Since its 2015 launch, the Bentley Bentayga uber-luxury SUV has offered American customers umpteen interior, paint, wheel and trim options. But until now it’s been limited to a single stateside engine choice: a torque-monster 6.0-liter W12 –- undoubtedly a proper selection for a premium utility in the Bentayga’s $200K-plus price category, but also heavy, thirsty and expensive.
Enter the Bentayga V8, introduced at this year’s Detroit auto show, powered by a new twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 co-developed with Porsche. It’s good for 542 hp and 568 lb-ft of torque, in comparison with the 600-hp/664-lb-ft W12. Yes, output drops slightly, but most customers won’t notice: Since the V8 Bentayga is also a bit lighter, weight-to-power ratios differ by less than 0.75 lb/hp between the two models.
Paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, the Bentayga V8 can propel itself from 0-60 in just 4.4 seconds and up to a top speed of 180 mph, only 0.4 second and 7 mph off the W12’s numbers, respectively. Critical for ever-increasing efficiency requirements, the new V8 gets auto stop/start and cylinder deactivation, making it able to run as a V4 in low-load situations.
Exterior changes for the V8 include a black and chrome grille, as well as figure-eight-shaped quad exhaust tips. Iron rotors are standard, but the Bentayga’s optional carbon-ceramic brakes measure an insane 17.3 inches up front and 14.5 inches in the rear, sitting inside 10-piston calipers; those don’t just sound big, they are — as in, the biggest front brakes on any production vehicle, to be exact. Though it’s a shame to hide such rotors, the Bentayga will be available with a choice of 11 wheel designs, including a new 22-inch model finished in black with a polished finish.
Supporting its nearly 5,300-pound curb weight, the Bentayga V8 gets an electric active roll control system termed Bentley Dynamic Ride; the adjustable dampers use a 48-volt electrical architecture to react to cornering forces as quickly as possible. A central controller allows the system to react based on driving style and also adjusts throttle and transmission response: The modes are sport (obvious), comfort (plush and refined), Bentley (what you and I would call “normal,” this blends sport and comfort settings) and custom (if you want to roll your own). But wait, there’s more: An optional All Terrain Specification adds four additional off-road driving modes: snow and grass; dirt and gravel; mud and trail; and sand dunes, depending on the type of surface across which you’re trekking.
Inside, Bentley will offer its first high-gloss carbon-fiber trim as an option in place of the multitude of veneers available. Other new options for the interior include a wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel, as well as chestnut-colored Cricket Ball leather — sort of a deep chestnut brown — and cross-stitching on the seams to highlight the lines. And if you want something else (just about anything else, for that matter), there’s always Bentley’s Mulliner division, which will be happy to customize whatever your heart (and wallet) desires.
Finally, don’t forget the electronics: The Bentayga V8 gets an imposing list of convenience technologies and safety nannies that operate based on inputs from 12 ultrasonic sensors, five cameras and both short- and long-range radar. Park Assist will autonomous park the Bentayga in perpendicular or parallel spaces; Night Vision puts an infrared view of the surrounding terrain on the central instrument panel; Adaptive Cruise Control modulates both steering and acceleration/braking to provide some semi-autonomous operation; and Trailer Assist uses sensors in the tow bar to automatically back up a trailer with no steering input needed by the driver.
So what’s it all going to cost you? U.S. pricing starts at $165,000 a huge $67,000 less than the W12’s starting price, which, as we’ll explain momentarily, makes the Bentayga V8 a veritable bargain in luxury transportation. Options can obviously add a big chunk of that back, especially if Mulliner is involved, but the MSRP is bound to give plenty of Range Rover Autobiography intenders pause.
There’s a 4-liter twin-turbo engine under the massive black acoustic cover, but this is all you get to see.
Based on the time I’ve spent in Bentley Continental GTs of both the W12 and V8 persuasion, I had a pretty good idea how the Bentayga V8’s personality would manifest itself. Call it confirmation bias if you will, but just as the Conti V8 is the Very Serious W12’s mischievous younger brother, the Bentayga V8 proved itself lighter on its feet than the W12 during my first drive in and around the Alpine burgh of Kitzbuhel, Austria.
Small, turbocharged V8s are a glorious thing pretty much regardless of manufacturer, but Bentley’s new 4.0-liter is a particular sweetheart. Despite a basic architecture shared with Porsche, Bentley has dialed in its own fuel management curve, focusing more on midrange torque production than the final high-rpm shove upon which its partners in Stuttgart insist. Whatever they’ve done, the net result is a solid wall of torque shoving you forward the instant you put your foot in it. Turbo lag is nil from a standing start, though just slightly noticeable when combined with the transmission’s downshifting during passing moves.
Then there’s the sound: Switched to sport mode with its uncorked exhaust, whatever the V8 gives up to the W12 in terminal velocity, it makes up for with its British Muscle Car soundtrack, a crackling chorus that will have you blasting around slower traffic just for the musical accompaniment.
Sliding in the snow on purpose with the Bentayga’s V8 crackle providing a soundtrack.
Or, as I found myself, banging off four-wheel drifts in the snow: Using the off-road modes on an icy course set up for the purpose, Bentley chassis engineers explained — then demonstrated — how the traction management programs allow lots of torque to make it to the wheels even when said wheels are spinning. A moderately skilled driver can modulate throttle and steering to wheel around in the slippery stuff, V8 gurgling and tires flinging, but without ever moving too far off course. When traction starts to disappear, briefly letting off the throttle throws just enough weight forward to let the fronts grip and away the Bentayga squirts again. It’s both confidence-inspiring and good fun in this 2.75-ton beastie.
Back on pavement, where 99 percent of Bentaygas will spend 99 percent of their time, the V8 is an equally capable kilometer-carver. My drive route encompassed lower-speed two-lanes up into southern Germany, a high-speed unrestricted Autobahn run and a curvaceous Alpine mountain road, granting a full spectrum of environments. Of the three, the Bentayga is most at home stretching its legs on freeway runs –- it’s remarkably silent and effortless at the roughly 110 mph we were able to reach on the Autobahn, perhaps not surprising except when one considers the sheer mass and cross-section of something like a full-size SUV. There’s some impressive noise management and airflow engineering going on here.
Twisty back roads are never going to be a Bentayga’s home turf, but once again considering the mass involved it’s a far better back-road bomber than it has a right to be. With the active suspension management in sport, body roll is negligible, and the steering is quick enough to react crisply to turns without getting the chassis twitchy. Finally, if you get yourself truly out of line, the massive brakes are instantly ready to pull you back from the edge.
The Takeaway Given that we’re discussing a Bentley and not a Volkswagen, you either have the means to get one or you don’t. The V8 Bentayga will likely become the daily driver of choice for SoCal soccer moms, though it also makes sense for well-heeled New Englanders who have to deal with increasingly unpredictable weather. As a family car for the well-to-do, there’s little about which to quibble –- if anything, the Bentayga’s styling may be too subtle for the badge conscious. Then again, a Bentley isn’t supposed to be ostentatious — it’s supposed to deliver power, a sense of forged heft within which lies a quilted, leather-lined club-room sanctuary. The Bentayga V8 delivers all those qualities and a place to throw your soggy Labradoodle after a day at the beach. On Sale: Available to order now, deliveries begin Q3 2018 Base Price: $165,000 Powertrain: 4-liter twin-turbo V8; 8-speed automatic transmission; AWD Output: 542 hp @ 6,000 rpm; 568 lb-ft from 1,960-4,500 rpm Curb Weight: 5,264 0-60 MPH: 4.4 sec Fuel Economy: TBD(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Pros: Every bit as much a Bentley as the W12, with a great-sounding, playful engine Cons: Still costs as much as a house
Given that we’re discussing a Bentley and not a Volkswagen, you either have the means to get one or you don’t. The V8 Bentayga will likely become the daily driver of choice for SoCal soccer moms, though it also makes sense for well-heeled New Englanders who have to deal with increasingly unpredictable weather.
As a family car for the well-to-do, there’s little about which to quibble –- if anything, the Bentayga’s styling may be too subtle for the badge conscious. Then again, a Bentley isn’t supposed to be ostentatious — it’s supposed to deliver power, a sense of forged heft within which lies a quilted, leather-lined club-room sanctuary. The Bentayga V8 delivers all those qualities and a place to throw your soggy Labradoodle after a day at the beach.
On Sale: Available to order now, deliveries begin Q3 2018
Base Price: $165,000
Powertrain: 4-liter twin-turbo V8; 8-speed automatic transmission; AWD
Output: 542 hp @ 6,000 rpm; 568 lb-ft from 1,960-4,500 rpm
Curb Weight: 5,264
0-60 MPH: 4.4 sec
Fuel Economy: TBD(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Pros: Every bit as much a Bentley as the W12, with a great-sounding, playful engine
Cons: Still costs as much as a house