New Bentley Bentayga V8 S 2022 review

The new Bentley Bentayga V8 S takes everything that's great about the standard car, and turns it up a notch

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

Verdict

Long considered one of the best-handling SUVs on sale, the Bentley Bentayga V8 S throws the rules of physics out the window. Taking the standard car’s feeling of poise and precision, it elevates them even further thanks to a sorted chassis and howling sports exhaust. Yes, it’s expensive, and yes, a little ostentatious. But cars like these aren’t long for the world – and it feels like we should celebrate them while we can.

Once a contradiction of terms, the idea of ‘driver-focused SUV’ isn’t the paradox it used to be. On the contrary, some of the most entertaining and exploitable cars we’ve driven over the past 12 months have had a raised ride height and chunky body cladding.

Bentley is no stranger to sharp soft-roaders – the Bentayga has been around since 2016 and is widely considered one of the finest-handling cars in its class, and it’s the lighter V8 model that has always struck a chord with those who prefer to drive, rather than be driven. Not content, Bentley has turned up the wick on its eight-cylinder motor and added an S to its name.

The Bentayga V8 S gets a set of very subtle styling tweaks marking out its position as a hotter model: 22-inch wheels, an extended rear wing and more athletic-looking bumpers – with more marked changes under the skin.

The most important of those is the three-chamber air suspension, which is up to 15 per cent stiffer than on the conventional Bentayga. Take it easy and the S feels much the same as its ‘regular’ stablemate, but switch it to Sport and the ride firms up, with this setting also bringing a more playful make-up to the traction control.

It certainly isn’t lacking personality. The freer-flowing sports exhaust gives the Bentayga an even more boisterous character, constantly goading you to step on the throttle. However, while the volume has been turned up to 11, straight line performance is unchanged.

That’s because Bentley has left the 4.0-litre turbocharged engine well alone. The 0-62mph sprint is completed in an identical 4.5 seconds, while top speed stands at 180mph – the same as the standard Bentayga V8. Regardless, it feels pugnacious from a standstill, launching instantly with its rear squat to the floor.

The stiffer set-up is noticeable – the ride is generally quite firm – but the clever damping means that while body control steps up a notch, it still shrugs off rough surfaces and potholes. The Bentayga S feels hunkered down through fast bends, belying its height and considerable kerbweight.

The single weak point to the otherwise incredibly accomplished driving experience is the light steering. It makes the Bentayga surprisingly manoeuvrable for a car of this size, but it lacks feedback. The gearbox shifts cleanly, apart from when it intentionally engineers a degree of transmission shunt in Sport mode – all accompanied by an aggressive blare from the exhaust, of course.

But leave it in the regular ‘Bentley’ mode, as most owners will, and the Bentyaga V8 S settles into its stride, tones down the exhaust (though not completely, we may add) and doubles as a remarkably relaxed cruiser. The split-tone Alcantara sports seats offer just the right degree of support and comfort, while the commanding view brings an unquestionable feeling of superiority over other road users – like it or not.

Far from being an amalgamation of the Volkswagen Group parts bin, the Bentayga continues to feel like a bespoke, beautifully crafted place to spend time. The infotainment system is responsive and packed with functionality, while the chunky climate control switches are a cut above – not least because they’re not hidden away within the touchscreen.

Personalisation is key to any Bentley specification, and while every V8 S gets the maker’s Blackline trim additions as standard, there’s plenty of ways to customise your car’s appearance. There are over 100 paint options, for instance, including a staggering 19 shades of blue.

Available with four, five or seven seats, the V8 S is as practical as any Bentayga; spacious, if not quite class-leading. Beware, however, while the four-seat spec is obviously opulent, the seats don’t fold down to free up space in the boot.  

Model:Bentley Bentayga V8 S
Price:£179,600
Engine: 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo petrol
Power/torque: 542bhp/770Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto, four-wheel drive
0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
Top speed: 180mph
Economy/CO2: 21.7mpg, 294g/km
On sale: Now

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