Test Drive: 2019 Bentley Bentayga V8

We test the spritely, luxurious model in the Austrian Alps

When the Bentley Bentayga debuted, it was the most luxurious SUV in the world, offering Bentley’s famed craftsmanship and comfort with a new level of capability. Very quickly, Bentayga became the nearly 100-year-old luxury British automaker’s top seller. Arriving just two short years after, a new V8 version tweaks the formula, and we took to the alpine roads of Austria, and the other-worldly heights of Switzerland to find out exactly how it sizes up brawnier, W12-powered sibling.

At first glance, the Bentayga appears identical, but somehow slightly more attractive—a little more settled in a way. While there’s still the familiar four round LED headlights, matrix grille, raised SUV height, and sculpted shoulders at the rear, there are some changes. The chrome matrix grille of the 12-cylinder model is now black, and it seems to suit the Bentayga. The twin tailpipes are now redesigned to give a quad-pipe look—a nod to the different engine, and way to distinguish the two on the road.

Optional carbon-ceramic brakes also debut on the V8 model (though you’ll be able to get them on any Bentayga), and they’re the largest front-brake system on any car in the world. A five-spoke, black-finished wheel is also new, and is one of 11 options now available on either 21-inch, or massive 22-inch wheels. Plus, the interior gets a new high-gloss carbon-fiber option to give Bentayga V8 a further touch of sportiness.

Turning on the car immediately offers a different sonic experience: the twin-turbo V8 engine has had sound work done to suit Bentley’s tastes, but a version of this same engine powers the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, and Panamera models, and it’s got a bit more grunt. On a long open stretch of Alpine road, we find ourselves without another car in sight, and bring the car to a complete stop—a proper 0-60 mph test is in order. Planting a right foot down fully on the throttle, the two-and-a-half-ton luxury barge suddenly assumes speedboat mode as we launch ahead—turbos engaging, gears shifting, that gratifying V8 sound engulfing the cabin—and, just like that, we’ve well surpassed freeway speeds.

Bentley says the V8 will hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, versus 4.1 seconds with the additional four-cylinders hammering down. We found that there’s not really a discernible difference, and obviously both are exceptionally quick. With 542 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque, there’s an abundance of performance to tap into here. Similarly equipped the V8 is about 100 pounds lighter than its sibling, and it could just be a placebo effect, but the V8 does feel a touch more spritely, if a little more anxious. Remarkably, the twin-scroll turbo engine reaches peak torque at just 2,000 RPM, which means you’ll feel a lot of this luxe-SUV’s usable power, early and often.

Driving through an ice-slalom course at the bed of the Austrian Alps, with all settings on, the Bentayga seemingly defies physics. We stay mostly on our line, despite the car’s four tires rotating very quickly on what should be a near-frictionless surface. Ease up on the safety settings and you can still get the tail out as well, should you desire.

Driving the Bentayga V8 is remarkably easy, the steering and feedback are direct, handling befits a car half its size. But so too was the case when we sampled the W12. The single biggest difference between the two models is probably price. The Bentley Bentayga V8 starts at $165,000, making it the most accessible vehicle bearing the Bentley badge. Most W12 models, especially with even a modest level of equipment added, will run you well over $200K. If the prestige and stature of piloting a W12—the top of the Bentayga range—is an important factor, then you’d be well suited with the more powerful model. If that’s not the case, the V8 offers much of the satisfaction of owning a Bentley SUV, with a little money left over to spring for a few luxurious options.

Images courtesy of Bentley