An article titled “The Psychology of Luxury Car Buyers: 7 considerations” comes up when you research the average age of a Bentley driver. It was written by a journalist that I looked up to find out whether she was a psychologist or not. No matter how many qualifications, she is simply not a psychologist by training nor shows any experience in the field.
Yet she used this term to encourage the reader. It gave her authenticity, presence, confidence; it gave her an authority she wielded over the reader based entirely on a false premise. I had to find her on LinkedIn to finally realize it was a facade.
Her article was perfectly fine; it was clearly written, she made some great points and gave great sources but this basic transgression undercut the entire experience for me. Which is in a sense what I feel when I hold this Bentley’s seatbelt buckle, noticing it has “BENTLEY” engraved on the metal, a centimeter away from a printed VW logo on the plastic cover.
Let us be honest though, we all puff up our chests at times to gain authority. Hell, I’m complaining about this professional journalist with years of education and experience when I used the same cheat a few months ago. What’s wrong with wanting a little help? What’s wrong with a strong facade to embolden oneself?
In that sense, I forget about the VW belt buckle and the number of other parts that carry the giant’s name somewhere on their surface. The Bentayga is uniquely prepared to make you feel bigger than you are; you inherit its size, and isn’t that the whole point of any Bentley?
I was stricken at times by how strange this vehicle feels to drive, being a Bentley I expected a more luxurious pace for the controls; the throttle is too finicky and the brakes are touchy. Other controls feel unnatural; the gear selector is quite strange to me, and so is the concept of the starter button being on top of the mode selector, especially because there are two buttons next to the steering column that I pressed by accident trying to turn it off; I accidentally reset the trip odometer.
I thought this unnecessary complexity would make the Bentayga unwelcoming to the older people that I’d imagine are the primary audience for this car. But in reality, nowadays high-end luxury cars are sold to younger and younger people who do want and understand all the beeps and boops, abundant displays, driving modes, and passive safety features.
One funny detail is that when Sport mode is selected, a warning shows up on the instrument cluster telling you forward collision warning is disabled. So Sport mode is basically tailgating mode. But worry not, even if the throttle is finicky in Comfort and Bentley mode, in Sport mode it feels adequate.
This twin-turbo, W12 motor is a firecracker; it revs quickly, sounds great and lets this 2.5 metric ton SUV gather speed like it’s falling off a cliff. Electric sway bars, four-wheel steering, and an AWD setup make it feel much more compact than it actually is, the huge brakes make it feel lighter than it is. This car could unnerve some serious sportscars down a highway, a back road, or even a city street. It’s not even a game of cat and mouse; it’s more like a game of tiger and a piece of steak.
But it takes a couple of clicks of the mode selector to make it behave like a wholly different animal; In comfort mode, the suspension is softened and the engine feels quieter. The car is turned into a relaxed cruiser that irons out most of the shitty pavement in these Galician backroads; on a motorway, I’d be surprised if expansion joints were noticeable. Despite the huge footprint of the car and the tires, road noise is minimal. It makes the Naim audio system really stand out; letting me notice some details about my music that I had never heard before.
Other features are not as impressive; I felt that the interior was lacking for rear occupants, not surprisingly it felt comparable to the room in a Cayenne. Clearly, the Bentayga is made for people who drive themselves; and in that sense, it’s adequate for shorter people than me, but I wonder why someone would buy this over, say, a Flying Spur?
Evidently, there is an appeal to the added height of the Bentayga; a secure, commanding view of the road ahead that a Flying Spur goes without, and practically no drawbacks other than rear seating room. More specifically, the Bentayga is the most affordable Bentley; and the one available with the most motors. Here in Europe, you can have four distinct engine configurations. One of them is around the same price as the most expensive Cayenne. *gasps*
Nonetheless; the Bentayga comes superfluously equipped; there’s leather practically everywhere to the point that I question the usability of the endeavor. There’s leather on top of the cargo area cover, there’s leather on the pedal box, and on the edges of the metal kick plate. The leather is really nice; soft, supple, and well accompanied by accented stitching but it is absolutely way too much.
Journalists love to exaggerate how nice the control surfaces feel, but to be honest I felt that the Bentayga draws an insignificant distance from something like a well-appointed Cayenne. All that looks like metal is metal of course, and the wood is incredibly detailed, but it’s covered in a thick layer of lacquer that seems out of touch with how modern the rest of the car is... I imagine open-pore wood is more appropriate.
Maybe I’m ignorant because I don’t care for the incredible craftsmanship that goes into this car, but I just don’t see a justification for it. It makes me dislike the Bentayga a bit. It seems like a confused car; nervous pedals are below a relaxed steering, Excessive leather appointments near mass-produced plastics, a quiet cabin for a loud young audience. It’s a rushed miss-mash of things that would make sense in paper to a design team tasked with masquerading the owner as a mythical figure.
It’s successful in that regard, but from the driver’s seat, it’s just appointed in a bizarre manner that discourages introspection, and appreciation of the sheer amount of luxury an capability that it offers.
I think we judge the Bentayga a bit too much specifically because it’s an SUV. Let us be frank: the war is over. They won; SUVs are regular cars now, and if you want a Bentley that will be a joy to drive every day, without worrying too much about a speedhump or a tight parking garage, well... This is it.
What worries me about the Bentayga really feels more about my consciousness about its price; I feel like there are better ways of spending the three hundred thousand dollars this one probably cost new on a different car. Not because its a bad car; but because it’s excessive in the stupidest ways I, personally, could imagine.
Leather on the pedal box... Jesus.