Glittering guardrail lines the route and, despite the undeniable truth that the road’s width is shrinking with every mile travelled, this is still fun, the Bentley’s electric, active anti-roll bars doing a deeply impressive job of keeping the car composed and level mid-corner. The accurate steering, with its deliciously oiled action, offers confidence where there should be none. And the engine’s always on hand, ready to give generously, whether you’re climbing from a second-gear hairpin or leap-frogging great convoys of dawdlers.
Progress is a game of two halves. Where the road cuts inland into each bay there’s visibility and I can tap into the Bentley’s enormous speed. But as we work our way around each headland the view ahead, drops and progress grows treacly, each blind upcoming bend as likely to hold a coach’s bluff prow as welcome nothingness. The Bentley’s happy in both instances, its core qualities of just-so refinement and unflustered performance lending it real versatility. Sure, it’s hard to ever imagine asking a post-beach dog to jump into the boot or slinging kids and their gallons of deadly-sticky fruit juice into the back seat without a very tangible sense of dread, but the idea of this thing being your main drive, ghosting you wherever you need to be with a likeable effortlessness, is a thrilling one. From inside, if not yet from the outside, the Bentayga is starting to make a good deal of sense.
My phone reckons the sun will set at 7.30pm. Somehow it’s already 7pm and we’re still climbing, rock Bentayga – at nearly a kilometre and a half above sea level – out of sight and a good hour away up ahead. The long, winding road inland has, as we’ve gained height, offered just about everything, from the lush green of verdant grasses and irrigated agriculture through sleepy towns of watching old faces to cool pine forest. Just as the heat of the day has given way to a mellow warmth, so the brutal midday glare has now diffused to an orangey burnished gold.
For the first time it’s safe to drop the windows, open the sunroof and knock back the air-conditioning. As the Bentley glides into these completely unexpected forests a thick carpet of fallen needles muffles every sound like summer snow. Now and again a breeze gently animates the branches and helps drop the air temperature another couple of degrees. In this canopied refuge I stop for no real reason, the silence almost shocking after hours of movement, noise, concentration and too-loud music. Litres of bottled water don’t touch the sides. A soft clanging betrays an old boy and his goats moving through the forest.
The Bentley’s mighty cooling system- three separate circuits; one each for cylinder heads, block and turbos – takes a welcome break. Despite the heat, the climb and the hard-thrashed air-con the needle hasn’t budged. The bonnet’s lukewarm to the touch. Impressive given there barely seems space for the W12 in what is a bluff if broad nose. That this awesome powerplant fits at all is a pretty compelling case for the compact W layout, which winds up being an easy-to-package box measuring, funnily enough, three cylinders by four. Be glad that Crewe persevered. In musicality, refinement and sheer oomph, the W12 goes a long way.