Then, in 2018, amid the spreading toxicity surround diesel engines, Bentley removed the Bentayga Diesel from sale in Europe, and with it removed from view what we considered the definitive version of the car. A V8 petrol model augmented the model range in the same year, while a plug-in hybrid arrived in 2019. There is now also the Speed – a 626bhp, £182,000 paean to excess.
The Bentayga’s wonderfully plush interior, its swell of torque-laden performance and its sense of imperious, singularly enveloping luxury make it stand out even in this class, and these qualities might even be potent enough to win over a cynic who started out opposed to the idea of life in a blue-blooded SUV.
It isn’t quite as comfortable-riding or isolating as the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, offering instead a slightly more sporting driving experience that comes at the expense of that final shade of ride comfort. But a shade is all the Bentayga gives up – an occasional suggestion of headtoss and the merest fidget of fussiness over certain lumps and bumps at speed. Even as a luxury car regular, there’s every chance that you simply wouldn’t know what you were missing.
The Ghost was a line in the sand for Rolls-Royce when it appeared in 2009: the beginning of a transformation that took the company’s annual production volume from hundreds of to several thousand cars per year.
Using mechanical underpinnings adapted from those of the BMW 7 Series, the Ghost made Rolls-Royce ownership more accessible – only slightly but significantly so. The management’s view now on the decision to use those BMW Group mechanicals may reasonably be imagined to differ somewhat from what it once was, since the next Ghost will move onto the same all-aluminium Rolls-Royce-only platform that the Phanton and Cullinan use.
While the Phantom is very much a car in which to be driven, the Ghost was intended as a car for the well-heeled driver, and its dynamic character reflects that. Slighter tauter-riding and more agile than the Phantom (partly by virtue of its more compact proportions), it lends itself more readily to the cut-and-thrust of daily motoring on traffic-clogged UK roads than its bigger brother.
In terms of interior space, luxury ambience and sheer material quality, the car is a rung below the Phantom, and perhaps not as clearly a cut above other large limousines as a result. Its rolling refinement, too, isn’t quite unmatched among cars of this ilk. But to admit either isn’t to dismiss this car’s impressive richness or esoteric charm.