AUTOLUST | 2016 Bentley Bentayga SUV First Edition

When Bentley decided to get into the SUV business, the ultra-luxury automaker knew what challenge lay before it. Whatever the company built to enter the fray, it had to be the best and most exclusive vehicle in its class.

During a special West Hollywood sneak preview 48 hours before the opening of press preview days for the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show, the first official production edition of the Bentley Bentayga. took its bow. It reported in with a firm “mission accomplished,” with Bentley declaring it the fastest, most powerful, most advanced and most exclusive SUV on the market.

Amongst international luxury automakers, Bentley has few rivals. The British shop creates only luxury supercars. The price tags on them rival the elite machines produced by Ferrari, Lamborghinis or Maserati, but — while those Italians focus on adrenaline and will sacrifice ride quality for speed when necessary – Bentley is solely focused on comfort and sophistication.

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Sure, a Bentley can move, too. The GT Speed will look over its shoulder at the 200 mpg mark. However, that kind of power never compromises a Bentley’s aura of absolute smoothness and dignity.

In that sense, Bentley’s only natural rivals also happen to wear British badges – Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin. Rolls-Royce will scoff at even the notion of “sportiness” being attached to anything they build. They only build stately luxury. Aston Martin has a foot in the sports camp, but there’s no question all of their production cars are designed for touring in complete class.

The main difference between the three up until now is none of them built an SUV. The Bentayga throws open that door. Its $297,000 first edition will be limited to 608 cars globally, with fewer than 80 set to sell in the U.S.  Next year’s full run of standard Bentayga will sell for a comparable bargain at $229,100.

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The Bentayga is powered by an all new, twin turbocharged, 6.0 liter W12 engine. That 12 cylinder power plant will do 0-60 in 4 seconds flat before producing a top speed of 187 mph. As foretold, both numbers make the Bentayga the most powerful and fastest production SUV in the world.

Its production totals of 608 vehicles refers to the metric power output of the Bentayga – 608 PS (600 horsepower) and 900 Nm (663 lb. ft. of torque).

With any super luxury car, the meticulous details distinguish it from the cars of mere mortals as much as the superior materials and engineering. Since this is a Bentley first edition, every vehicle will include special Union Flag badging. Bentley calls it “Union Jack badging,” but the UK flag should really only be called that at sea. It is otherwise known as the Union Flag. You just learned something there, and, perhaps, so did Bentley.

Moving around the SUB, the Bentayga packs illuminated tread plates and 22-inch black painted, polished wheels. Only 10 exterior color schemes will be available for first adapters, further distinguishing these first 608 vehicles from their future descendants.

Once inside the Bentayga, you’ll find signature “Diamond within Diamond” bentley quilting, bespoke ambient lighting, Union Flag badging, contrast stitching and embroidered seats. In other words, the words “First Edition” are sewn into every headrest. The remaining detail work in the wood, metal, leather, upholstery and carbon fiber is absolutely precise at every turn.

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As is often the case with ultra luxury machines, the smaller flares and bonus features become the delicate edible gold leaf atop the gourmet sundae. While a Rolls-Royce hides a personalized umbrella in the driver’s side door and will personalize a car’s roof pin lights to match the stars on the day of your birth, Bentley buyers here will receive the Bentayga Edition Breitling Watch.

To celebrate the launch of the Bentayga, Breitling created three high performance, special edition chronographs the SUV buyers can choose from to compliment their purchase snd their lifestyle. The Emergency features an integrated dual frequency personal locator beacon. The Cockpit B50 – offers electronic multifunction. Finally, the automatic Chronomat 38 is specially designed for women.

All three watches offer standard and officially chronometer-certified Breitling movement, an all-black casing and a black Mother-of-Pearl dial. Inside, bronzetoned hands match the look of the first Bentayga presented to the public at the International Motor Show in Germany earlier this year.

If buyers don’t jump into the first edition Bentayga for their free watch, the same designs will be available during standard production as optional equipment for the SUV’s customers.

Aspiring SUV lovers — and I do mean aspiring — can enjoy more vistas on the Bentayga in the gallery below.

All photos by John Scott Lewinski.