Friday, September 22, 2017
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Tradition Versus Trend

With luxury SUVs competing with, and, in many cases, overtaking four-door luxury sedans in terms of raw sales, premium car makers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Jaguar and Porsche have now become premium truck makers, too.

That said, Bentley’s new Bentayga is no mere truck, wrapping most of the technology and accoutrements of the similarly priced Flying Spur sedan in a taller package that exhibits proper Bentley behavior both off road and on. Does that render the Flying Spur redundant? Hardly. Both models are spectacularly fast and are hand-assembled using most of the same top-shelf materials by the same highly skilled craftsmen and women that have been building Bentleys for generations at Bent­ley’s Crewe, England, factory, but the experience and appeal of each is remarkably different.

BENTLEY BENTAYGA

Named after the Roque Bentayga, a 4,642-foot mountain peak on Spain’s Grand Canary Island, the brazenly styled Bentley Bentayga blows the ceiling off the “lux-u-vee” segment, with the most power, prestige and sybaritic delights of any SUV available today. It’s more extroverted than the Flying Spur, with throne-height seating positions affording occupants a commanding view of the world, and high-profile styling that has the world looking back.

The Bentayga comes standard with many things, chief among them a bevy of bragging rights. Its standard 12-cylinder engine churns up no less than 600 hp, directed to all four wheels to ensure adequate traction.

 

This makes the Bentayga one of the two most powerful SUVs ever, second only to the comparatively crude, 621-hp Mercedes-AMG G65. However, with its 0-60 mph time of just 3.5 seconds, according to Car and Driver (one of the other outlets I serve—full disclosure), the Bentley is by far the quicker of the two. Just as impressive is its 187-mph top speed, making it the fastest SUV in the world.

You don’t have to hammer the Bentayga, however, to appreciate the creamy ride enabled by its computer-controlled air suspension that also eradicates lean in turns. Those air springs can also raise the vehicle off-road for a maximum ground clearance of 9.2 inches, or lower it when parked to facilitate loading of persons, pups, or procurements from a Saturday shopping spree.

While few Bentayga drivers are likely to explore its top speed or risk scratching its multi-layered lacquer paint (which for a price, can be ordered in whatever color you choose), most will appreciate the Ben­tayga’s unbridled opulence, which remains unmatched among SUVs (at least until Rolls-Royce’s planned crossover arrives next year). Bentley’s “if it looks real, it is real” mantra is full effect, with lustrous wood, but­tery hides and gleaming matte or polished metals. Get the four-place seating with its second-row center console for a full, first-class effect.

At $235,525 (delivered) to start and top-end models crossing the $300K threshold, the world’s fastest and most decadent SUV is also the most expensive, another boon to braggarts, if a rather crass thing to bring up in conversation. That said, it should be assumed that Bentley drivers have money to spend, and it’s somewhat reassuring to know that this particular display of wealth contains so much substance behind it.

BENTLEY FLYING SPUR

Bentley’s Flying Spur sedan is many things, but hard-to-figure-out is not one of them. It’s a classic Bentley sedan, with a swept-back fascia, four low-set headlamps, a mesh grille and a long cabin that stretches back to a tapering tail. Chrome encircles the windows and appears in a few other places, but next to the bold Bentayga, the Flying Spur is subtle, a muscular and sleek saloon with understatement that’s a statement unto itself.

If you’re going to be chaffeured in one of these, the Flying Spur’s more relaxed, cosseting and private cabin makes it the clear choice. Materials are equally splendid, but only the Flying Spur offers quartzite and slate—that’s right, stone!—trim in addition to the longstanding choices in veneer trim, including engine-turned or brushed aluminum, piano black lacquer, or lustrous, mirror-matched wood. As with its SUV counterpart, the Spur’s glove-soft cowhides are sourced from herds that have been protected from biting insects and barbed-wire fences, but our favorite aspect of the Spur’s cabin, as with all Bentleys, is the infusion of warmth from those barely perceptible variations in the stitching, pip­ing, and upholstery gathers, each offering evidence that it was tailored by an actual human being.

Dynamically, the low-slung Flying Spur feels a bit more planted than the Bentayga, so drivers may feel somewhat more confident braving speeds at or above triple digit levels, which are eminently attainable re­gardless of whether it has one of the 500–521-hp V-8s or the 616–626- hp 12-cylinder engines under the “bonnet.” All models attain freeway speeds in well under five seconds on their way to top speeds between 183 and 202 mph. Interestingly, V-8 models feel a bit livelier, with less weight over the front wheels and their delicious exhaust notes. Some can be a tad firm, however, even in the air suspension’s softest setting, however, so reclining rear seaters would be advised to keep a lid on their steaming cups of Earl Gray.

Priced from $206,725, the Flying Spur and Bentayga are priced right atop each other. Which is best, the traditional sedan or the trend-driven truck? Bentley has proved it’s brilliant at both.