2023 Bentley Bentayga V8
– As fast as a sports car
– Cabin trim and features
– Ride and handling
– A little bit expensive
– Not as spacious as expected
– Limited offroad ability
With the graceful demise of the classic Mulsanne sedan, the door has been left wide open for the flagship mantle at Bentley, and it still remains unclear. Each of the VW-owned British brand’s remaining models are the only one standing in their respective body styles, and the Bentayga remains their only SUV offering. Arguably their best seller now, the Bentayga was given a makeover for the 2021 model year.
It’s been half a decade since the Bentayga debuted in its much-derided concept form. While that original design was hastily dumped in favour of giving the production Bentayga a familiar corporate face, it was still not quite the design success you’d hope for when you pay this much for a car. But while the latest facelift still retains its long overhangs and bulbous rear, the detailing is much more handsome now. The cleaner front end features glittering crystal headlights and loses the old model’s fancy headlight-washer system, while the new Continental-style rear end has oval tail lights. It is genuinely unique, and no one will mistake it for anything else.
The Bentayga is very large car, slightly longer and wider than even the Nissan Patrol, but it hides the size well thanks to its lower roofline and ground clearance, low enough to make it easy to step in and out of. Motorised side-steps are optional, but not needed with the air suspension lowered.
Once inside, you’re greeted with a largely unchanged dashboard, centre-console and door-panel arrangements, resplendent in cow hide and real wood from top to bottom, with metal a/c vents, gear-shift knob and other trim bits, crowned by an analogue Breitling clock.
While the Bentayga may be a full-sizer on paper, the cabin space is decidedly midsize, although space is still more than adequate. Bentley recognised this issue and finally started offering an extended-wheelbase EWB model from late 2022, although here we are testing the standard-length model.
Up front, the power-adjustable seats offer a choice of massages, ventilation and extended thigh support.
The rear bench seat can be manually folded down to increase the already-big boot space. There is an individual rear seating option, with reclining and massage functionality, although this means the rear seats don’t fold down. There are several storage cubbies, rear tray tables and four cup-holders.
Tech features are plentiful, although nothing truly inventive beyond VW parts bin components. There’s the standard multimedia touchscreen with navigation with wireless Apple Carplay, a wireless charger, the fully digital gauge cluster, a heads-up display, an above-average four-zone auto a/c with rear controls, a strong Naim stereo system, a removable touchscreen remote for rear passengers to control the stereo and a/c, a panoramic moonroof, and an around-view camera system with multiple possible views to choose from, including top-down.
Our test car did not come with the optional detachable rear Android tablets, hands-free tailgate, roll-up side-window blinds or remote start.
Safety features include a full set of airbags, ABS, ESP, tyre-pressure monitor, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot alert and lane assist.
Powered by a 4.0-litre turbocharged V8 engine making 542 hp at 6000 rpm and 770 Nm of torque at 1960-4500 rpm, the Bentayga is among the fastest SUVs around, and only a smidge slower than the old W12 engine option. We managed a 0-100 kph time of 4.7 seconds during our Dubai afternoon test. A heavy car at 2407 kg, fuel economy is very respectable at our as-tested 14.0 litres/100 km during our time with the car, no doubt because it barely needs to run above idle on the highway thanks to a ton of lower-rpm turbo juice.
This high-speed cruiser has a smooth ride for the most part, even floaty in the softest suspension setting, but it’s affected by a very mild jitter on rougher surfaces due to the low-profile 285/40 tyres riding on the optional 22-inch alloys. It’s pretty quiet, with some road noise only just becoming audible at 120 kph and beyond. The ride height is automatically lowered at high speeds to improve stability.
The all-wheel-drive Bentley handles extremely well for its size, with no obvious body roll and tons of grip, taking long curves at sports-car speeds. But on tighter turns, its size becomes obvious as it mildly understeers with squealing tyres.
The throttle response has that tiny-but-noticeable delay that plagues many modern European cars, and the 8-speed automatic transmission can be hesitant when the downshift paddle is pulled, but they are minor concerns. And there is no turbo lag beyond that initial delay at throttle tip-in.
The steering character changes with speed, very responsive and firming up on spirited corners while offering the slightest of feedback. It lightens up and becomes shorter-ratio at parking lot speeds for easy manoeuvring.
The brakes are very strong, although you still need to keep the big car’s weight in mind, especially on downhills.
The Bentayga is promoted as the go-anywhere Bentley, and even comes with a terrain-selection system and hill-descent control, but it’s not particularly great for anything other than light duty on desert sand. The overhangs are sizeable, the ground clearance is average, and the height-adjustable suspension doesn’t make a huge difference at its highest setting. With its low-profile tyres and high curb weight, the car bogs down in soft sand, requiring stomping on the throttle to power through rather than float over the dirt. There is no low-range gearing.
It’s the most versatile Bentley you can buy right now, and one that the owner can drive daily without worrying about gravel parking lots as well as occasional guests. Since its debut, many contenders have popped up in the super-SUV segment, and even with a “smaller” engine it remains an expensive proposition. But hey, it’s a Bentley.
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