What’s Good: Remarkable handling for a full size SUV
What’s Bad: More of a suburban than an urban vehicle
When the Bentley’s groundbreaking Bentayga was introduced, the only engine you could specify was the mighty twin turbocharged six-litre W12, but the thing about the V8 model isn’t that it costs less, which it does. It’s not that it’s more frugal, and it might be, but that’s not a real consideration at this end of the market. The only difference is that the V8 is a touch more sporting than the W12.
One car argue that both the V8- and W12-powered Bentaygas are both five thousand pound-plus SUVs and the small differences are irrelevant, but if you pay attention to the details, they do indeed matter.
Consider that the V8 is nearly a hundred pounds lighter than the W12. Not only is that weight situated high in the vehicle, but it’s also placed out over the front axle. That’s not the most optimal place for putting weight into any vehicle to be sure. With slightly less mass than the W12, the Bentayga V8 has a nearly 3% more neutral weight distribution and an inherently lower center of gravity. That translates into more responsive turn in and better overall dynamics.
Traditionally, Bentleys are driver’s cars because as much as they’re luxurious, they’re also just as capable. In this case, the 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 produces 552 horsepower and 568 pounds-feet of torque.
As impressive as those numbers are, it’s actually the way the torque is delivered that defines the character of this engine. Peak torque is available just below 2,000 and all the way to 4,500 RPM, which means that torque is readily available all of the time and wild acceleration is at your command, depending on how far you’re willing to press into the throttle.
Unlike the W12, Bentley’s infused the V8 with more obvious sporting characteristics and specifically its feisty exhaust note.
For the record, the W12 produces about 50 more horses and 100 more pounds-feet of torque, from just off idle, but with the V8’s character and accessible power, there’s not much of a case to be made for the twelve. If you must have the most powerful engine in your Bentayga, then the W12 it is.
As for the V8 Bentayga, it puts all of its power down confidently, benefitting from plenty of mechanical traction, and the massive, street-oriented Pirelli P Zero tires certainly help. Plus, if you’re an experienced pilot, you can indeed use maximum throttle from time to time with no drama. In terms of quantifying its acceleration, it’ll do zero to sixty in 4.4 seconds and it only runs out of steam as it approaches 290 kilometres per hour. Yes, this is a very capable sport utility.
The automatic gearbox is near perfection for a transmission of this type. With this eight-speed auto, you have the best of all worlds. There are different shift algorithms to suit various types of driving terrain and you can always take manual controls of the gears. The best way to do that is with the shift paddles on the back of the wheel, simply because the machined alloy paddles feel so good on your fingertips. It’s the small things in this Bentayga that bring you pleasure.
It wouldn’t be a Bentley if it didn’t demonstrate a full array of luxuries – the kinds of things that delight you. Beyond its power and handling, Bentayga rides comfortably and composed, and is exceptionally quiet on the road.
The cabin is purely a Bentley experience. It’s spacious and the overall design along, with the high quality materials, remind you that you are driving something rather unique, and transforms a simple journey into an occasion.
The scent of the cabin, the feel of the machined switchgear, and the sumptuousness of the leather upholstery and wool carpets make sitting inside the Bentayga akin to being welcomed into a fine hotel. The interior finishes along with the Bentayga’s broad performance envelope make driving this Bentley a truly sublime experience.
Everything you touch is authentic – the finest leather upholstery, the wool carpets, the carbon fibre trim, and the machined alloy switches and dials. Even the optional Naim sound system is brilliant. Don’t forget you can personalize your Bentayga to your satisfaction with an array of colours, finishes, materials, and mechanical options.
This Bentayga drives a little smaller than it actually is due to its capable handling and superior steering. With less weight over the nose, steering is surprisingly responsive and pleasantly direct at speed. Keep in mind this is a variable ratio and variable assist system, and you’ll appreciate the quick ratio and high assist at low speeds when you’re parking.
When it comes to handling, this Bentayga has one trick up its sleeve: the optional active anti-roll bars. While the air suspension includes excellent adaptive dampers, the benefits of the active anti-roll bars are two fold. During on-road cornering, they provide for less body roll, but when the Bentayga isn’t cornering, they free up for a more comfortable ride. Plus, if you to take your Bentayga off road, they allow for greater suspension travel.
On the road, though, is where this V8 shines. Compared to the W12, discerning pilots will appreciate the subtle handling improvements brought about by the V8’s lower center of gravity and better weight distribution.
After just a few kilometres, you begin to appreciate that it’s got an imposing presence and no matter where you are driving, everybody recognizes this as a Bentley.
This is a luxury SUV for which Bentley customers have been asking and to make it attractive requires some work.
To take a traditional sport utility, two-box shape and transform it into a faithful interpretation of Bentley’s design standards took a tremendous amount of work. To follow the Bentley mold, they’ve included elements like the grille, headlamps, and taillamps that express that same high level of detail you find on the interior. In addition, they’ve given its overall design some athleticism by adding muscular lines to the front and rear quarters.
Bentley has always made drivers cars and this Bentayga is no exception. It’s something that will carry you and your family in refined comfort. It will out-accelerate 98% of the vehicles on the road. It has tremendous poise, handles confidently and, if you fancy, it will take you for off-road adventures you could never consider in a luxury sedan.
And you can, of course, configure your Bentayga with seats for four, five, or even seven, if you choose to add a third row. The five-place specification seems to be the most versatile, allowing you to carry five passengers along with plenty of cargo.
All of this sport utility splendour does come at a price. To obtain what may be the most attractive and most compelling vehicle in this new category of luxury SUVs, a Bentayga in this sporting specification will cost a few dollars north of $293,000.
The Bentayga ticks all of the boxes for a true luxury sport utility vehicle. It’s powerful, composed, refined, quiet, and it exudes the modern luxuries for which Bentleys are known.
BODY STYLE: full-size, four-door sport utility vehicle. DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, all-wheel drive. ENGINE: 4.0-litre turbocharged V8 engine (542 hp, 568 lb-ft of torque) with an eight-speed automatic transmission. CARGO CAPACITY: 484 litres. FUEL ECONOMY: 18.1/9.0/11.4 L/100 km city/hwy/combined. PRICE: $209,693; as tested $293,193.50, plus destination fee of $4,268. WEB SITE: THE BENTAYGA RANGE