It’s hard to believe that the Bentayga’s been with us for 5 years already. And it’s certainly been a trailblazer. During that time Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini and Aston Martin have also brought ultra-luxurious SUVs to market with more on the way. Available with 6-, 8- or 12–cylinder power including a plug-in hybrid, this is the Bentley Bentayga V8.
The Volkswagen Group sells 4 SUVs under 4 different brands built upon the same platform sharing 4.0-liter turbocharged V8 engines; the Audi SQ7, Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Lamborghini Urus and this Bentley Bentayga.
With a starting price of near $170,000, the Bentayga is Bentley’s most affordable and subsequently best-selling model, tallying about 110 U.S. deliveries per month. I see lease specials out there for about $2,600. For some perspective, that’s the equivalent of leasing 12 Tiguans.
Now, I’m a little late to the Bentayga game as Bentley recently revealed the updated 2021 model. But that’s OK, I’ll get to that one soon enough and this 2020 version is fundamentally the same vehicle and there are plenty of them still to be had.
Bentleys are all about the 3 Ps: Power, Prestige and Personalization and the Bentayga possesses all of them in spades. First, there’s the 542 horsepower V8 producing 568 pound-feet of torque working all 4 wheels through a ZF 8-speed – the holy grail of automatic transmissions.
Press the start button and there’s a deep, 8-cylinder burble which barely permeates the vault-like cabin but provides an appropriate level of show from the outside. The powertrain is as placid and unperturbed as they come with every mechanical exchange executed with the utmost finesse.
The only thing that can disrupt that vibe is this shifter which has an ill-placed Park button right where your palm unintentionally can trigger it. The power delivery is characterized by its strong, confident nature that when provoked takes just a moment before the turbos pour on their boost for shockingly fast getaways.
Zero-to-60mph takes only 4.4 seconds and feels even quicker as the reservoir of vigor never seems to run dry. And how impressive is that in an SUV that weighs well over 2 ½ tons? The all-wheel drive torque split is 60% to the rear and there’s a Sport mode to compliment both the balanced Bentley setting and Comfort Mode which affects the powertrain and chassis not to mention contributing a darker exhaust note. Even on these 22s, the ride quality is absolute perfection and the handling is so agile and cornering so flat that the Bentayga V8 is the very definition of unflappable; whatever driving task you propose, it does at the highest level and without ever breaking a sweat.
he Bentayga’s most cherished and distinguishing trait is undoubtedly its drive. It is exquisite in every way. The Dynamic Ride option – which my tester has – utilizes active roll control via a fast acting 48 volt electrical system to provide this magic carpet-like ride that never disturbs the occupants even when carving up back roads. And the prodigious power from this V8 just adds to the effortless sportiness this model embodies.
Now, I have indeed been critical of the Bentayga’s styling in the past, particularly the frumpy front end, but the 2021 model has cleaned that up and having had a chance to look at this one from every angle over the course of my test week I’m warming to it, thanks in large part to this classic Peacock blue paint and these massive 5 spoke wheels.
These 22s are the big ticket item of the $16,000 Mulliner Driving Specification which also adds diamond quilting, fancy filler caps, sport pedals and embroidered flying Bs.
Here’s the dirty little secret about ultra-luxury cars. Though the materials used inside are authentic and in themselves usually cost a small fortune, in general the cabins are often dated looking and lack modern electronics. People are always surprised to hear that and with good reason. For example, you can get a lower end VW with better infotainment than this and that just shouldn’t be.
The hides and veneers are rich and elegant, the metal trumpet valves to control the vents are oh-so-Bentley and this Color Split – E design, as they call it, looks delightful in Linen and Beluga. The Front Seat Comfort Specification adds automatic cooled seats and massage and the deep pile carpets are a hallmark Bentley luxury but do not come with a couple of paintings from Sears. The rear seats slide and recline and provide occupants with this nifty little pop out controller for things like entertainment options and vehicle data. And the 20 speaker Naim audio system including 2 subwoofers is 1,780 watts of magnificent sound. But infotainment is old school VW and mediocre at best, there’s no wireless charging or wireless CarPlay, no Audi virtual cockpit which absolutely belongs here, and in general the cabin doesn’t make nearly the splash of those super cool German SUVs or even that Lincoln Aviator I recently tested.
A couple of notes; the optional Rear Privacy Glass makes these windows look permanently dirty from the inside and the optional 3rd row of seating is REALLY small…there’s literally no foot room for those with a size 8 or larger. But the cargo area is easy to access with a switch for lowering the air suspension and those 3rd row seats do power fold but not those in the 2nd row. And my tester has the Touring Specification with adaptive cruise and Night Vision but not the All Terrain Spec so you won’t get any off-road settings here.
The Bentayga is a dream ride. The kind you could drive forever with no fatigue. It’s so isolating and comfortable and truly effortless in everything it does.
This is my 7th and final day with it and I’ve learned that its price can be justified in that it’s an experience even the highest end SUVs from the mainstream automakers can’t touch.
With gas mileage of 17mpg and a range of 382 miles, this Bentayga V8 checks in at about $230,000. The updated 2021 model addresses some of my issues but even with a few warts, this Bentayga V8 is still elite.
2020 Bentley Bentayga V8 Review By Car Critic Steve Hammes