Slip behind the wheel of any Bentley and it’s hard not to feel you are metaphorically looking down on everyone else on the road.

Slip behind the wheel of a Bentley Bentayga and you are literally looking down on them.

This jump into motoring’s high society comes courtesy of one of the most expensive sports utility vehicles on the planet.

For the cost of this car you could fill your drive with three Range Rovers and that price tag is enough to propel this Crewe-crafted giant into its own exclusive class.

The Bentayga V8 starts at £136,200 with leather upholstery and a selection of wood veneers as standard, along with a huge glass roof, an eight-inch infotainment screen, Wi-Fi hotspot and LED headlights.

But with thousands of personalisation possibilities on offer, each car is effectively tailored to its owner. If you want heated and cooled seats, complete with a massage function, or an infra-red night vision system, you only have to ask.

To add a little context, the 18-speaker, 1,950 watt ‘Naim for Bentley premium audio system’ at £6,680 costs more than my niece paid recently for a very tidy, low-mileage Volkswagen Up!

What all Bentaygas share is an imposing body that looks like nothing else on the road, especially in dazzling Dragon Red II paintwork.

But while its imposing dimensions are daunting, Bentley’s engineers have somehow crafted a vehicle that handles in an agile and responsive manner that belies its two-and-a-half tonnes. Driven carefully, the car can also deliver a potential range of 440 miles.

Powered by a burbling 542 horsepower, 4.0-litre, twin-turbo, V8 petrol engine and riding on air suspension, the Bentayga is surprisingly sharp and remarkably rewarding for a vehicle that looks like it might be most at home pootling down the Mall towards Buckingham Palace.

That air of genuine opulence is everywhere to be seen in the first-class cabin where intricate detailing and hand-finished dual-tone ‘porpoise and beluga’ leather and wool carpet jostle gently with carbon-fibre inlays and premium level technology.

Topping the equipment packs on the car driven here is the £11,850 Mulliner driving specification, which provides 22-inch black painted and polished alloy wheels, diamond quilting to the seat bolsters, shoulder and door inserts, drilled alloy sports pedals with matching footrests and embroidered Bentley wing emblems.

The £6,255 touring specification adds adaptive cruise control, night vision and a head-up display, while the £5,005 all-terrain specification delivers eight modes for the all-wheel-drive system, underbody skid plates and a bird's-eye camera to help with off-roading, if anyone is brave enough to venture off the straight and narrow in such an expensive car.

The test car also sported gold-finished bonnet, boot and wheel badges celebrating Bentley’s car making centenary.

As a first step towards electrification, Bentley has produced a plug-in hybrid version of the Bentayga, marrying a 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine with an electric motor delivering a claimed all-electric range of up to 31 miles, clearly attractive to anyone living or working near a low-emissions zone.

And if you thought that SUVs had no place in a luxury car maker’s line-up, try telling that to the likes of Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce who have already pitched in with their examples of high-riding indulgence.

So, when will we see an Aston Martin SUV? The wraps come off the DBX in December, that’s when.

Auto facts

Model: Bentley Bentayga V8

Price: £181,025 as tested

Insurance group: 50

Fuel consumption (combined): 24.8mpg

Top speed: 180mph

Length: 514cm/202.4in

Width: 222.4cm /87.6in

Luggage capacity: 484 litres/17 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 18.7 gallons/85 litres

CO2 emissions: 260g/km

Warranty: Three years/ 100,000 miles