Had it not been the foolishness of youth, I would not have attempted that day trip in the winter of 1999, in which I decided that it was a brilliant idea to drive the 600km or so from Montreal to the Niagara Falls. What could go wrong? Everything, of course, thanks to trinity of snow, misplaced optimism and the little rental car that couldn’t. (If you are curious, it was a Dodge Neon and, yes, it drove as terribly as its name sounded.)
How things have changed in the intervening decades. Zipping past slower traffi c as if it were standing still, I am at the head of a convoy of gleaming Flying Spurs and Continental GTs driven by Bentley customers, piloting the carmaker’s latest toy for one-percenters, the million-dollar Bentayga SUV.
ENGINE: 6.0-litre, W12-cylinder twin-turbo
POWER: 600bhp between 5,000and 6,000 rpm
TORQUE: 900Nm at 1,350 rpm
0-100KMH: 4.1 seconds
TOP SPEED: 301kmh
The power doled out from the W12 engine is, in a word, effortless. Humming along while it cruises, it puts up a mighty performance when push comes to shove. With 600bhp of power and 900Nm of torque at my disposal at a mere dip of my right foot, it is capable of propelling the 2,400kg car to a 301kmh top speed, with the first 100 of which arriving in a blink-and-you-will-miss-it 4.1 seconds. The Bentley Bentayga is the fastest SUV on the market; in other words, this car is built to eat highways for breakfast.
Eight hours in from our 5am flag off , we are making splendid progress on the 772km journey along the North-South Expressway towards Penang, where we will leave our wheels behind as we are whisked away to our idyllic Langkawi resort destination by sea. The radar-assisted cruise control is tracking the Range Rover leading the convoy like a heat-seeking missile, taking over the throttle and brakes to maintain a precise following distance, while the sumptuous hand-stitched leather armchair is gently massaging my derriere. Hard work driving this car, said nobody ever.
On the other hand, my fellow journalists, who had been so animated in conversation just a few moments ago, have been lulled into a blissful sleep in the whisper-quiet and rock-steady cabin, ensconced in the rear bench every inch as comfortable as on a first-class airplane seat.
If this is how billionaires enjoy their road trips, I have been missing out.
Little do I realise there is more to come. Waiting at the tony Straits Quay boat club are a pair of 60-footers courtesy of Princess Yachts. They are staffed by butlers dressed in crisp white tailcoats who pamper us hand and foot, serving canapes and libations as we watch the sun set from the vast open deck.
Arriving in style at the St Regis Langkawi, we tuck into a supper spread featuring laksa, satay and other nibbles. The next day, while those who have elected to golf head off to the rainforest course at the Datai, I visit the therapist at the hotel’s Iridium spa, who deftly works out those pesky knots that the Bentley’s seat could not. One needs to be in tip-top condition to properly review the Bentayga on the drive back, after all.
Refreshed, we leave our island paradise and make our way back towards Singapore. The city traffic in Penang is heavy on this Sunday afternoon, yet the Bentayga manages to rise above the hustle and bustle in complete serenity. I will not use the cliche that the car shrinks around you, for nothing can hide the fact that it measures a massive 2m wide and 5.1m long. But the high driving position, coupled with electronic sensors all round, ensure that the paintwork and alloy rims emerge unscathed as I meander through the narrow streets of the Unesco-gazetted town.
Leaving the gridlock behind us, the Bentayga handles like a sports sedan on the twisty section of the North-South near mountainous Ipoh. Its mighty brakes and supreme body control belie its girth – all that lovely wood, metal and leather in the interior cannot be that light.
The Bentayga has a presence that is unlike any other. Smaller vehicles move out of the way when they see the Bentayga loom in their rear-view mirrors, which is gratifying. And even the Bentley Owners Club members, who one could presume to be blase about this kind of thing, are impressed, with many of them coming up to it at rest stops to take a gander at its interior and to pop up the hood to examine its 6-litre engine.
With time to contemplate the Bentayga, it dawns upon me that the roads best suited for this beast are those here, up north, where the stress of driving long distances and in crowded towns will melt away, thanks to its cocooning capabilities. Although we did not have the chance to rest it, the advanced four-wheel-drive system should be able to handle the odd off -road adventure too, in a durian plantations for instance.
The irony, though, is that outside of such organised road trips, few owners are intrepid enough to take these precious vehicles across the border, where security – perceived or otherwise – is not as high as back home.
3 LOVELY TOUCHES IN THE BENTAYGA
Bentley Singapore. 45 Leng Kee Road. Tel: 6378-2628.