I remember when Bentley first unveiled the then EXP 9 F concept in Geneva in 2012 and thinking just how monstrous it looked then being generally concerned about the future of one of my favourite automotive brands. Fast forward 4 years and the Bentley Bentayga – Yes, it was a lot prettier than the original concept but the jury was still out about it being “pretty”.
Originally only offered with a full-fat W12 pumping out 600hp and 660lb-ft – very serious stuff for a big comfy SUV. This powerplant could launch the small bungalow sized (and weighted) Bentley from 0-62mph in just 4.1 seconds with a crazy top speed of 187mph. AS impressive as these figures are, they came at one heck of a cost, with the basic OTR price being £162,700. That’s £20,000 more than the reigning king of the luxury SUV world, the much better looking and well-established Range Rover Supercharged V8. So if you had enough to buy a top spec Range Rover, why would you spend more for something that isn’t widely thought of as the best luxury SUV in the world? Everyone knows if you want the best, you buy the Range Rover, right?
I have spent a lot of time in the Various Range Rovers over the years and up until recently, I believed that there was nothing out there that can out-do the Rover with regards to ultimate luxury and ability. That was until I drove the brand new Bentley Bentayga V8. The V8 offers a bit more sense and “practicality” over the W12 as it has that marvellous twin-turbo 4.0 litre V8 from the Porsche Cayenne and upcoming Lamborghini Urus. The Bentley version puts out 542bhp and 568lb-ft and it just such a wonderful powerplant. A lot like the Continental GT, the W12 unit just feels heavy and old-fashioned whereas the new V8 feels spritely and alert. The V8 was a massive welcome in the Conti GT and that is echoed here in the Bentayga. But don’t fear, downsizing the engine from 12 to 8 cylinders has not been as detrimental to performance as you may think, it can still launch from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and it will keep flying all the way to 180mph if you’re into drag racing a big luxury SUV…
Inside the Bentayga it’s all about being that little bit more than other SUVs, where cars like the Range Rover were once considered the ultimate in luxury off-roading, the Bentley takes it a step further. The interior is filled with supple leather and hand-crafted Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus veneer. Just as you would expect in something carrying the Flying B badge. Position-wise, you sit nice and high up, but where other SUVs make you feel more like you are sitting “on” the seats, the Bentley has this almost grand tourer-like feel where you still feel nicely nestled inside the beautiful straight fluted seats. It’s like sitting in Continental GT but a lot higher up.
As is pretty standard these days in high-end 4x4s, the Bentayga has a clever terrain response system called the Drive Dynamics Mode that lets the driver select between various drive modes for on and off-road. Obviously, unlike Land Rovers, this car is designed more for on-road ability rather than off. Using the 48v Electronic Active Roll Control system, the heavy SUV is able to stay almost completely flat in corners and turns and it absorbs bumps and gaps in the road. It’s actually very impressive on the road it feels a lot lower and sportier than it actually is. When you let the speed increase a bit and you hear that intoxicating V8 snarl coming out the back, it’s very easy to forget you’re driving a small detached bungalow on stilts.
As I said before, I was very sceptical about the Bentayga and I really couldn’t see the point in the brand going down this route. However, the Bentley badge is all about blending racing heritage with ultimate luxury and personalisation, and no other SUV offers the attention to detail and the sheer amount of bespoke build options as the Bentayga (at the moment) so until the Roll Royce Cullinan hits the showroom floors, it really is the ultimate luxury SUV. The reason so many people say you should by a Range Rover instead is the exact reason why the Bentayga is so special. I live in Cambridgeshire and everyone and their mate drives a Range Rover, you can pick one up from around £80k, but you hardly ever see the big Bentley about, it’s that little bit more expensive and that bit more exclusive and that’s why it makes sense. I’m not saying it’s better than the Range Rover because the Rover wins on its all-round ability, nothing comes close to that, but it is an absolutely fabulous car to be in, and that engine is just brilliant.