The popularity of SUVs is on the rise. They’re quickly outselling the humble hatchback and the sedan combined. People like the appeal of a big, practical body but still demand car-like behavior from their SUV. Most manufacturers have at least one SUV offering in their lineup nowadays, and companies like Ford and Chevrolet offer over half a dozen such vehicles. Although most of these vehicles are classified as SUVs, there are in fact quite a few differences between them.
Most of the so-called SUVs are just jacked up cars pretending to be something they’re not. Sure they’re taller and they ride a lot higher, but the underpinnings are based on their car siblings. The small and mid-size crossovers are perfect examples of this. One manufacturer which recently joined the SUV game is Bentley. The highly anticipated Bentayga launched with the W12 flagship engine, and it wowed a lot of people for the most part.
As expected, Bentley is now extending the Bentayga lineup with a new engine under the bonnet. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s the excellent 4.0 TFSI V8 we’re talking about. To experience it and find out if it is indeed as good as its W12 sibling, we were invited to the Kitzbuhel Country Club in the Austrian Alps. The test drive was just over 200 kilometers and the temperatures dropped down to a chilling -14 degrees Celsius. The perfect environment then, for testing a brand-new SUV.
Exterior Visually, the V8 Bentayga is almost identical to its bigger brother. From the outside at least, it’s difficult to distinguish the two unless you’re a Bentley employee. They introduced new colors for the 2019 model and added bespoke 22-inch wheels, which do make the big SUV pop out it has to be said. The Bentayga is a vehicle which grows on you over time. The first time you look at it you might find it a bit bulky and large, but the more you stare at it the more you appreciate it. The proportions are actually quite good, it’s the relatively tall roofline which makes it appear larger than it is. The long overhangs give off the illusion of it being longer than it is too.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but by no means is the Bentayga the prettiest SUV on the market. It’s elegant and subtle, but I wouldn’t call it striking. The front fascia is designed to mimic that of the Continental GT, and it does for the most part. The headlights are similar and so it the grille, but they’re mounted much higher. I especially love the little wheel arch extensions on the rear quarter panel. From a 3/4 shot they make the Bentley appear sporty. The rear is rather underwhelming because there’s not a lot to look at, but as I said, subtlety is the name of the game here. The small roof spoiler on the top of the trunk adds some character, and of course so do the quad exhausts which have been molded to look as true duals, one per each side.
Interior Inside, the Bentayga is just as luxurious as before. Nothing new to talk about, but then again, it’s hard to improve on perfection. The Bentayga has to be one of the most luxurious and sumptuous SUVs on the market, right up there with the flagship Range Rover. It completely cocoons you and isolates you from the outside world. It’s like sitting in the lounge of a really expensive hotel. You feel cozy and snug.
Naturally, everything you touch and see feels and looks expensive. That’s because it is expensive. Bentley spared no expenses when it comes to the materials, and the fit and finish is second to none. Commenting the interior further would be a waste of words. The cabin of the Bentayga represents the last word in terms of luxury and comfort when it comes to large SUVs. To compare it to the Audi Q7 would be an insult to Bentley. It’s a huge step up from the usual luxury SUVs from the likes of Audi and BMW.
Power and Performance Now, despite being shorter on cylinders, the V8 develops 540 horsepower, just 60 less than the large W12. Torque has been declined to 772 Nm too (from 894 Nm), but you don’t notice the decrease. We’re still talking about well over 700 Nm, and at sane speeds, it’s more than enough to get you in trouble quickly. The V8 Bentayga can sprint 100 km/h in just 4.4 seconds. That, in case you were wondering, is as fast as a manual BMW M4.
Because the W12 is essentially two V6 engines smashed together, it’s not as vocal as a true V12. The unit is very smooth and effective, but not that exhilarating or fun. The W12 Bentayga is effortless but it almost makes the car too easy to drive, because it never feels like it’s working hard. The sudden rush of torque pushing you in the seat is awesome, but it’s not followed up by any loud noise. The V8 shakes things up a bit. You start it up and you’re greeted by a rather mean growl at idle. It isn’t afraid to shout and yell its lungs out at the top of the rev range. The redline is a rather high 7,200 rpm, the highest rev limit ever for any Bentley. In terms of noise, the V8 has the W12 trumped.
The V8 is also lighter by 25 kilograms, making the Bentayga understeer even less at the limit. It’s eager to turn in and exhibits practically no body roll. The 48-volt anti-roll bar system does a wonderful job of eliminating body roll. It’s neigh-on ridiculous how stable a 2.3-tonne SUV can feel. To wrap things off we drove the big Bentley on Ice and experienced the three different driving modes: Bentley Mode, Snow and Slippery. With varying degree of slip angle and traction control on all, it was easy to find the right setup whether you were looking for something safe or wanted to have fun. I’d say it’s almost as good as Land Rover’s Terrain Response, and that’s a major achievement on its own.
Which one should you buy? The V8 will be negligibly cheaper than the W12, so the question is: which one do you go for? If you want the flagship for bragging rights, the W12 is a no-brainer. However, in terms of driving, I actually think I like the V8 more. It’s almost as fast but has a lot more character and personality. Plus, it’s more fuel efficient. Not that you care in such a car, but it’s worth a mention.
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