The Bentley Bentayga v8: Less engine can still mean more fun

We took one of the 600-horsepower super UTEs to complete a California double (surfing and skiing in the same day) last year and proclaimed Bentley's big brawler a savage brute in a bow tie.

It had heaps of power, surprising poise when chucking it into a corner, and the ability to affix a beaming smile on your face in 3.5 seconds: the precise time it takes the 5,600-pound beast to rip to 60 MPH.

So when Bentley announced a V8 version of the Bentayga, we wondered if the little brother would be just as capable and thrill-inducing as its older sibling? The V8 variant is less expensive, less powerful and has a lower top speed compared to the W12, but does any of that matter? We went to Austria to find out.


Our route started about 80 miles southeast of Munich, Germany, in Kitzbuhel, Austria. It’s a town occupied mostly by wealthy weekenders looking to enjoy the mountainous slopes, but it also has some of the best (and worst) driving roads in the world-the perfect place to test the Bentayga V8’s handling, ride, and performance. We also squeaked in a few Autobahn blasts, for good measure.

It's the same basic shape, but the lads at Crewe have done a decent job of making little brother stand out. One of the first things you’ll notice about the Bentley Bentayga V8 is its lack of shiny chrome trim pieces. The Bentayga V8 utilizes an all-black “chrome” finish on a variety of exterior components such as the grille, side skirts, bumper trim and even headlight enclosures. It’s just enough to completely distinguish the vehicle from the W12 variant and ever so subtly break up the otherwise large body panels into digestible pieces that flow nicely as a whole unit. The look is more sinister than sinuous, and we like that.

Another distinguishing feature on the V8 is something Bentley calls “twin-quad” tailpipes, which is a way to utilize the styling from both dual and quad exhaust systems and mix them together. We would’ve preferred one or the other, as the resulting shape is something that detracts from the rear end instead of adding to it.


A Bentley Bentayga V8 takes 130 hours to assemble from start to finish, but that doesn’t seem so staggering of a figure when you look at the inside. Because it’s all handcrafted at Bentley’s headquarters in Crewe, you begin to understand why a vehicle like this takes so long to put together. (We know because we visited the factory and the famed Mulliner division, which handles bespoke work for any Bentley model.)

All of the switches, knobs, and levers have an immensely satisfying tactile feel. Even the deliberate sounds they make are pleasing. The seats, of which you can get four, five, or seven, are wrapped in the highest quality leather with double stitching available to elevate the level of craftsmanship even further. It’s a painstaking process, takes twice as long to make, but the resulting look is something truly unique. It's very un-Volkswagen (Bentley's parent company) and that's very much the point.

For the V8, high-gloss carbon fiber panels replace traditional veneer surfaces. When combined with the red Cricketball interior, as our test unit had, the result is much more luxury speedboat than SUV-especially in the four-seat configuration.

Adult friends or extremely privileged children sitting in the rear will be fully entertained with the optional entertainment units. Each has its own headset, so each passenger can enjoy their own music and if the rear passengers don’t like what the front are playing, they can override it and play their music through the front. Also, there’s a gentleman’s function in the back right seat that lets the passenger push the front seat forward for more leg room. When deployed, you get a seating set up much like first class.


Bentley prepared an ice course for us to experience the off-road capabilities of the Bentayga V8. At first glance-and walk-nothing about the course indicated it would be safe, fun, or provide any meaningful feedback about how the Bentayga V8 behaves off-road, considering we could barely stay upright on our feet. Then we drove it.

The Bentayga V8 has eight driving modes, and when equipped with Pirelli Sottozero snow tires, “Bentley” mode does an incredible job of keeping the vehicle calm, composed, and in a straight line-even when there should be no traction. That mode selection is what the engineers find to be the perfect mixture of sportiness and comfort. It'll have enough pep to get hauling but sans any jerkiness on throttle tip-in and minus wallowing in corners.

With any mode, however, any driver input gets detected and digested by the Bentayga’s computer, which determines the appropriate response to your driving style. If the surface below is pure ice, the Bentayga will retard the throttle so you don’t spin your wheels. If the surface below is snow, the Bentayga portions the power to various corners to give you enough momentum to avoid getting stuck. The result is a vehicle that effortlessly pushed and pulled its way through sections of ice and snow with finesse. But rotating the drive dial to “off-road” is where the fun begins.

With traction control still enabled, “off-road” mode allows more sideways slip. When you’re mid-corner and feather the throttle, the V8 unleashes a bit more torque so the tires slip atop the ice. A bit of countersteer initiates a mega poweslide, and the Bentayga’s traction control system allows you to keep it there-provided smooth inputs. Most traction control systems would freak out, lighting up the dashboard like a Christmas tree, the Bentayga relishes in oversteer.


With a Bentley comes a certain expectation of comfort and luxury, regardless of seating position. In our four-seater test unit, the back seats could barely recline without having to move the seat forward, meaning you could have only one-a reclining seat with no legroom or legroom and no recline.

The Bentayga V8 has oodles of driver aids including lane assist, road sign recognition, and even night vision, but the real magic is the way the Bentayga V8 manages it’s heft and high center of gravity. An adaptive 48-volt active roll system prevents the Bentayga from washing around corners like a bath tub full of water, and instead behaves like a planted, proper sports car. It’s a clever way to rectify something that could’ve spoiled the driving experience entirely.


The Bentayga V8’s motor, the highest revving ever in Bentley’s storied history, was co-developed by Porsche providing peak power (542 horsepower) at 6,000 RPM, while torque still comes in strong at a whopping 568 lb-ft at just 1,960 RPM. And even though the W12 has more torque and more power, the V8 is just more fun to drive because you get to climb the revs. The resulting V8 burble that comes from the exhaust is quintessentially Bentley-it’s there, especially at low RPMs, but never in your face or shouty about it.


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