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First Drive: The thinking man’s Bentley Bentayga is the V8 diesel

For decades the ultimate luxury SUV was that British icon from Land Rover: the Vogue. Range Rovers are coveted for their elegance, ability and peerless image.

They’ve also never faced a British rival. Until now. Enter Bentley, which certainly outranks JLR on any hierarchy of esteemed brands. Under VW ownership Bentley’s built some rather impressive vehicles over the last tow decades but perhaps none as controversial as its Bentayga SUV.

The latest 2018 Bentayga to launch locally in South Africa is perhaps the most sensible one to own, too. It’s the V8 diesel, powered by a 4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 which converts 50ppm to 320kW and 900Nm. Impressive numbers, but it’s worth remembering just how massive an SUV this Bentley is, weighing at a whisper over 2500kg.

Despite that enormous mass and the little issue of a much higher centre of gravity due to the 245mm of ground clearance, Bentley’s engineers have managed to engineer an SUV which drives something like one would expect for a vehicle from Crewe.

Air-suspension and active anti-roll bars are part of the technical wizardry which help tame body roll during cornering (though there’s no avoiding the tyre howl), whilst a fantastically intuitive all-wheel drive system makes the Bentley SUV feel much more agile than you’d expect. Quick too: 0-100kph in 4.8 seconds is a sterling achievement for something of this size and weight.

The cabin can be optioned to a level of opulence and handcrafted uniqueness that customers have become accustomed to from Bentley and on the move this diesel Bentley is deathly quiet. Only the short-shifting eight-speed transmission gives away any clue that you are driving a diesel because traces of vibration and noise are all but absent.

Not quite as elegant in style as a Range Rover Vogue, the Bentley SUV is faster, has credible off-rad ability and will certainly pull away from a Rangey when the road gets twisty. For Continental traditionalists the issue of a Bentley SUV might be upsetting but if you are a South African Vogue owner, that R2 950 000 Bentayga price point must be awfully bothersome.

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