Bentley's turbodiesel Bentayga is a seven-seater with an opulent interior
The seven-seater Bentley Bentayga Diesel is fit for a sultan The Bentley Bentayga is the first Bentley to have a turbodiesel and seven seats. ST PHOTOS: MARK CHEONG

If someone had told me five years ago that there would one day be a seven-seater Bentley sport utility vehicle (SUV) powered by a diesel engine, I would think him mad.

But here it is, the Bentley Bentayga Diesel - the first Bentley to have a turbodiesel and seven seats. It is almost too much to take in, especially when the idea of a Bentley SUV itself had been just that - an idea - merely two years ago.

Before that, Bentley had been associated only with fine limousines and exquisite grand tourers - all powered by petrol.

It is thus somewhat easier to think of the Bentayga as an Audi SQ7 (both Audi and Bentley belong to Volkswagen). In fact, the Bentley Bentayga Diesel shares the same drivetrain as the audacious Audi SQ7, which I sampled in Norway's frozen north recently.

Under its massive bonnet lies a 4-litre V8 biturbo diesel, supplemented by an electric compressor. The triple induction gives the Bentayga's enormous heart buckets of torque delivered in linear fashion.

From just 1,000rpm, 900Nm of shove is available - enough to haul the 2.5-tonne Bentley off to 100kmh in 4.8 seconds.

At the lights, while other cars are overcoming inertia, the diesel-powered Bentley is hurtling halfway towards the next junction. It is almost unreal to be in such a huge and lethal vehicle.

Once it gets going, the beast will coast steadily with no throttle input for several hundred metres.

Around bends, the 1.74m-tall Bentley feels as natural and at ease as its lower-slung siblings, adhering to the tarmac tightly and tracing its arc neatly with hardly any roll.

Its rear-biased, all-wheel-drive system contributes to its agility, as does its refined air suspension and the car's wide chassis.

At the helm, it is not as intimidating as you would expect of such a powerful giant. On narrower roads and multi-storey carpark ramps designed by sadists, the Bentayga's fine footing and precise steering keep its course true.

The only quibbles with the car have to do with noise. Over uneven ground, the Bentayga's cabin betrays a slight, intermittent buzz. And at around 80kmh, a little wind noise comes through the windows.

This is not something you would expect of a Bentley, even one that is supposedly made to go off-road with the entire clan onboard.

To its credit, none of the diesel chatter permeates the cabin and there is no hint of vibration. But when you pull up at the club, the valet will have no doubt about the fuel you are using.

Because multi-seaters are typically utilitarian, it is surreal to see seven seats in quilted leather set in an opulent interior. Folding them would be as natural as patting the Queen on the back.

Done up by Bentley's Mulliner customisation department, the test car looks like something a sultan might have commissioned.

Like a seven-seater Q7, the last row will accommodate petite adults comfortably. And even with all seats up, there is some semblance of stowage in the rear when you pop the car's barn-sized motorised tailgate.

The test car, with its bespoke Mulliner interior and seven-seat configuration, costs more than $1 million. But you can own a less extravagant version from $780,000, excluding the certificate of entitlement.

Admittedly, to splurge that kind of money on a diesel SUV, you would have to be rich. And perhaps a little mad.