An expensive business then, the Bentayga, but at least it looks it. However ill at ease you might think aspects of its design might be (to my eyes the car’s profile is its best angle, the oddly implemented face’ its worst), to gaze upon the Bentayga is to be left in no doubt that it’s both a Bentley and a very expensive car. It may share a platform with Audi’s Q7 but the Bentley’s panels are clearly from a higher drawer: vast and exquisitely super-formed, their creases keen-edged like Nolan’s batmobile. Sitting on its smart 21-inch wheels on the waterside (most buyers order the 22s but the 21s, wrapped in 285/45 21 Pirelli Scorpion Verde All Season rubber, are a better fit with this car’s All- terrain pack), towering dock cranes overhead and infinity-pool blue of the ocean lapping at the quayside far below, the Bentayga’s more imposing than pretty, more striking than elegant, but is that not the line Bentley design has toed for decades? Did anyone ever call the Speed Six of the ’20s or the Vickers-era Continental ‘pretty’?
Time to leave the dunes. It’s been fun, if a little less dramatic than I imagined. I pictured the 2.4-tonne car soaring in slo-mo through the backlit, polarised sky, comet trails of sand billowing from all four still-spinning wheels before effortlessly touching-down on the downward slope. Instead I’ve been gingerly rolling over a surface strewn with rocks, mindful that the nearest replacement wheel and tyre is a 40-hour ferry ride away. Slow going then but easy, the car riding high on its four-position air suspension, all four wheels transmitting the engine’s towering but softly-spoken torque via the Pirellis’ generous footprint.
Tracks run up the coast, offering the chance to keep the sea in view a little longer before we start the climb inland. This is the kind of all-terrain driving a Bentayga might actually be asked to perform, and it’s more than up to the task. An Ibiza on steel wheels would get through just fine too, but that’s not the point…
A casual twist of the Drive Dynamics dial (falls to your fingertips with one arm casually resting on the centre armrest) selects the forest track mode for maximum rut-friendly ground clearance. (Neatly, a graphic on the dash also displays your selected mode so you needn’t take your eyes from the road). The transmission slurs imperceptibly up to fourth gear and we trundle on serenely, the odd. tyre-flung rock banging harmlessly off the car’s under-body armour and the mighty audio (£2780 Bentley Signature, one rung down from the full-nuclear Naim for Bentley option) delivering mind-numbing radio pop with startling definition. Outside a hot breeze plays around this sun- kissed moonscape, whipping up little twisters here and there. Tiny lizards quick like shadows scamper in our wake and… that’s our turning. The Bentayga powers up a dirt climb and pops straight out onto the main road. A plume of dust, a twist to Bentley mode (sports throttle response with full-waft ride) and we’re back on tarmac, leaning a little on the W12 to gap, well, absolutely everything.