Bentley Bentayga

Bentley’s first SUV mates a twin-charged W12 gasoline engine with a 48V electronic/electric architecture to offer better chassis control

Testing the Bentayga off-road took the development team to North America, South Africa and the Middle East. Guest is bullish about the vehicle’s ability, saying that only its ground clearance stops it from going anywhere that a Range Rover can go.

He adds: “It’s predominantly about power. If you’re going up a 45° sand dune, for example, as long as you have power and traction you’ll be OK. And with 447kW/900Nm we aren’t short of power, so the job was to make sure that we always maintain traction.”

The vehicle has four driver-selectable off-road settings – snow and grass, dirt and gravel, mud and trail, and sand dunes – that modify the vehicle’s permanent all-wheel drive system which consists of a Torsen centre differential, and open rear differential with electronic diff lock. Guest, perhaps simplistically, says that clever calibration work on the chassis control systems helps maintain traction.

But while off-road ability might be a new area of development for Bentley, it isn’t as new as working with companies such as Apple. Increasing levels of infotainment and connectivity are trends that everyone has to follow, and it could be argued that any Bentley needs to be at the forefront of developments. But the Bentayga is the first vehicle in the company’s line-up to integrate Apple’s CarPlay mirroring system, and it proved to be a learning curve for the development team. “We’ve never done it before and it’s strange to have companies such as Apple involved in the development process,” says Guest. “They had to have a car to validate their system in.”

Entering the SUV sector required Bentley’s engineers to take a slightly different approach from the firm’s traditional development programmes. It also opened up technologies that could be transferred to the firm’s other vehicles.

And, although when the firm unveiled its very first concept of the Bentayga – the EXP 9F – at the Geneva motor show in 2012 there were many who were sceptical, competitors are following. Guest is keen to see what approach firms such as Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini take with their SUVs.

But as those vehicles appear and the market becomes more competitive, Bentley may have to expand its SUV line-up, either with whole new vehicles, or variants of the Bentayga with different powertrains. So it will be interesting to see what new technologies the firm introduces.

tags: June 2016 Bentley Hybrids & EVs Powertrain