|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|
—We cannot display this gallery
|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|
It’s the crucial area that lifted the SV Autobiography above both a BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class in our recent group test. Despite 542bhp, there’s little in the way of performance tuning in the SV’s suspension and damping (customers have the SVR for that). As such, the ride comfort is pillowy soft and said pillow is filled with marshmallows. It’s close to faultless, only the most abrasive of road imperfections being transmitted through those 22in wheels (which you’ll need by the way if you want that 250kph top speed). Seal the deal with supportive but no less cushioning electric seats and not even a hint of road roar or intrusive engine notes.
Conversely, the ‘performance potential’ of that warbling W12 and versatile suspension has compromised the Bentayga slightly. Bentley’s active anti-roll bars have been specially developed for both maximum comfort and body control. Select Comfort and that ferocious acceleration is curtailed, the suspension arms less pincered for improved ride quality (turn to ‘Sport’ to really feel those arms hunker down). Road undulations can still be felt more tangibly through the dampers though, the Bentayga not floating in the manner a Bentley should. But let’s not be ridiculous. It’s still a Bentley. If the Range Rover’s ride quality usurps the Bentayga’s, it’s done so at the very extreme end of the luxury spectrum.
Highway stretches opulently completed, our half a million dollar convoy pulls over for another stop ahead of the next sweeping stretch of tarmac. First item of business is selecting ‘Bentley’ drive mode, the recommended middle ground between Comfort and Sport. And my, is it effective.
Much like its Continental sister model, the composure and capabilities of the 2347kg Bentayga are genuinely impressive. A surprisingly low centre of gravity, good weight distribution and the same MLB chassis as used in the Porsche Cayenne produce flat cornering and seriously impressive mid-corner balance. Feed the power in slowly and you’ll also be impressed with the amount of traction across that 40/60 front-rear power split. There’s still the usual ‘sporty’ SUV handling tropes to deal with, obviously: on corner entry, that massive weight transfer works the outside tyres hard, and even at eight-tenths, there’s an underlying threat of understeer. The sharpness of the Cayenne is still a tough benchmark to beat.
Still though the Bentley’s handling is impressive. A lick more feedback through the low-to-mid weighted power steering wouldn’t go amiss, but there’s a certain amount of caution in this regard. A Bentley that actively encourages engaging driving surely smacks company convention square in the kisser, does it not?
“If the Range Rover’s ride quality usurps the Bentayga’s, it’s done so at the very extreme end of the luxury spectrum”
It’s no real surprise that, in terms of handling precision, the Range Rover struggles to get on equal footing with its British rival. The centre of gravity is much higher and the balance through the corners is more compromised. And yet there’s a superb amount of grip available, understeer being kept at arm’s far longer than you might think. Power-assisted steering means connection to the front end lacks definition, the almost soup-like smoothness from lock-to-lock perfect for long highway bursts but lacking the crisp response required through the corners. Let’s not forget too that, though the SV receives bespoke black callipers, said discs are considerably smaller than those on the lighter Bentley too. Late-braking into the corners will only work for so long before fade inevitably arrives.
The basics done and dusted and a Head of State to choose a new car for, we’re now down to the decider. Range Rover SV Autobiography or Bentley Bentayga? Which is our luxury British SUV of choice?
Hmm, tricky. Through the corners, it’s an easy ‘win’ for the Bentley, for while the agility is not quite up to the standards of its own family, further focus on composure and ‘performance’ would invariably compromise the luxurious nature of the SUV, something Bentley absolutely cannot afford. Ditto the superb quality and design of the cabin, it’s as beautiful as we’d expect – nay demand – from Crewe, against which rivals will always struggle. And while straight-line speed freaks may already have been won over by that 600bhp output and BMW M5 rivalling 0-100kph time, the Range Rover nevertheless poses a strong case for itself. Astonishingly, the SV Autobiography’s ride surpasses even that of the Bentley, a hallmark of that long wheelbase and heavily massaged suspension setup. Couple that with a more opulent environment for rear passengers, a still eye-wateringly quick supercharged V8, and a price tag more than $10K off the top, and what more could you – and indeed targeted customers – reasonably ask of a luxury British SUV?
Clearly nothing for AJ, who’s already decided that the Range Rover is his luxury British SUV of choice. “It just feels more sophisticated, and honestly, more mature than the Bentley” he explains, and I can see his reasoning. Even that dual-tone paintwork doesn’t disguise the more understated though no less striking design of the Range Rover, where handling and cornering precision categorically plays second fiddle to comfort in the marque’s most luxuriating example yet.
“What more could you – and indeed targeted customers – reasonably ask of a luxury British SUV?”
I meanwhile am struggling to vote against the Bentley, albeit with a few weighty question marks hanging over my decision: the Bentayga’s asking price is a tad mountainous, impressive performance capabilities have compromised interior comfort more than they arguably should in a luxury model, and even though the cornering is impressive, Bentley’s first SUV is still beaten into second place by the sharper handling Porsche Cayenne. It does rather leave the Bentayga in self-built limbo.
Saying that, the interior design and build quality is up there with Crewe’s finest, the sensation of speed is nothing less than astonishing, and the composure under cornering may not be the benchmark just yet, but is nevertheless mightily impressive for an SUV of its size. It’s a performance that fuels conversation long after the engines of both have ticked themselves cool, and even several days afterwards, leading to that most unfortunate of circumstances: deadlock. That the two are the best luxury SUVs on the market today is beyond question. Whether you place more demand on performance or comfort, Mr Head of State, is entirely down to you…
- Technical specifications available on page 3