017, with about one-third of the production slated for North American distribution. Buy one and dress appropriately.

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