2021 Bentley Bentayga V8 review (video)

It looks like a giant slab of money, on wheels. And that’s going to be plenty appealing for some buyers at this end of the market. But is there more to the 2021 Bentley Bentayga V8 than blanks cheques and big statements?

We had a quick steer of the new model about a month ago during the official Australian media launch. It was such a splendid thing to drive. However, during the very short test we only got to scratch the surface. We needed (wanted) to sample it again, over a longer period, to peel away deeper into the thick and luxurious layers to find out more.

The 2021 Bentayga was unveiled in July last year. In Australia the range consists of only two variants at the moment; the V8 and the W12 Speed. There is a plug-in hybrid coming and the British marque did unveil the new Bentayga S a couple of weeks ago, which is also on the way. For now, prices start at $364,800 for the range-opening V8 (as tested here), and ascend to $501,800 for the W12 Speed. The V8 is relatively well-priced, considering a top-spec Range Rover is a similar cost, and the new Aston Marin DBX is very close.

2021 Bentley Bentayga V8 – THE SPECS

Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8
Output: 404kW@6000rpm / 770Nm@1960-4500rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Drive type: Four-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 21×10.0, 285/45  (22s fitted)
ANCAP: Not tested
Tare weight: 2371kg
Power-to-weight: 5.86:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 13.3L/100km
Economy during test: 13.7L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 85L/98 RON

Power efficiency: 30.37kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 1.95 seconds*
0-100km/h: 3.95 seconds*
0-200km/h: 14.47 seconds*
60-110km/h: 2.69 seconds*
1/4 mile: 12.22 seconds at 185.0km/h*
Max acceleration: 1.155g
100-0km/h braking: 3.29 seconds at 38.96 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.211g
Decibel at idle: 42*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 79*
Priced from: $364,800

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2021 Bentley Bentayga V8 – THE PACKAGE

One of the key characteristics and even definitions of luxury, is space. So obviously the Bentayga has that covered. It’s the size of a lounge room in here. This is partly thanks to the underpinning VW Group MLB Evo platform, which is the greater group’s largest passenger vehicle platform. If you poke your head under the vehicle or under the bonnet you might spot some VW logos stamped on various parts, which could be disappointing if that sort of stuff matters to you.

Overall dimensions are 5125mm long, 1998mm wide, and 1742mm tall, with a 2995mm wheelbase. All of these figures (except height) overshadow the 200 Series Toyota LandCruiser, for example. It’s big. But not quite as big as one of its main rivals, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan; 5341mm, 2000mm, 1835mm, and 3295mm, respectively.

You’ll love the throne-like seats in the front. And with the high-riding position, it’s never been easier getting in and out of a Bentley. You simply, and gracefully, slide straight across. Most of the fixtures and fittings are made from or covered in high-quality materials, such as leather, deep carpet, or fine metals. You can option for wood veneers and contrast stitching and embroidery, and varying degrees of extended leather. These leather applications range from a bit over $3200, and up to $38,667 for the full ‘hide – extended level 7’ package.

About the only thing conventional in here is the 10.9-inch touch-screen with edge-to-edge display (no cheap-looking black borders), as well as the digital driver’s cluster. We mean ‘conventional’ as in other vehicles also have a similar arrangement. But here the graphics and animations are on another level. The screen for the climate control, for example, looks like an actual art piece that you’d hang in the pool room. The attention to detail is fascinating. There’s now 3D building displays for the sat-nav, too. Wireless Apple CarPlay comes in for the first time (wired as well, remains), along with wired Android Auto for the first time.

Rear passengers are now treated to a new 5.0-inch removable tablet which provides controls for a wide range of facilities, such as climate and seat warming and massaging functions, media and sat-nav, and even mood lighting and window blinds. With the arrival of the 2021 facelift, around 100mm of additional legroom has been opened up in the back. Although, we doubt many were complaining in the first place. Bentley offers a range options in this department as well, including – our favourite – a two-seat setup with a central console and drinks cooler running through the middle, by the Mulliner division. This’ll set you back $12,212.

Speaking of options, it’s always fun putting together a dream order and seeing what the price rises to. If you opt for that extended hide 7 pack mentioned above, and fit some Mulliner Driving Spec 22-inch alloy wheels ($30,502), apply a personal commission three-coat pearl paint ($35,299), add the personalised welcome lamps ($39,310), tick the lambswool rugs in a bespoke colour ($14,671), get the Mulliner drinks cooler rear console, and have the 1780W 20-speaker Naim sound system fitted ($17,460), the vehicle’s price increases by $188,121. That’s more than half the initial starting price of the entire vehicle. It is possible to tick enough options to actually double the $364,800 starting price.

One option we truly recommend is the Naim 20-speaker sound system. The listening experience it offers is out of this world. Through the touch-screen media interface you can adjust a number of parameters and audio modes to create mesmerising audio. It is breathtaking.

If you’re wondering about the boot space, it measures in at 484L, and opens up to 1774L when the rear seats are folded flat. This process requires no effort thanks to power operation. The Mulliner division can apply some bespoke fittings in the boot area, such as beautiful drawers and storage cabinets, and of course special carpets. There’s also a seven-seat option if you need it ($7407).

2021 Bentley Bentayga V8 – THE DRIVE

Of course the W12 Speed is the one to pick if you have the money. And if you’re buying a Bentley, it’s pretty safe to assume you do. So why not go for the biggest and most powerful engine? The W12 whooshes with a whopping 467kW and an earth-twisting 900Nm. The company says 0-100km/h comes up in 3.9 seconds.

Curiously, we ran our usual performance tests on this 404kW/770Nm V8 beast on a private road to see what sort of real-world numbers it could produce. Amazingly, it repeatedly conquered 0-100km/h in 3.95 seconds. Bentley says it should only come up in 4.5. Hmm, this just got a lot more interesting. Do you really need the W12 if the V8 performs just as well? Or, perhaps the W12 performs even better in the real world?

A time like 3.95 seconds is gut-wrenchingly rapid. Not just for a 2371kg mammoth, but for any car. To give you some idea of the speed here’s a list of vehicles we’ve tested in the past that have achieved a similar time; BMW M850i Gran Coupe (3.95), Jaguar F-Type SVR (3.82), Audi RS 5 (3.78), Porsche Panamera GTS Sport Turismo (4.07), and the Tesla Model X P90D (3.83). These are all very serious sports cars, and an electric car.

Perhaps more astonishing is the possible 0-60km/h time. We clocked it in just 1.95 seconds. That is a neck-snapping leap off the mark, and a true testament to Bentley engineers and their ability to almost eradicate the damaging impact that weight has on acceleration. In other words, the power and torque delivery, and the response of the rest of the driveline and the way it all manages the tidal wave of grunt is immense. It’s not like the Bentayga has a particularly good power-to-weight ratio, either; 5.86kg:1kW or 232PS:tonne. That’s about the same as a Jaguar F-Type V6 or BMW M440i coupe.

How does it handle around corners? It’s easy to assume this would be just a big, wobbly SUV during spirited driving. However, engineers have done extremely well to hide some of the Bentayga’s weight. At first, yes, it does feel massive. But it’s not intimidating.

The steering is nicely weighted and visibility is great, and there is minimal body roll despite a very relaxing and absorbent ride quality. It can feel a bit mushy in city conditions and in the normal driving mode. Flick it into sport mode and the chassis really firms up. Let’s not forget, this is the same fundamental chassis that’s used in the Porsche Cayenne.

You’ll be surprised how deeply in the zone the Bentayga can be during heated driving. You can thread it up or down a squiggly mountain road and it responds with confidence and decent agility. At the back the track width has been widened by 20mm for 2021 to reduce the steering’s effort in pivoting the SUV around, and Bentley says the new model is more consistent than before. It is genuinely surprising how nimble it feels when you’re pushing it in sport mode.

Obviously the ride is impeccable. Faultless, even. The Bentayga has plenty of suspension compression/wheel stroke available, but it’s the air springs that iron out bumps and road imperfections that impresses most. It is soothing and very relaxing, so you often get out in a calm, zen-like frame of mind.

2021 Bentley Bentayga V8 – THE VIDEO

2021 Bentley Bentayga V8 – THE VERDICT

To answer the original question at the start, it’s an emphatic yes. It is much more than just an expensive SUV. You’re also buying a lifestyle, an excitingly fast sports car, an off-road vehicle, and an everyday vehicle to run the errands in. And across all of these areas, you’re wrapped up in what can only be described as the pinnacle of automotive luxury for this day and age.

PROS:
– Brutally fast V8, much quicker than you expect
– Serene driving experience with sublime ride
– Amazing 20-speaker Naim sound system option
– Looks more sophisticated than before
– Attention to detail inside, even the digital display graphics

CONS:
– Exterior design seems more formal than flash, unlike other Bentleys
– Almost 2.4 tonne

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.