New Bentley Bentayga V8 2018 review

With the diesel Bentley Bentayga dead, we see how good the most economical Bentayga is on the road

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

If you like your SUVs with heaps of clamorous character, few come close to the twin-turbo Bentley Bentayga V8. Opulent, ostentatious and surprisingly fun to drive, the brutish off-roader displays personality and charm by the bucket-load. While many will opt for the W12 simply for its flagship status, it’s the V8 that represents the sweet spot in the range.

With Bentley the latest in a long line of manufacturers deciding to ditch diesel in Europe, the Bentayga is back to being a petrol-only SUV.

Best SUV and 4x4s to buy 2018

And until the plug-in hybrid arrives in 2019, this V8 version is now the most economical model you can buy. Still, it’s all relative: the Bentayga V8 emits 260g/km of CO2 and will return just 24.8mpg on a good day.

Make the most of the colossal 542bhp and 770Nm of torque and that fuel economy figure will plummet, too. Yet that’s exactly what you’ll want to do; the characterful V8 sounds like a thunderstorm at full chat and flooring the throttle sends the 2.4-tonne SUV rocketing towards the horizon without hesitation.

Using the same 4.0-litre twin-turbo petrol engine as the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, it sprints from 0-62mph four tenths slower than its German sibling. Yet what it never feels is slow; the Bentayga V8 is relentlessly fast in a straight line, revving aggressively all the way to its 7,000rpm red line. 

The eight-speed ZF gearbox is as silky smooth as ever, yet it’ll fire off changes as quickly as the best dual-clutch transmissions should you ask it to. The Bentayga even rides rather nicely, despite our car’s optional 22-inch wheels.

But with that much weight on board, you might expect the Bentley to handle like soggy blancmange. But the eight-cylinder engine is actually 25kg lighter than the W12 – making this the finest handling Bentayga of them all.

It belies its size in a way few SUVs can, handling tight bends with a display of accuracy and control. The steering doesn’t offer an enormous amount a feel, but it’s well weighted and allows you to thread the bulky SUV through a series of sweeping bends with amusing satisfaction. It’s certainly sharper than the W12.

It’s as refined as you’d ever expect a Bentley to be, as well. At a steady cruise it can shut off four of its eight cylinders, settling down with a serene sense of calm at motorway speeds. So much so, that without flexing your right foot, your passengers may never know this Bentayga was such a rocket ship.

Of course, elsewhere its standard Bentley fare. The interior is exquisite, with leather, wood and knurled metal pinned to every surface. Our car’s chintzy colour scheme may not be to all tastes, but you can’t fault it for perceived quality.

The infotainment system is lifted from the W12, and while the menu set-up may have a distinct VW Group vibe, it’s layered with bespoke graphics and unique fonts. It’s easy to use, and the mapping is clear. The analogue dials offer a level of class missing in some rivals, even if they’re less configurable than Audi’s Virtual Cockpit system.

The only visual difference between the W12 and the eight-cylinder car can be found at the rear. Here, those with a keen eye will notice the tweaked exhausts, which have been adapted to give the illusion of four pipes instead of two. The V8 usually comes with sportier gloss black trim, although our car had been specified with optional chrome inserts. 

It’s an expensive car – but then all Bentleys are. You do get a fair amount of kit for your cash; all V8s get full-LED headlights, multi-mode air suspension and a panoramic sunroof. The eight-inch touchscreen is also standard, and every version comes with a 10-speaker stereo. Our car had a frankly eye-watering array of options, however, including deep pile floor mats, a Naim audio system and special £4,545 ‘Hallmark’ paint.

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