The luxury SUV segment is well served by vehicles such as the Range Rover, the Porsche Cayenne and even the Cadillac Escalade, but there are still niches that can be filled as OEMs look to SUVs to grow their businesses.
Porsche has proven that the vehicle type can have an incredibly positive affect, as it produces more SUVs than the traditional sports cars it is most famous for.
The management team at Bentley recognised this potential – its chief executive, Wolfgang Dürheimer especially saw what SUVs could do for the business – and in 2011 the development programme for the Bentley Bentayga entered its initial stages.
Programme director Peter Guest says: “The brief was pretty simple: to develop the most powerful, fastest, most luxurious SUV.”
Bentley is well known for its über-luxury limousines such as the Mulsanne, and the Continental sports car, but SUVs aren’t something the firm has a history of developing. “We were going into a white space so there was no template, no formula,” says Guest. “So we benchmarked just about every vehicle that might be associated with the segment and came up with target sets.”
The development team wanted the Bentayga to match the Porsche Cayenne for performance and steering feel and the Range Rover for utility, but at the same time maintain the craftsmanship and refinement of Bentley’s other vehicles.
The latter was the easiest of the propositions, as knowledge from the Mulsanne and Flying Spur limousines was injected into the Bentayga, says Guest. Also vital was knowledge of the firm’s twin-charged W12 gasoline engine, which helped the Bentayga become the fastest SUV, with a top speed of 301km/h.
“Although it looks like the previous-generation W12, it’s actually all-new,” he says. “It uses two twin-scroll turbochargers, cylinder deactivation, port fuel injection and direct injection, which means you get good emissions, performance and driveability.”
The unit – linked to ZF’s eight-speed automatic transmission – produces 447kW of power between 5,000rpm and 6,000rpm, with maximum torque of 900Nm from 1,350rpm. This allows the 5,140mm long, 2,440kg SUV to reach 100km/h in 4 seconds. CO2 emissions are 296g/km and 13.1 litres/100km of fuel are used on the NEDC test cycle.
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