2019 Bentley Bentayga V-8 first drive review: eight is enough

Burnt coffee, unlined trousers, post-Achtung Baby U2. Life is rife with mild disappointments.

With four fewer cylinders under its hood than its W-12 cousin, does the V-8 Bentley Bentayga deliver another?

Math with us here for a moment. A W-12 Bentayga with 600 horsepower lashes out at 60-mph runs in 4.0 seconds, hardly restrained by its 5,379-pound curb weight.

A 542-hp Bentayga V-8, a hundred-odd pounds trimmed from the weight over its nose at 5,264 pounds, covers the 60-mph dash in 4.4 seconds.

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Translated into English, that means the Bentayga V-8 is barely slower, not enough to register through mortal sensory inputs. That credit-card-slim performance gap aside, it avoids gas-guzzler taxes, steers more finely, and makes nearly all the W-12’s lavish features available, if not standard.

So, about that possible letdown. “No” about covers it, don’t you think?

Specs appeal

More color may help you see how well the latest Bentayga fits into the expanding niche of ultra-luxury SUVs, and why the V-8 becomes so very important.

The landscape’s already punctuated by Range Rover and Cayenne stalwarts, where prices vault beyond $200,000 with ease. The really high rollers have hardly begun to roll in: Maybachs and Cullinans and Uruses loom on the horizon.

Bentley wisely chose to lead with the profit-making W-12 Bentayga, stickered at more than $230,000, to grab its piece of the utility waterfront. Now it’s time to flesh out the lineup with the V-8, priced at less than $168,000, ready to elbow aside intenders trying to press their luck in this particular ether.

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The linchpin is that marvelous V-8. It’s been spread liberally across a host of VW Group products, impossible to find flawed in any of them. The twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 plumbs every cubic inch for power as it couples that 542-hp output with 568 pound-feet of torque, delivered from 1,960 rpm, a few hundred revs higher than the W-12’s 664 lb-ft torque pinnacle—a K2 of automotive output, at least until electrics become commonplace.

The V-8 gives up the whuffling off-beat rap of the W-12 for the muffled roar of the twin-turbo V-8. It’s the equivalent of the stripped-down band that goes on tour, not the lavish and costly setup afforded for session recordings.

It gives up a grand total of 7 mph on the top end, too, 180 mph versus the W-12’s 187-mph limit.

Spirits lifted

Both engines couple to an 8-speed automatic and permanent all-wheel drive. The shifter could be telecommuting, for all the quiet efficiency it throws off, without any Skype-like interruptions or iffy connections. The all-wheel-drive system spins through drive modes that let it drift from a ski chalet’s valets to its snow-slicked figure-eight loops like a Conti GT wearing its winter weight well. We pressed a V-8 Bentayga into lurid powerslides through the final throes of winter; minus the ermine toilet-seat covers, it’s exactly how we thought being rich would feel.

The V-8 extracts some simpler joys from its SUV form factor. The hundred-plus pounds it leaves behind lift the variable-ratio steering’s spirits. From the helm of the slightly undersized wheel, the Bentayga V-8 responds with gentle reassurances whether you’re culling ice chunks from the herd, or avoiding white Sprinters as they careen unwisely into the fast lane of the Autobahn.

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It does leave one critical box unticked, but not grayed out: Bentley charges $5,235 extra for the plush ride and firm responses of its complex height-adjustable suspension, a cassoulet of active roll bars, air springs, and adaptive dampers. It’s gratis on the W-12, highly recommended still on the V-8, where the thousands of dollars go a long way toward providing the supple ride sophistication that badge should command anywhere, anytime.

Add that in, and opt for the carbon-ceramic brakes (your choice of color: otherwise, the iron brakes’ calipers glow red) and that $168,000 sticker floats closer to the $200,000 ceiling that separates W-12 owners from everyone else, not to mention all that extra cash.

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