Some things are bought for their practicality, while some are bought simply to show off. The 2017 Bentley Bentayga attempts to combine those two goals into one vehicle: It's an SUV, promising the big-box practicality you'd expect from the package, but with an important distinction: The Bentley Bentayga is the most expensive SUV you can buy.

So let's start there. The basic Bentayga starts at $231,825, including the $2,725 destination charge. That's what you'd need just to drive off in one, but of course you're going to want options. Individual options on our test car included an $11,000 executive rear seat option, a $7,155 rear seat entertainment system, and a $4,700 Naim audio system. Add everything up (including the paint color and other options) and it came to $273,470. There's more of course. Like picnicking? Bentley will sell you a picnic hamper custom made for the car for $28,000. If that's not good enough, Bentley's Mulliner bespoke service will do pretty much anything you want, such as fill the cargo area with a falconry kit. Seriously. From a purely objective standpoint, that's a silly amount of money, but those willing to shell out nearly $300K for an SUV (or a sedan for that matter) have a perspective on money that we can't even grasp, so let's just shelve that whole conversation.

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Refined cabin

We can say that the big Bentley is quite nice inside. There are a zillion adjustments for the diamond-quilted leather seats; fiddle with them long enough and you're bound to find the ideal seating position. If something inside isn't covered in leather, it's either wood or metal, with very little plastic to be found. We love the organ-pull vent knobs, and the knurled surfaces on the controls, including the metal paddle shifters on the steering wheel.  The Naim audio system kicks, and includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. One irony about very expensive cars is that they often lack safety tech features you can get in much less expensive vehicles. However, the Bentayga comes with all the modern safety equipment you could want: Active cruise control, lane departure warning and assist, collision mitigation, and so on.

One thing we'd skip is the executive rear seat, in favor of the standard rear bench or even the optional third row. The twin captain's chairs are nice, with multiple adjustments, massage functions, individual entertainment screens to display anything you want, a center console, and more. But the package also closes off the cargo area with an immovable barrier, so reclining the seat means moving the seat bottom forward, inevitably pushing your knees into the front seat. Plus, you can't expand the cargo area because of the barrier. Even from a luxury-isn't-practical point of view, it's dumb.

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0-60 mph in 4 seconds

The best part of the Bentayga is under the hood: A 600-horsepower W12 engine that rockets the 5,400-pound Bentayga to 60 mph in about 4 seconds. The sport mode lets you hustle the Bentayga faster than you'd expect, but this is still a big SUV, and technology can't hide the bulk entirely. Oddly, at light throttle the Bentayga isn't very smooth. At first the engine loafs off the line, followed by a rush of power. It's hard to drive smoothly, and just leaving a stoplight felt jerky. Even worse: a distinctly unluxurious wind whistle at highway speeds.

We're practical-minded folks, more likely to pick something as pedestrian as a Land Rover SV Autobiography or Porsche Cayenne Turbo S over this Bentley. But plutocrats of the world needing to announce their wealth will likely overlook the vehicle's shortcomings, simply because when it comes to the size of the price tag, no competitor beats the 2017 Bentley Bentayga.


 

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