By certain logic the Bentley Bentayga shouldn’t even exist; on paper in any case something this big, fast and expensive is counter-intuitive when the rest of the industry is concentrating its efforts on satisfying the crossover craze and concentrating on conservative fuel consumption. Bentley’s mission isn’t exactly to satisfy the masses, however, and by bucking the trend the iconic British brand has proven once again that there will always be a discerning clientele willing to pay for the privilege of pure luxury, leading to brisk sales for the ür-SUV.
On assignment for CNN I once tested, and confirmed, Bentley’s claims that the Bentayga is quite simply the “world’s fastest, most exclusive and expensive SUV” – a clear shot across the bows of the likes of the Range Rover SVAutobiography (not truly a contender) and Mercedes-Benz G65 AMG. While the G65 does have 621 hp vs. the Bentayga’s 600 horses, it’s considerably slower, with a lower top speed, and at the time it cost a bit less at around $220,000 against the Bentayga’s $230K.
Bentley has since expanded the Bentayga lineup and you can now, in theory at least, get a V8 version (which just made its first motor show appearance in Geneva) for around $200,000 – which just makes it a better deal. We were overdue to reacquaint ourselves with the ultimate luxury SUV, and Bentley devised a suitably stunning backdrop in the form of an excursion to the Hudson River Valley, following which we would pilot the Bentayga up to Maine where clear roads and challenging weather would really let it shine.
Of course, being a Bentley, there are myriad bespoke personalization options for the Bentayga, and we spec’d a car in our favorite combination of Midnight Emerald green paint with Saddle brown leather upholstery appropriate for the setting and season. Our home base for the first part of the excursion was the beautiful Hasbrouck House in Stone Ridge, NY, an elegant 18th century stone mansion that’s been carefully renovated and updated and that, like the Bentayga itself, is an icon of rugged luxury.
Our fleet of Bentaygas gathered for the event was a sight to behold, and perfectly in the tradition of the many beautiful motorcars – and before that, horse-drawn carriages – that would have graced the grounds of Hasbrouck House over the course of its rich history. Hasbrouck House also happens to be home to one of the finest “farm-to-fork” restaurants in the state, Butterfield. Delicious artisanal cocktails, a fireside setting, and the skills of Executive Chef Aaron Abramson made for a memorable meal and reinforced Bentley’s values of seeking out the very best even if – or especially if – it’s off the beaten path.
We visited chef Aaron in the kitchen and while the meal was being prepared were also treated to a customized creation from Jay Teske Leather Co., a vintage-inspired leather goods company that uses beautiful hand-stitched hides similar to the ones in the Bentayga’s gorgeous interior.
The next day our fleet of Bentaygas set out for some of the area’s beautiful farms that supply Butterfield with the bounty of each season, including Ravenwood Farm and Arrowood Farms, a microbrewery that’s changing the farmhouse ale scene with meticulous methods and delectable brews. With its heady combination of power, performance and pulchritude, the Bentayga proved itself worthy at every stop and on all points in between.
At the conclusion of the upstate activities we set course for Maine and the more familiar territory of our usual stomping grounds. Typically we would opt to get there as fast as possible, but with the Bentayga in our possession the scenic route via Vermont was definitely called for. On the winding roads through the mountains and lush rolling fields and valleys the Bentayga constantly elevated the experience.
The Bentayga is unmistakably a Bentley, and there is literally nothing else on the road like it. At the heart of any Bentley motorcar is an extraordinary degree of craftsmanship, and that’s what appeals to its many well-heeled fans, including Paul Altieri, one of the world’s top Rolex collectors and founder of online luxury watch exchange Bob’s Watches.
“The Bentayga is bespoke British luxury at its very best,” Altieri tells Luxury Life. “The attention to detail and impeccable finishes are second to none. It’s not a flashy vehicle, though all the right people know exactly what it is. You certainly make something of an entrance when you arrive at the country club behind the wheel of a Bentayga, but at the end of the day it’s about the immense personal satisfaction you derive from driving one rather than what anyone else thinks. And the best part of all is you can custom order a Breitling tourbillon clock for the dashboard.”
Altieri’s words reverberated in our mind as we arrived in Kennebunkport, Maine in signature Bentley style. The elegant seaside resort town was not our final destination however as we had scheduled a sporting excursion to L.L. Bean’s private outdoor activity center in Freeport, Fogg Farm. There we got to experience the Bentayga’s impressive off-road prowess as we left paved roads behind and traveled to L.L. Bean’s sporting clays and archery courses where sportsmen and women can hone their outdoor skills in the beautiful setting of Maine woods and fields.
The Bentayga inspires a passion for beautiful craftsmanship in all walks of life, and thus we were inspired to try out one of L.L.Bean’s 100th Anniversary commemorative shotguns made to honor the iconic outdoor brand’s centennial. The beautifully engraved $15,000 work of art was the perfect accessory for a day of clay pigeons with the Bentayga operating just as well in the field as on the road. Our model was even equipped with an “Event Specification” package which features a quilted leather bench that deploys from the car’s boot to provide the perfect perch from which to watch a sporting event or recline between activities.
There is no more gentlemanly way to express or enjoy a love for all things crafted with passion, integrity and an uncompromising commitment to excellence.