After a seemingly endless pre-launch buildup, the wraps have come off the 2017 Bentley Bentayga at the Frankfurt Auto Show. The automaker's first-ever SUV appears set to make good on its promise to redefine the segment by becoming the fastest, most powerful and most luxurious SUV to date. Calling it "the next step in our brand's bold future," Wolfgang Dürheimer, chairman and chief executive of Bentley Motors says its unique combination of style, technology and capability will allow the Bentayga to provide "a genuine Bentley experience in any driving environment."

Visually, the new Bentayga makes an aggressively refined statement that puts a unique spin on a number of signature Bentley design cues from its prominent matrix grille to muscular rear fenders. Full LED lighting, a huge, dual-pane panoramic glass sunroof and bespoke alloy wheels from 20 to 22 inches in diameter bolster its curb appeal while extensive use of aluminum body panels coupled with other advanced engineering processes help trim curb weight by some 520 pounds. 

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Riding on a 117.8-inch wheelbase and measuring 202.4 inches nose to tail, the new Bentayga is based on a modified version of its VW Group's aluminum-intensive MLB-Evo platform that also underpins the new Audi Q7. The Bentayga introduces Bentley Dynamic Ride suspension featuring the world's first 48-volt system electric active roll control system the automaker says it can instantly counteract unwanted motion while maintaining optimum tire contact in corners. This multi-mode air suspension offers four stages of adjustment - Low, Normal, High 1 and High 2 as well as the ability to drop the rear when parked to facilitate cargo loading or trailer hookup. The Bentayga's variable-ratio electric power-assist steering is complemented by advanced stability/traction management as well as Hill Descent Control. Also in the mix is a multimode Drive Dynamics system that can be further augmented by an available Responsive Off-Road Setting to make the Bentayga more capable on non-paved surfaces.  

Setting new performance standards 

While several other powertrain options - including a turbodiesel, hybrid and a performance-oriented Speed-spec are on tap in the future, the Bentayga will launch with only one engine/transmission combo. This re-engineered version of the firm's 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W12 TSI cranks out a heady 600 horsepower at 6,000 rpm in this application along with 663 lb-ft of torque that's on hand between 1,250 and 4,500 revs. 

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Backed by an 8-speed automatic transmission shipping power to all four corners via a specially modified and more robust AWD system, this next-gen W12 can send the Bentayga sprinting from 0-60 mph in a supercar-like 4.0 seconds and carry it to a top speed of 187 mph, new benchmarks for the segment. Fortified with both direct and port injection as well as a Variable Displacement system that can shut down half of the cylinders when conditions warrant, Start/Stop technology and a "sail" function to decouple the torque converter when the driver lifts off the accelerator at highway speeds, this upgraded W12 also delivers 11.9-percent greater operating efficiency. 

Luxury on every level

Inside the new Bentley Bentayga offers a similar kind of one-step-beyond character. The finest hand-crafted wood and premium-leather trappings set off with metal accents can be specified in a number of different colors and combinations whether the buyer chooses the basic 5-passenger configuration or an available four-passenger option. Key standard equipment includes 22-way power-adjustable heated/ventilated front buckets with massage functions, navigation with an 8.0-inch touchscreen and a 60GB hard drive along with the Bentley Entertainment Tablet that offers rear-seat passengers 4G Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity via a pair of detachable 10.4-inch Android devices. The base audio system can be upgraded on two levels, the ultimate being an 18-speaker/1,950-watt Naim package. Other tech touches offered on the Bentayga include Electronic Night Vision, a head-up display, a full range of active/passive safety touches, 360-degree Top View camera array, and Park Assist. 

For those buyers seeking an even more personalization, the Bentayga will offer no fewer than six lifestyle-oriented "specification" equipment packages and a Tourbillon by Breitling clock as well as a full range of custom options available through the firm's in-house Mulliner operation. The 2017 Bentley Bentayga will start at $229,100 plus destination fees when it goes on sale here in mid-2016.

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