Elegant practicality

Ever since Bentley joined the SUV fray back in 2016, it has created one of the best sports utility vehicles around and certainly one of the most popular. A combined package of luxury and performance with the chops to perform well on road and off, I’ve always enjoyed my time behind the wheel of a Bentayga, whether the SUV was motivated by a W12 motor, a hybrid powertrain, or the newest iteration of the Bentley Bentayga engine, the V8.

It’s a little challenging to compare the three, since I had the W12 for a week in September of 2016 and drove it in my hometown in Southern California. I enjoyed experiencing the hybrid on the roads around Silicon Valley and out to Half Moon Bay at the press launch of the car in June of 2019, and, more recently, I enjoyed the current V8 model for another week in the South Bay region of Los Angeles.

Bentley Bentayga V8

A few facts: did you know that the name “Bentayga” comes from a big rock formation in the Canary Islands, the Roque Bentayga? Did you also know that the Bentayga has become the best-selling Bentley model since production began in 2016? And did you know that all Bentaygas have a front engine and are full-time all-wheel drive? You can also get your motivator in several flavors: the W12 was no longer offered after 2020, but the twin-turbo V8 (542 hp, 568 lb-ft of torque), the hybrid (443 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque), and bad boy of the family, the Speed Edition (with a higher-performance twin-turbo V8, with 626 hp and 664 lb⋅ft of torque) are available.

As part of the Volkswagen family, there is a familial relationship between the Lamborghini Urus, the Audi Q8, and the Bentayga; but, having spent substantial time at the wheel of all three, I can tell you that they’re all quite different and the family ties are not readily apparent, because each was designed for a different mission.

One of the most consistent hallmarks that I love about all Bentleys is their attention to detail, especially with the interiors and the switchgear. Virtually everything you see or touch in the Bentayga seems like it was designed with no concern for cost. Knurled metal knobs abound. Even if blindfolded, I could tell I was in a Bentley. Beautiful diamond-stitched leather seats is another Bentley touch. And let’s not forget how the car rides in a silent elegance (until you stomp the go pedal, at which time it lets loose with a terrific, yet stately, roar).

Bentley made a big upgrade push to the Bentayga’s current model, leaving only the door panels unchanged. Yet, this luxury SUV is instantly recognizable as the changes were more evolutionary than revolutionary. And why change course when you’re ahead? The Bentayga accounted for 45% of Bentley’s worldwide sales in 2019; but, now that it’s been out for several years, it was time for a “freshening” with a new look for the instrumentation and a large touch-screen and Apple Car-Play. The nose and tail were redone, most notably with a tailgate that goes all the way across the back. The newer Bentley look, with their elliptical taillights, was added to the Bentayga, too.

At over 5,300 pounds, the car feels heavy, but I mean that in a good way. It seems to flatten out the road, providing a firm but very pleasant ride. However, those weight numbers disappear completely when acceleration and cornering are factored in, as the Bentayga goes and turns … and stops! Some of that performance is, of course, thanks to 542 horsepower and 568 pounds of torque mentioned above, but it’s the finesse with which the car handles that power that makes the Bentayga such a joy to drive. Am I a fan? Absolutely! As a die-hard V12 (or W12) fan, I wasn’t sure that a 4-liter V8 would cut it, even with a twin-turbo boost. I needn’t have worried, as the V8 Bentayga is well up to any task.

Photo Credit: Bentley Motors USA