Why we’re running it: To evaluate the depth and especially breadth of ability of the luxury SUV cohort’s now established leader
Life with a Bentley Bentayga: Month 3
Time to push the fast-forward button as hard as it’ll go and try V8 life beyond 150mph – 12 May 2021
There we were, on the point of sending our Bentley Bentayga V8 off to a new owner, when it suddenly struck me that despite all the power and sophistication packed under that long bonnet and behind that vast grille, I’d never actually driven it at the limit of its acceleration. I’d never obeyed that primal drive to press and hold its accelerator to the floor until we were doing at least two and a half miles a minute.
This might not seem a priority when we’re talking about a 542bhp SUV that can overtake troublesome traffic without the driver needing to rev its 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine more than halfway to its 7000rpm redline, but it becomes a lot more important when you remember that there’s an even more powerful W12 Bentayga in the model listings, capable of delivering an extra 68bhp and an additional 100lb ft of torque. Does the performance of one negate the other? Surely, it behoves the thorough tester to run the V8 flat out, just to investigate any perceived performance deficit.
One of the benefits of living in the lower Cotswolds is that you’re never far from an airfield with a long runway, so with some persuasion of local air traffic control authorities and a promise to monitor their radio closely, I was allowed to give our V8 everything it had, four or five times.
Under normal circumstances, this engine is so effortless that it’s hardly there. From outside, you sometimes hear a typical V8 rumble at low revs, but when you’re at the wheel, the car simply glides. Give it everything, and hold it there, and the engine changes character completely.
For one thing, the tacho needle flies straight around to 7000rpm, in first and second. For another, what you thought was the most shy and retiring of big engines gets quite raucous, emitting a roar, overlaid with a bark that you’ll hardly have heard before, because it’s hard to replicate these sound effects at sane speeds on the public road. But give it the permission of a long, wide, unfettered track and the V8 is only too willing to announce, quite loudly, its relationship with the V8 version of the Audi R8.
Of course, there’s huge and sustained acceleration. You sink a long way into the plush seats, but everything stays beautifully stable. In your V8, you never spare a thought for the pokier, pricier W12 version. On our runway day, the Tarmac was greasy yet full-noise departures from rest were effected without a hint of wheelspin, thanks to a four-wheel drive system that has several levels of integrated electronic traction- keeping. You flash past 62mph in 4.2sec (admittedly, conceding half a second to the W12) and, in neutral wind conditions, just over 10 seconds later you’re doing 125mph. There’s no waiting – and there’s certainly no wishing for extra performance!
The upper trio of the Bentayga’s eight gears contribute little to acceleration. You’re still in fourth as you soar past 100mph, and even at 150mph you still have a couple of cogs to go. However, the top ratios are vital for the effortless, long-legged brand of Bentayga cruising they’re asked to deliver nearly all the time.