Founded in Crewe in 1919, Bentley has recognized the world over as the manufacturer and marketer of quintessential British Luxury cars & SUVs. Brothers Walter & Horace Bentley began their motoring careers selling French DFP cars in North London. Whilst in his office in Cricklewood, Walter took inspiration from an aluminum paperweight on his office desk and calculated that this same material could be used in manufacturing lightweight pistons for high-performance engines. Fueled by their passion for innovative and high-performance vehicles, the first Bentley rolled off the production line in September 1921.
Over the coming years, Bentley’s cars formed a solid reputation for exceptional durability and performed well at races and hill climb events. Having been acquired by Rolls Royce in 1931 and more recently Volkswagen in 1998, the brand has managed to stave off the commercialization and subsequent loss of character often associated with large company takeovers. To the contrary, the Bentley brand has flourished and displays now more than ever its quirky and somewhat eccentric English roots.
Now a household name, the modern Bentley is renowned for its industry leading performance and luxury design features. The Continental GTS is considered by many to be the ultimate British sports car, featuring classic looks with modern twists and industry-leading driving technology. The 6 liter, 626bhp engine delivers 0-60mph in 4 seconds, and with a top speed of 206mph, leaves little doubt as to its racing pedigree. The body shape is a classic, dating back over 10 years, modern touches and a sumptuous, well-equipped interior make the car perfectly relevant for modern life.
Another testament to the incredible and indelible design of the brand, the Flying Spur. The name alone evokes unprecedented levels of intrigue and excitement. Don’t let the decidedly ‘grown up’ design fool you. This cabin seats up to 5 adults in 5-star luxury. And beneath the hood lies a signature W12 Bentley beast. That’s right, W12. Because in the world of Bentley, why make do with one V6 when you can bind two together to make a W12.
It’s precisely this innovative approach to car design that gave birth to the Bentley Bentayga, the world’s fastest SUV. Featuring the same 6 liters W12 as found in the Flying Spur, the car matches the Spur’s 0-60 time of just 4 seconds and tops out at a phenomenal 187mph – certainly a best in class performance for the luxury SUV sector. Combine this with their 4×4 drive system, no less than 8 driving modes and a healthy of that famous British eccentricity, and you truly have a car fit for a king of the wilderness.
The Destination Luxury team was invited by the Bentley team to test-drive the Bentayga across Dunton, Colorado. It was a unique experience where the team had the opportunity to drive through snow, rain, grass, asphalt, rocky grain, mountains and try all 8 gears of the car. We stayed a couple of nights at the exotic Dunton Hot Spring resort.
We were lucky enough to catch up with their Product Marketing Manager, John Simons, who took us through everything. With over one million miles of test driving in conditions ranging from the Arctic tundra to desert sand dunes, it’s clear that no stone has been left unturned in developing both the on and off-road capabilities of the Bentayga. Before we get too excited by the sheer power of that W12 engine, John reminded us that ‘performance is nothing without control’, and introduced us to Bentley’s all-new Dynamic Ride system, just one of the innovative technologies that lie at the heart of the car.
From the front, it’s the Bentayga’s imposing grille and air intakes that capture your imagination. Bold, brash and larger-than-life, it leaves little doubt that this car means business. Chunky off-road tires, robust yet stylish alloy wheels and powerful lights add practicality, while the bodywork gives a nod to Bentley’s former days.
The car’s sumptuous interior is the result of the 25 hours spent hand-stitching the premium leather which has been tanned and dyed to Bentley’s own bespoke specifications. The steering wheel alone is the product of 15 hours of love and attention which is immediately apparent from its luxurious feel. Elegant chrome work, intuitive systems, and infinitely adjustable seats combine to prove that this is a car that is meant to be driven on long trips. The level of comfort for driver and passengers alike is bar none.
Finding an area to give such a diverse vehicle the test drive it deserves was a true challenge, but the area around Colorado’s Dunton Hot Springs proved to be just what we were looking for. Steep and often winding roads; gravel, rock and asphalt and even a sprinkling of rain allowed us to put the Bentayga through its paces in its natural environment.
Two hours from the airport, a fleet of Bentaygas drove to Dunton Hot Springs. It was the beginning of a gorgeous and scenic trek. The air was fresh and the cars glided with ease.
As luxurious as the resort, automobile, landscape was, the food was equally as magnificent. Our hosts didn’t cut short on any part of the experience.
The car has bridged the gap between performance and luxury flawlessly. The handling was truly unbelievable across each and every type of terrain we threw at it. The 4-wheel capabilities are exemplary for a car of its size and can easily be compared to those of any leading off-road vehicle. Cornering is smooth and positive even at high speeds, without ever losing sight of the youthful fun that inspires off road drivers. Combined with the supreme levels of comfort and safety that lie at the core of the Bentayga’s existence, it truly stands within a class of its own within the 4WD category.
As a testing ground, the Dunton Hot Springs complemented the Bentayga perfectly. Lush forests, crystal clear streams, dramatic mountains and winding ribbons of tarmac felt like the natural habitat of a car like the Bentley. Roaming such a breath-taking landscape from the man-made beauty of the Bentayga was, quite simply, staggering. Nothing was too much for the car which rose to the occasion without hesitation no matter what challenge we threw at it.
To test the limits of the car, we went fly fishing with our hosts. In fact, they created a limited edition fly fishing vehicle, custom-made for fishing enthusiasts. We scoured the Colorado River hunting for our meal. Unfortunately, we didn’t catch fish, but many of us experienced this for the first time.
Most people underestimate the power of Bentley’s SUV. Although it’s a luxury vehicle, it was meant to be ridden cross-country and experience dirt. Thanks to the team at Bentley for the wonderful experience.