If you've ever wondered why an SUV would need 12 force-fed cylinders, here's one of many possible answers: To drive up a steep mountain almost as fast as Walter Röhrl did with his Audi Sport Quattro E2 in 1987, or Ari Vatanen with his Peugeot 405 Turbo 16 the following year. And Bentley just proved that this weekend at Pikes Peak.
The Pikes Peak SUV record was set in 2013 by three-time overall Pikes Peak International Hill Climb champion Paul Dallenbach and his Range Rover Sport. This weekend, Bentley's "near-production specification" Bentayga W12 managed to best Dallenbach's time by nearly two minutes, thanks to the magic of driver Rhys Millen, who completed the course in 10 minutes 49.9 seconds, at an average speed of 66.5 mph. That's fast by any standard.
While the V8 Bentayga may be more entertaining to drive, Bentley needed the firepower of its top-spec W12 model to counteract the thin air at high altitude. And to help this yellow-green beast breathe better, the Bentayga got a production-specification Akrapovic exhaust upgrade, and the list of other modifications including Pirelli's stickiest DOT-approved tires, racing seats, a roll cage and a fire suppression system.
The result? Six hundred horsepower and 663 foot-pounds of torque (at sea level), sent to ZF's eight speed automatic transmission and permanent four-wheel drive. Add adaptive air suspension and the 48-volt active anti-roll bars to that picture, and your luxury SUV is ready for the world's toughest hillclimb. As proven by Bentley.
Needless to say, if you wish to purchase a Bentayga W12 just like Rhys Millen's (minus the safety equipment), you can.
Limited to just ten units, the Mulliner-built Pikes Peak Bentayga can be had in either deep Beluga black or Radium (the color of the record-setting machine), with 22-inch wheels in a two-tone finish of Beluga with Radium accents. All exterior chrome is replaced with gloss black as standard, with additional carbon fiber on the splitter, side skirts, diffuser and rear spoiler.
You even get the Pikes Peak wrap at the rear, accompanied by the sport exhaust and the touring pack. Just remember: Anything under 11 minutes is a good time up Pikes Peak!
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