In the market for a fast, luxurious British SUV, money no object? Bentley and Range Rover have a couple of options for you
|Bentley||Engine||Power||Torque||0-100kph||Top speed||Weight||Basic price|
|Bentayga||W12, twin-turbo, 5950cc||600bhp @ 5000-6000rpm||900Nm (664lb ft) @ 1350-4500rpm||4.1 secs||301kph||2440kg (246bhp/ton)||$257,800|
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|Range Rover||Engine||Power||Torque||0-100kph||Top speed||Weight||Basic price|
|SV Autobiography||V8, supercharged, 5000cc||542bhp @ 6000-6500rpm||740Nm (546lb ft) @ 3500-4000rpm||5.4 secs||225kph||2465kg (220bhp/ton)||$244,700|
You could forgive Bentley for feeling a bit smug when the Bentayga finally arrived. Following the whole ‘will they, won’t they’ debate on whether the Bentley EXP 9 F SUV concept would actually materialise (and the, er, colourful reaction when it did) the rumour mill went into overdrive, many wondering if the British purveyor of affluent limousines had bitten off sizably more than it could chew. How wrong we were. Massive resources from parent company Volkswagen, well-furrowed ground courtesy of the Porsche Cayenne, and an unwavering focus on brand identity meant Bentley produced an SUV with, possibly, the broadest remit of any car on-sale today. What else, for instance, could offer luxury build quality with a badge to match, capabilities on-road and off, stonking power output, and a top speed rivalling most sports cars? Whilst remaining quintessentially British? Well, there’s this…
Chances are if you were a company CEO or head of state in the last three decades, with surprisingly deep pockets, a hankering for SUVs and British craftsmanship, and no real desire to be seen in a Porsche, your garage boasted a Range Rover. Long distance cruising was an added bonus, the fourth gen upping the premium ante yet further upon its arrival in 2012. The cosmic leap though came just a few years ago when Range Rover – now up to speed with this ‘luxury motoring’ thing – unveiled the SV Autobiography. Replacing the company’s outgoing Autobiography Black, the Special Vehicle Operations-built monster was Range Rover’s most luxurious specification yet, all the while maintaining the off-road ability expected of a Range Rover. And with a teeth-drying $245K(ish) price tag. Solid Bentley territory then. But which of our two 550bhp-plus, luxury British SUVs would today’s head of state opt for?
Understandably, given the half a mill of CEO shifters we have at our disposal today, a couple of ‘suggestions’ from each brand have been offered. First up, no off-roading, and since the front bumper of either could cover the deposit of a Golf GTI in good nick, we’re happy to acquiesce. The second though is more intriguing: it’s been brought to our attention – several times – that neither the Bentayga nor SV Autobiography share the same segment, the Bentley seen as more luxurious and the Range Rover more capable across various terrain. Hair-pulling aside, there is a degree of truth to that, as we find out once the convoy gets underway.
“God it’s fast. 600bhp and 664lb ft of torque mean zero to the ton is mullered in four seconds flat en-route to 300kph+”
Having called dibs a hair quicker, I deposit myself for the opening stretch in the Bentley, my partner in crime AJ doing likewise in the Range Rover. The driving position in the Bentayga is surprisingly low for a luxury cruiser, the Range Rover proving considerably higher as I find out later in the day and the driving sensation more lofty as a result. Up front, the ‘wing’ design dashboard and more pronounced position of the centre console means the Bentley’s cockpit is more cosseting than the more cavernous Range Rover. Of course the sheer size of these behemoths means space is still plentiful – the 5,140mm-long Bentayga is just pipped by the 5,199mm long wheelbase Range Rover – but already some dynamic colours are starting to shine through the Bentley’s ‘Extreme (urgh) Silver’ paintwork.
Powering the Bentayga for instance is a ‘completely redesigned’ version of the 6-litre twin-turbo W12 in the Flying Spur and Mulsanne limousines, now 24 per cent shorter and 30kg lighter for greater performance focus. It shows.
God it’s fast. Properly, PROPERLY fast. 600bhp and 664lb ft of torque mean zero to the ton is mullered in four seconds flat en-route to 300kph+, top trumping the SV Autobiography by 1.4 seconds and 85kph respectively. Put your foot down and acceleration is simply brutal, and yet – in-keeping with the Bentley badge – almost refined. Far from scrabbling at the tarmac and gnashing at the bit, deep reservoirs of low to mid-range torque as well as that ferocious power output come together in a gathering surge of acceleration, one that turns the landscape to a blur without whiplashing your neck into the monogrammed headrest. Such things wouldn’t be Bentley, old boy…
Though the Range Rover quickly disappears in my rear-view mirror, to call the SV Autobiography ‘slow’ would be a huge disservice. Under that enormous bonnet after all lies the same 5-litre supercharged V8 as found in Range Rover’s performance-focused SVR, complete with 542bhp and 546lb ft of torque. Even with an additional 130kg ballast on top of the SVR’s already ample 2335kg kerb weight, the Range Rover can shift. The initial response might even be slightly more impressive than in the Bentley, whose twin scroll turbochargers take just a hair longer to spool up.
“With the Bentayga, Bentley produced an SUV with, possibly, the broadest remit of any car on-sale today”
I’d even argue that a slight – ever so slight – drop in enthusiasm into the high revs means the Range Rover’s V8 is more responsive across a wider range than the Bentley’s W12. Mid-range though is where the difference can truly be felt, the Range Rover’s acceleration more progressive compared with the Bentley’s more aggressive burst of momentum after 3,500rpm. Anyone doubting Bentley’s claim that the Bentayga is the fastest and most powerful production SUV can ease their furrowed brows.
The Bentley’s refined, though no less emphatic, surge of momentum has left me genuinely staggered, something I inadvertently mention to AJ once he’s back within radio frequency. Only a bull upon seeing a red flag could possibly stomp the ground louder, and since I need to catch my breath, I jump into the luxurious, awaiting confines of the Range Rover.
It’s truly stunning, all knurled-aluminium switchgear, diamond-shaped finish to the upholstery and leather, and rising rotary dials from the centre console. The ‘SV Autobiography’ treatment adds a 29-speaker Meridian sound system, discreet trim emblems, reclining ottomans with seat massagers on the second row, some snazzy foldout tables, and a chiller compartment. It’s utterly glorious, both to look at, feel and use. Even if those substantial TV screens can limit forward visibility somewhat…
“There’s little in the way of performance tuning in the SV’s suspension. As such, the ride comfort is pillowy soft and said pillow is filled with marshmallows”
Of course, Bentley-level build quality was always going to be a difficult match, even for the SV Autobiography. The Bentayga’s dashboard is hand-crafted and polished, the stitching machined by the same craftsman for identical quality, and leather mounted to the 18-way adjustable seats from cows bred in fields without barbed wire fences (when was the last time you saw a nick in a Bentley?) In a neat touch, the Stop/Start button has been incorporated into five-way drive-mode select (the infotainment interface is entirely touchscreen), while switchgear on the thin-stalked steering wheel is limited to radio and cruise control, minus some beautifully machined paddles. The cabin design in the Range Rover is gorgeous in its contemporary design. In the Bentley, it’s luxurious in the old school manner we’ve come to expect from Crewe.
Another tick in the box for the Bentayga then, albeit with an asterisk, since the Range Rover has yet to play the ace up its dual-tone sleeves. Ride quality.
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