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Snow Piercer

A winter test drive in the 2021 Bentley Bentayga proves to be a satisfying adventure.
Deborah Frank
With Bentley Motors recently announcing record sales for 2020, the most ever in its 101-year history despite the global pandemic, expectations for a Bentayga test drive were high. The marque already had a successful SUV platform, how could it improve it even more?

Heading north from the lower Hudson Valley to Lake Placid in upstate New York, I-87 is pure highway driving. Another option is the twisty and narrow Taconic State Parkway, but during winter months, its wet and icy roads can be treacherous. Plus, once you enter Adirondack Park where the former Olympic village is located, the choice is nothing but tight winding roads. To put the Bentayga V8 through its paces, the high-speed highway followed by curving mountain terrain offered the best of both worlds.

We received the redesigned luxury sport/ute properly equipped with all-season tires on 22-inch wheels and a Bentley-branded, lockable Roof Box to safely store our three sets of skis and poles, with room enough for snowboards and more. Though the Bentayga’s two-row version (a pop-up two-seat third row is optional) offers ample cargo space to hold all sorts of equipment, plus luggage and food shopping bags, the Roof Box is a convenient way to transport snow-covered gear without muddying the interior. The carrier’s elegant design complements the 2021’s freshened up grille and taillamps, giving it an even sportier look overall.

Bentley has always been about customization and our test-drive vehicle’s supple two-tone leather interior of Linen and Cumbrian Green hide, wrapped in a Claret exterior, created a color combination that was surprisingly stunning. “This interior provides a cosseting feeling with the Cumbrian Green wrapping around a light Linen seat insert and sides,” says Maria Mulder, Head of Colour & Trim. “The exterior paint, Claret, is a rich duo-tone color created specifically for use on Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee Bentley and was inspired by the shade used on all Royal Bentleys since the 1940s.”

The smartly done dashboard featured infotainment touchscreens with an easy-to-use interface and a convenient wireless smartphone charging pad plus six USB-C outlets. While a very capable 12-speaker stereo is standard, we found the upgraded Naim for Bentley 20-speaker premium audio system worth the additional $8,880 investment. The sound was a crystal-clear bass without any overwhelming rumble or vibration through the cabin.

While passengers will think they are cruising in a stately limousine, the driver no doubt feels the impressive athleticism of the 542-hp twin-turbo V8’s lag-free, low-rev muscle. After all, zero to 60 mph in a mere 3.8 seconds is nothing to scoff at. And on twisting, snow-covered asphalt, the Bentayga’s nearly 5500 pounds stayed tight and controlled, with the Bentley Dynamic Ride keeping this SUV flat under hard cornering loads. To top it off, this model’s ratings of 14 mpg city, 23 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined made for a one-time fill-up on our 500-mile winter road-trip. From $177,000; bentleymotors.com

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