The suspension is by air as standard. It provides the kind of isolation we’ve come to expect, with the very occasional echoey ‘bong’ over sharp surface ripples but an otherwise composed and particularly serene waft. It doesn’t matter that much whether you’re in Comfort or Sport (or the default, ‘Bentley’) on the dial, because it’s never over-firm thanks to a new system of which Bentley is rightly pretty proud.
The electrics are by a 48V system because the Bentayga gets active anti-roll bars and the extra juice is needed to make them respond with suitable vigour and speed. There are electric actuators that act to stiffen or loosen the anti-roll bars depending on what you’re doing, so on a straight they’re slack and loose and allow lots of wheel deflection, while in a corner they quickly stiffen to reduce body roll and keep the movements of what is, let’s face it, quite a big body, in check. It works with remarkable effect, feeling better to me than adaptive damping, which stiffen the dampers come the corners but unsettles the ride more in the process.
The Bentley, then, feels pretty natural, retaining its comfort while simply adding additional control when it needs it to the way it goes down the road. There’s remarkably little roll and when, if pushed, it eases into relatively early understeer, you look at the leather and veneer, the turned aluminium air vents and their organ stop adjusters, and just remind yourself that you’re in a Bentley, not a Porsche Cayenne.
Having a W12 engine – no matter how compact in theory it is – in the nose presumably does little for the agility, but it does lots for the performance. The torque curve peaks at 664lb ft at 1350rpm and stays there until 4000rpm. Peak power, 600bhp, is through 5000-6000rpm, although there’s relatively little point taking the engine all the way there.
At lower throttle inputs and revs it’s smooth enough, but revved harder it fails to sound particularly special or expensive. Bentley hasn’t said whether the V8, so good in the Continental, will find a home here too (because it’s quite busy selling the first couple of years of W12 production, so why would it?), but the Bentayga wouldn’t hurt for a bit more 'woofle'.
There’s also – and I’m being picky here, but this is a £160,000 car so we can afford to be – the occasional snatch in the drivetrain. Perhaps it’s the gearbox’s ‘coasting’ modes, which disconnect the engine from the transmission when under no load in order to improve economy. But when it takes it up again it’s not always seamless.
I am being picky. By and large this is an exceptionally comfortable, and always impeccably quiet, big SUV. Drive it smoothly and it’ll reward you with its oily smooth electric steering - a good speed, and with servotronic so it quickens towards the limits of its lock - its calmed ride and a really impressive sense of cabin isolation.