First Drive: Bentley Bentayga V8

28th February 2018
erin_baker_headshot.jpg Erin Baker

The Year of the Luxury SUV is here. Suddenly, Bentley seems way ahead of the pack with its Bentayga, which is now almost old hat compared with the Lamborghini Urus and Rolls-Royce Cullinan.


Yet Bentley has been closely controlling the delivery of its Bentayga to market, to keep interest fresh: it launched with the W12 petrol flagship version, then unveiled the V8 Diesel, and now it's the turn of the V8, the smaller (everything’s relative) petrol version. At Geneva next month, a plug-in hybrid version will be unveiled, and there’s also the option of a seven-seat version of each powertrain.

The V8 will surely be the version most people in Europe buy, now that diesel is more or less dead, battered to an untimely death by ill-thought-out taxes and needlessly, stupidly punitive EU legislation.

This 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged engine is really all one needs anyway, either for the Kensington school run or the cross-continental trip to Verbier. Or Kitzbuhel, which is where we drove it, on tarmac and snow, this week. It has the capacity, at partial throttle, to shut down four cylinders, too, which really makes it positively eco-friendly.

From the outside, there are some subtle changes to accentuate the more sporty, youthful nature of a V8 over a W12, and to keep the range fresh. There is a lot of black paint covering silver metal, for a more aggressive look. carbon-ceramic brakes are offered as an £11,000 option for the first time and can be specified with bright red callipers. There’s a funky new 22in wheel on offer and the choice of a glossy carbon-fibre finish across the interior instead of fusty-dusty W12-style burr veneers.

The new 4.0-litre, twin-scroll turbocharged engine, developed with Porsche, produces 550hp (542bhp), which is 58 horsepower lighter than the W12: I’d be very impressed if an average punter noticed any difference in the sublime power delivery. It revs to 7,000rpm, making it Bentley’s highest-revving engine ever, and it gets to 62mph in 4.5 seconds from a standstill, which is only 0.4 of a second slower than the Aston DB11 Volante. Which is insane. In return for a loss of 58PS, you save £30,000 on the price of this model, which starts at £136,200, and that to me seems a very fair swap.


In all other respects, this is the same, comprehensively capable Bentayga as the W12 model. Those exterior looks still punish this car, but my goodness, it’s stunning inside and an outstanding drive. Yes, you could buy three Volvo XC90s or a couple of Range Rovers for the same price of one of these once you’ve specced it up to your liking, but that’s to miss the point, which is that if you were after a premium SUV, of course you’d never buy a Bentayga. This car is a rare statement that you can afford the very best, and it really is. On an unrestricted Autobahn in Germany, the Bentayga was untroubled by 130mph. Utterly unruffled. No sense of mass, or friction, or velocity, Just seamless acceleration. The steering is perfectly judged in its resistance, the air suspension pliant, the sound-deadening absolute.

Speaking of sound, Bentley’s Naim stereo system, at £6,680, remains money well spent. It is among the very best provided in a car. In fact, Bentley’s entire interior remains unbeatable – no one blends colours and materials so well, matching leathers with veneers and stitching to create classic, stylish tones. Rolls-Royce does art-deco elegance and extravagance like no one else, and Lamborghini fires up the Alcantara and perforated leather to devastating effect, but Bentley creates the world’s finest automotive lounges, bar none.

Yes, this is the Bentayga you’ll be wanting. Until next month, when the PHEV version arrives. Then it will probably be that one. 

Until the next iteration.

The Numbers

Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol

Transmission: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel drive

PS/Nm: 550/770

0-60mph: 4.4sec

Top speed: 180mph

Price from: £136,200

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