Bentley might just have created the perfect recipe for the Australian market: we’ve always loved a good V8, and we’re now just as infatuated with SUVs and luxury cars.
The Bentayga V8, as it's simply called, is the third model to join the Bentayga series that consists of the flagship W12, Bentayga Diesel and soon to arrive plug-in hybrid which will be unveiled at the Geneva motor show next week.
But while its $334,700 (plus on-road costs) price tag remains exclusive and out of the realm of some V8 dreamers, it’s the most affordable model in the line-up and undercuts the diesel by $300 and W12 by almost $100k.
The Bentayga is also far from your average family hauler and leads a small, but expanding, group of uber-luxury off-roaders like the Range Rover SV Autobiography and the Mercedes-AMG GL63 as well as the upcoming BMW X7 and, sitting above them all, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
Vehicle Style: Premium SUV
Price: $334,700 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 404kW/770Nm 4.0-litre 8cyl twin turbo petrol | 8spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 11.4L/100km
Despite being the cheapest of the Bentayga bunch the V8 is is no less of a proper Bentley. In fact, it has been created to fuse the sporting and luxurious traits of the company together in the SUV range with a different driving character that offers a more dynamic look and feel.
Underpinning its sporting credibility is a Porsche-developed 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that propels the Panamera and Cayenne as well as the Audi RS6, RS7 and A8 limousine.
Featuring an array of high-tech systems, such as twin-scroll turbos mounted inside the vee angle, cylinder deactivation at steady cruising speeds and stop-start, the engine generates 404kW of power at 6000rpm and 770Nm of torque between 1960-4500rpm that screams to a redline of 7000rpm – the highest-revving engine ever fitted to one of the British brand’s cars.
It helps move the 2300kg Bentayga from a standstill to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds and onto a top speed of 290km/h. While that means it is 0.4seconds slower to triple figures and 11km/h down on the top speed of the W12, the Bentayga V8 is still one of the quickest SUVs on the planet – and reasonably efficient for the effort too, drinking a claimed average of 11.4L/100km.
It's also right up-to-date in terms of safety technology, with autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring and a 360-degree reverse camera.
Visually, the V8 doesn’t look much different from the W12 and Diesel but it does introduce a new exterior treatment that replaces all the brightwork in places like the headlight surrounds, grilles, fender flutes and rear numberplate valance with gloss black highlights to give it a subtly more menacing appearance.
The air suspension has been revised to account for the 50kg lighter weight across the front axle and been given a sportier character, and the car is offered with the largest brake package ever fitted to a production vehicle, an optional set-up that includes massive 440mm carbon ceramic front discs with 10-piston Brembo callipers. Standard brakes are still impressive, with 400mm steel discs and six-piston callipers far from underdone.
Similarly, the eight-speed automatic transmission has been re-calibrated to suit the unique characteristics of the engine, as has the adaptive roll control system which uses a 48 volt electrical system to run the complex, computer-controlled anti-roll bars that allow for greater wheel articulation at low speeds to give it a comfortable ride and more-than-adequate off-roading capabilities while, at the other end of the spectrum, keeps the body sitting flat when driven enthusiastically through the corners.
There’s no major changes inside the artisan-crafted cabin, except, for the first time, it’s old-fashioned wood veneer dash inserts can be replaced by racier carbon fibre trim highlights.
In any case, the Bentayga’s cockpit is a truly sumptuous place to sit, no matter whether you’re behind the wheel or being chauffeured to a red-carpet event, with plenty of space in the front or back seats, which can be configured as either a conventional three-person bench or as two individual business class seats.
While there’s acres of soft leather that’s been beautifully hand-stitched across the signature flying wing layout of the dash and old-school elements like the pull-out controls for the vents and knurled aluminium knobs remain, the cockpit is fairly modern by Bentley standards with the latest in connectivity and multimedia, as well as having a partial digital instrument cluster, a full colour heads-up display and even the option of night vision.
Ergonomically, the seats are super comfortable, the high-set driving position has plenty of adjustment and there’s good vision out of the expansive glasshouse – all of which combine to provide a commanding view of the road, and those less fortunate around you.
ON THE ROAD
Despite its sporty edge, the Bentayga V8 has a genuine duality that offers the best attributes of a limousine, an SUV and a Grand Tourer all in one.
Three driving modes – Comfort, Bentley and Sport – provide increasingly sharper response but in any driving mode the large SUV is supremely comfortable, no matter the speed and no matter the road.
Comfort truly removes nuisances from the outside world that few SUVs can match and provides a whisper quiet ride with a smooth and effortless engine calibration which is perfectly matched to invisible transmission shifts and air suspension that floats over bumps like they don’t exist.
The Bentley setting is an adaptive function that constantly changes elements like the suspension damping, throttle map and transmission depending on driver inputs and road conditions.
But it’s the Sport mode that gives the V8 a truly unique driving experience. It unleashes the engine’s immense torque with sharper throttle response, has more precise gear changes and opens its lungs to showcase the booming soundtrack it produces.
Unlike the W12, which still has a restrained exhaust note when pushed hard, in Sport mode the V8 has an ever-present rumble that builds to a crescendo as the revs rise, making it more engaging at speed.
And it is certainly no slouch in a straight line, thanks to an endless tidal wave of torque that is instantly accessible and totally masks the fact the Bentayga is a 2.3-tonne limousine on stilts.
The same could be said about how it handles too. Sure, it can’t quite hide its heft when you’re up it for the rent, but the reality is no SUV can change the laws of physics. The Bentley though can be hustled through the bends quicker than most will ever try with a sure-footed and stable stance, strong brakes and plenty of traction from its rear-biased all-wheel drive system.
With the most character and best driving dynamics in the Bentayga line-up, the V8 is deservedly the driver’s choice among the three but it doesn’t lose any of its appeal as an uber-luxury SUV.
Sure, it’s still not cheap, and it isn’t the prettiest car on the planet, but it certainly makes a pretty loud statement. And, quite literally, a glorious-sounding, louder one with a V8.
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