When is an SUV, a large SUV? When it’s a Bentley, of course. And what better place to be immersed in the full Bentley experience than Crewe, the spiritual home.
Bentley moved from their original factory in London in 1946, which was just behind Baker Street. Their new home in Crewe had been used from 1938 to 1945 to build and assemble Merlin engines for various aeroplanes used in the second World War.
Bentley started in business in 1919, so last year celebrated 100 years. Quite a milestone for any company. But in that century, it has not always been plane sailing, with many difficulties and problems on the way.
The Bentayga we drove around Cheshire was powered by a 4.0-litre Twin-Turbocharged V8 petrol that produces 550ps and goes from 0-60 mph in a sprightly 4.4 seconds, it has a top speed of 180 mph (290km/h) where allowed … which is virtually nowhere. It has a combined fuel consumption figure of 21.7 mpg or 13-litres per 100 km.
In 2019 Bentley delivered 11,006 cars to customers worldwide with the new Continental GT taking first place and the Bentayga in second. In 2020 they expect sales figures to rise to up to 16,000 as the new Flying Spur goes on-sale, plus more of their vehicles will be offered with hybrid technology. The Bentayga is already available with a plug-in hybrid that is capable of travelling around 24 miles on pure electric. By 2023 all Bentley models will be offered with hybrid technology.
Bentley, which these days is part of the Volkswagen Group, is doing all it can to be carbon neutral. It has over 22,000 solar panels on site, which can power up to 60% of the energy they use. For every one tree they use in production, they plant three.
Before the drive we were allowed into the factory, which is exceptionally clean, and seemed to be full of happy people. Bentley employ 4,200 people who work in various departments and in different parts of the factory.
We went into the trimming shop were the hides are prepared. The hides are only from bulls that are kept in fields that do not have any barbed wire, so as not to damage the hide. The hides are dyed to any colour the customer wants, and lastly they’re cut using highly-specialised machines in the trimming shop. Every Continental GT uses 8 hides and a Bentayga 12.
We saw the Bentley logos that go on the headrests being produced, with every one having 4,760 stitches in one badge. A little known fact is the badge has 10 wings on the left, and 11 on the right. This was an early security feature, purposefully designed like this to catch out counterfeiting.
Then it was into the wood shop where all the veneers are produced and cut into shape. These go through many time-consuming processes to end up with a perfect finish that is unmistakably Bentley.
Finally, we ventured into final assembly where all the pieces of the jigsaw come together. The bare body enters the factory and after everything has been fitted by hand – such as electrics, trims, engine, gearbox, seats, wheels and everything else in a car – it is fired up and a new Bentley is born. Numerous tests are carried out on every car before it is despatched to its new owner anywhere in the world.
In the factory they do have their own medical team and even 53 defibrillators scattered around. Maybe these are needed when a customer starts adding specification to their cars, then find out the price!!?
After a spot of lunch it was time to take the Bentayga, on the road in a wet and miserable day in Cheshire. Once you get into this large SUV it is so apparent it’s oozing luxury, and having just seem them being assembled and all the trim being hand-crafted it made it even more special.
The car we had was the ‘Design Edition’ which had around £28,000 of UK list options included in the car, but this did make the cost around £180,000. Probably the most expensive car I have driven in my long time in the motor industry.
The power was amazing, although you couldn’t really try it in the poor weather conditions on the roads around Crewe.
Put your foot on the loud-pedal and it was off, despite its size and weight. It is so quiet and refined and hardly any engine, wind or road noise enters the cabin. The automatic gearbox is smooth and effortless. It is just a joy to drive.
The Bentayga is 5.14m long, so is a large car, but the disadvantage is parking it in tight multi-storey or supermarket car parks, a bit tight in any car park. The advantage is, it is huge inside, with loads of legroom, and a massive luggage area.
The Bentley Bentayga is a great SUV, it has everything, quality, craftmanship, the finest materials available, performance, comfort, everyone is unique, and those very prestigious Bentley badges. Yes it is expensive, and yes you can buy other luxury SUV’s for half the money, but if you are a multi-millionaire, what is two-hundred grand for a very nice car..?
And if you’re not a multi-millionaire, then prices do start at just over £130,000. It’s when you start adding on a few nice options the price starts to rise dramatically.