Those interested in the superbly engineered but excruciatingly titled Bentayga now have another variant to consider, the Bentayga Speed.
All the hallmarks of a modern Bentley Speed model are there, such as increased power from the W12 engine (up from 447kW to 467kW) and a honed chassis tune, including firmer suspension and new settings in Sport mode that sharpen up the mapping for the engine, transmission and innovative 48-volt active roll control system. Carbon-ceramic brakes are available too.
Visually, you will probably notice the tail spoiler first, which brings some presence but only at the price of making an already ugly exterior uglier still. But there are also smoked headlights, body-coloured side skirts, bespoke (and massive) 22-inch rims, a darkened grille and Speed badging.
Meanwhile, the interior has been turned into a suede fetishist’s delight with all the Alcantara that has landed therein. It really shouldn’t work at all in such a car but somehow it does, and really well. Anyway, if you don’t like it, Bentley will do yours with leather at no extra cost.
Talking of which, the Bentayga Speed lobs in Australia with a price of $491,000, a fair old step up from the previous range-topper, the $427,300 Bentayga W12 that continues with the less-powerful engine spec.
If you like this kind of car, and I concede that’s a mighty big ‘if’, you will likely love the Bentayga Speed. Forget the claim that it’s the world’s fastest SUV unless you consider a top speed 1km/h higher than that of the Lamborghini Urus a deal sealer. Nor should you concern yourself with its 3.9sec 0-100km/h time because it’s a scant tenth quicker than the non-Speed Bentayga, which was already plenty quick enough for a car weighing the same as a couple of base-spec VW Golfs.
Instead, feel the performance: yes, the Speed now has the same engine that the non-Speed Continental GT has had all along (how confusing is that going to be when the actual Conti Speed turns up?), but it’s a wonderful motor, with a thundering voice and a bellyful of torque.
Finally, Bentley’s modern 12-cylinder engine is starting to acquire the same level of character as its ancient pushrod V8, and the Bentayga is all the better both for it, as well as the exceptionally deft interactions with its ZF gearbox.
The suspension changes are all for the good too. The firmer settings have done no harm to the Bentayga’s always peachy ride quality and some might find they even prefer an additional degree of body control given how much body there is in need of controlling.
Best of all, Bentley’s engineers have settled for merely a slightly sporting feel, which fits very well the character of both the car and the company.
This is no sports car and nor does it try to be, yet it handles far better than anyone has a right to expect.
If you’re not into big, expensive and luxurious SUVs, not only will the Bentayga Speed fail to change your mind but it will also more likely entrench your position.
If you are so inclined, however, be advised that you can judge for yourself the worst aspects of this car simply by looking at these pages. If you can face or even like its appearance, and if you don’t mind driving a car called a Bentley Bentayga, the rest of the news is entirely good – apart, of course, when you have to drop another hundred dollars of unleaded into it, which will be quite often.
While Bentley is still struggling to get its head around what kind of style to present to the outside world, the substance is better than ever.
Of course, the Bentayga comes from the same stock as the Audi Q8, Urus and Porsche Cayenne, but the virtue of a meal lies not only in its ingredients but also the skill of the chef. And the truth is, this strong, silent, comfortable and cosseting big Bentley is as good an example of its art as exists out there at present.
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BENTLEY BENTAYGA SPEED SPECS
Engine: 5950cc W12, DOHC, 48v, twin-turbo
Power: 467kW @ 5000rpm
Torque: 900Nm @ 1750-4500rpm
0-100km/h: 3.9sec (claimed)
Likes: Thundering 12-cylinder engine; sharpened chassis; high level of luxury; transmission
Dislikes: Even less attractive than the regular model; massive weight; fuel consumption
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars