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29 May, 2019 1:00pm Jonathan Burn
We hit the track in the new Bentley Bentayga Speed, the world’s fastest SUV
A 2.5 tonne SUV does not belong on a racetrack, but that’s where we find ourselves with the new Bentley Bentayga Speed. This particular SUV holds the rather extraneous title, some could argue, as the world’s fastest – hence our location.
This is our first opportunity to get to grips with the Bentayga Speed, but it is far from a thorough test; limited to several laps of Anglesey Circuit in Wales we’re able to get only a taste of what the latest addition to Bentley’s Speed portfolio is capable of – a more in-depth road test will follow.
Let’s start with the numbers, because they make for quite some reading: the 6.0-litre W12 engine churns out 626bhp and 900Nm of torque, which can slingshot the Bentayga Speed from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds and carry on until it hits 190mph. It will also set you back £182,000 – a £40,000 premium over a regular Bentayga V8.
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A Lamborghini Urus, previously the world’s fastest SUV, will get from 0-62mph 0.3 seconds quicker than the Bentley, but in a game of top trumps the heavyweight Brit will outrun it by less than 1mph.
There’s isn’t a great deal to mark the Bentayga Speed out as the halo SUV in the range, with the exception of a unique finish to the front grille, a subtle bodykit and roof-mounted rear wing. It’s a subtle overhaul, but the Bentayga was hardly an SUV lacking in presence to begin with.
It’s the same story in the cabin where the main change is the addition of swathes of Alcantara trim on the seats, steering wheel and dash. And it’s unlikely you’ll ever see two Bentayga Speeds the same given the level of customisation offered on the Bentley Mulliner programme.
Mechanically the changes are all software-based, so all of the oily bits remain as they were. Instead Bentley’s engineers have focused on the Bentayga’s complex electronic systems to manipulate how the SUV drives. All of the changes occur when you select Sport on the plethora of driving modes offered – there are eight in total. Here, the newcomer’s damping and active anti-roll bars are stiffened, while the exhaust volume is cranked up.
The extra 30bhp is difficult to pick up on in the Speed given the torque-rich nature of the W12 engine. It serves up all of its power from little more than idle, at 1,500rpm, so the Bentayga accelerates with a relentless surge that belies its sheer size and 2.5 tonne kerbweight.
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It also remains remarkably flat and stable during high-speed corners, something Anglesey isn’t short on, which allows you to really lean on the front axle and four-wheel-drive system, using as much of the engine’s vast reserves of power as you dare.
The reins on the Speed’s traction control setting have also been relaxed, so by taking an aggressive approach with steering inputs and the throttle, you can encourage the bulbous back end into small slides. There aren’t many SUVs which so effectively package dynamic prowess and luxury together – the Porsche Cayenne Turbo comes close.
Of course, it has its limits; carry too much speed into a corner and its the front axle that will lose grip first, ploughing into speed-sapping understeer. One extra on the extensive options list that will be worth splashing out on, if for whatever reason you intend taking your Bentayga Speed on track, are the carbon-ceramic brakes. They help shed speed as fast as the engine helps pile it on.
Given more than half of Bentley’s sales are made up of Bentaygas, it was inevitable the brand’s first SUV would be in line for the Speed treatment. The performance upgrade cements the model’s place as one of the most dynamically capable SUVs on the market. But for some customers, the fact it is now once again the fastest SUV in the world will be enough for them to part with their cash.
- Model: Bentley Bentayga Speed
- Price: £182,200
- Engine: 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12
- Power/torque: 626bhp/900Nm
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 3.9 seconds
- Top speed: 190mph
- Economy/CO2: 21.4mpg/308g/km
- On sale: Now