► Short-term test of the diesel luxury SUV
► More affordable running costs? It’s all relative
► Sensational refinement and performance
The design? In-your-face brash, but apparently that’s what the clientele craves. Marc Bolan would have loved it. The packaging? First Class up front, Business Class in row two and now, with the Bentley Bentayga’s seven-seat option, DC-3 in the back.
Even gregarious soccer moms are better off with the standard five-seater. The price? Don’t let the £135k tag fool you. Our fully equipped test car listed at over £187k…
Bentley sold 5600 Bentaygas in 2016, which was way over target. But now that the initial hype is over, the marque quickly needs fresh product to sustain the momentum. While the V8 diesel should work well in Europe, it won’t even be sold in America, China and Japan.
But there are different derivatives to come, like an extended wheelbase show-off version, a less planet-unfriendly V6 petrol hybrid (not the V8 earmarked for the Panamera), a V8 S entry-level model and a coupe, which has to be prettier than the vehicle pictured here.
Click here for more engineering detail on the Bentayga Diesel
Bentley's first diesel badge on a road car
The diesel badge on the, er, Diesel is a delete option. While there is a slim chance it may curb vandalism in less affluent neighbourhoods, it sure costs in credibility when the Bentley is parked between Astons and Ferraris in the golf club car park. And it may prompt violence in traditionalists.
Historically, the diesel was a poor man’s engine of course, and a poor fit for WO’s cars. In the case of the Bentayga, however, the singing and dancing V8 pushes the art of engineering even beyond the level of the famous 6.0-litre Audi V12 TDI Ferdinand Piech built before dieselgate.
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Bentley Bentayga Diesel: the spec lowdown
No fewer than three ’chargers accelerate the flow of the mixture. First is an electric compressor which lays on instant take-off torque. Next, a small low-inertia turbo joins the fray with quiet progression between 2200 and 2500rpm, adding twist action by the bagful. From 3500rpm, the third charger kicks butt all the way to the cut-out speed.
Peak torque equals a lofty flatline spanning from 1000 to 3500rpm, where 664lb ft can’t wait to trigger wheelspin meltdown. Although the rev limiter lives high up in the clouds near the 6000rpm mark, visiting it makes no sense at all, unless you insist on sampling 168mph on an empty autobahn.
Performance, acceleration times
Via a clever sliding-cam technology applied to the intake and exhaust side, the 4.0-litre V8 meanders continuously between two- and four-valve operation. It’s either minimum consumption or maximum grunt, and it obviously works by magic wand, since it is impossible to decipher the transition. Although the Bentayga V8D weighs about as much as a rhino after drinking his watering hole dry, it can launch itself in a rapid 4.8sec from 0-62mph.
The manufacturer claims an average consumption of 35.8mpg and a range of more than 600 miles, but our Midnight Emerald Shell-o-holic consumed 19.2mpg which can only be blamed in part on the enthusiastic driver. To make the best out of Rudolf Diesel’s invention, it is advisable not to wear lead-soled shoes.
Although it drinks the same juice as a MAN truck or a Mercedes bus, there is no way of telling the combustion method except when pulling up at a filling station. Inside, this diesel-powered cocoon is about as quiet as a pair of noise-cancelling headsets. And as far as the running characteristics go, there are no undue vibrations disturbing the creamy torque delivery.
Thanks to a bunch of mufflers, screens and filters, smelly exhaust gases are not an issue either. Instead, you’re simply taken aback by oodles of prompt and seamless forward thrust. It’s an almost turbine-like urge which can’t wait to introduce you to the horizon, the any-gear-does-it muscle more in line with a continuously variable transmission than a conventional automatic.
With the exception of the available all-season tyres, which spoil the handling because of excessive slip angles and ho-hum wet grip, the 429bhp Bentayga diesel is a thoroughly entertaining all-road express.
It’s less about poise and precision and more about a blend of huge momentum, intuitive controllability, decent deceleration and responsive steering.
Even though the car’s sheer weight and mass are an obvious handicaps when going fast, the handling balance inspires confidence and the prompt feedback establishes reassuring clarity.
Those who find the set-up insufficiently sharp and responsive must wait for the W12 Speed. And despite its dynamic and economic virtues, don’t expect to see a second diesel-engined Bentley anytime soon. Instead, electromobility may soon make this combustion principle obsolete, irrespective of segment.
By Georg Kacher
Short term review
Day 1: the school drop
Eldest son’s off on a cricket tour though the schedule for the fortnight in Sri Lanka is conspicuously light on cricket, preferring instead days on the beach and riding elephants. The Bentayga’s boot easily accommodates a cricket bag the size of a phone box and a suitcase, its natty locking/sliding load bay bars ruling out any tiresome luggage thumps once underway.
There’s no reply from the back seat – already Sam’s plucked the gorgeous little velvet sack of headphones from his door bin and plugged into the YouTube time drain via the screen on the back of the front seat. ‘Sam, PASSPORT?’
I’m half-joking. Who hops into the car ahead of a fortnight away without the one thing without which you can’t leave the county?
‘You’ve got it.’ No. No I haven’t. We turn around.
Nevertheless, we’re not late. Thank the 429bhp, 664lb ft car with suspension that refuses to admit a road is ever rough enough to limit your speed.
At the school, a ripple of chatter Mexican waves its way around the car park. The Bentayga prompts a few second glances – in an already rarefied place of Range Rovers and Macans, a Bentley badge will do that for you.
Day 2: The 150-mile round trip for dirt track
Dirt track’s a curious strand of motorcycle racing that, like speedway, races primarily on gravel-strewn ovals, the bikes in a perpetual state of barely controlled oversteer. I used to compete, and for a day I’m coming out of retirement to spend a day nearly crashing into a bunch of like-minded friends.
The drive there’s half motorway, half the kind of empty, windswept Lincolnshire back roads London commuters must struggle to even visualise.
On the A1 the Bentley is predictably magnificent, its elevated driving position breeding an unimpeachable sense of calm that shrinks miles to yards, hours to moments. Wind and road noise are rooted out and sent elsewhere, creating a near-silent solitude so rare in the modern world you don’t feel the need to then shatter it with Spotify. (Should you disagree, I’ve yet to use a Bluetooth system that pairs with a phone so quickly).
The seats are just about perfect, the wheel – with its tactile seams front and back of the rim – a joy to clasp. There’s no nasty digital clock anywhere, just a lovely watch-like Breitling on the dash (with a dark mother of pearl face, naturally – £2995). The infotainment may suddenly look dated (it’s been too years since the W12’s arrival) but it works well, offering both touchscreen access or, if you’d prefer, more accurate analogue control. (Shame the voice recognition is generally wide of the mark, calling Jake Groves when I try to navigate to Gainsborough).
Those famous organ-stop vent controls are a pleasure to use, as is the knurled drive mode control. Talking of which, Comfort’s super soft but robs the steering of any directional accuracy, which soon grates. Bentley mode’s the happy balance for straight lines. Sport’s a body control revelation, and nice to have up your sleeve for a road’s Good Bits.
At Lincoln the journey get interesting, Bank Holiday weather washing the already tricky surface with plenty of rainwater and muck. The all-weather Pirellis don’t seem to notice, just as the Bentley’s suspension doesn’t notice the subsidence-ravaged roads or the pockmarked tarmac.
Progress is fast and effortless, the diesel V8 coming in with a distant but satisfying tremor as it puts its shoulder to the job of getting you back up to speed after each junction and roundabout. Distance seems to melt away. Slower traffic is passed as if in a dream, the Bentley overtaking on a shrug of throttle, nothing more. Through one snaking section of chevron-marked bends – the 48-volt roll control ratcheted up in Sport – I try not slowing down. The Bentley fails to roll, wallow or protest, preferring instead to just rail through like a very big hot hatch.
On arriving at the circuit, all the traffic I passed on the way up subsequently files into the car park – we’re not even on the bikes yet and already I’ve landed the first psychological blow. Chatting over coffee, no one has a kind word to say about the way the Bentayga looks. When I try to explain that its dynamic brilliance is well able to persuade your eyes that the car isn’t actually ugly, I’m quickly informed that I sound ridiculous.
Day 3: Colin borrows it
I’m fortunate enough to have driven both the SQ7 Audi and the £163k, 600bhp W12 Bentayga, the parents that gave the Bentayga Diesel life. Managing editor Colin hasn’t, and frequently finds himself gently shaking his head at my heart-on-sleeve enthusiasm for Crewe’s SUV. So I chuck him the Diesel’s (very heavy) key for the night.
The next morning, he emails.
‘I’ve driven various SUVs – Q7, Touareg, Cayenne – but none prepared me for the Bentayga. It’s exceptionally easy to drive, and it’s easy because the levers, knobs, buttons and swipes are all obvious; if you have to guess (changing the audio source, for instance, or activating the seat massage function), you guess right first time.
‘It’s also easy to drive because it drives so well – goes precisely where you want it to go, with none of the hesitation of some of the other big cars I’ve driven recently, and some smaller ones too. And it’s easy to drive because, unusually these days, you can see all four corners.
‘When I got home, after 50 miles, my wife wondered why I was in such a big, ugly car. I’d forgotten that it was big and ugly by then. I didn’t argue, because I was filled with the warm glow of being in quite possibly the best car in town. The following morning, with my expectations considerably higher than they had been before the first drive, I enjoyed my drive in the opposite direction every bit as much. Slightly emptier roads so I tried a bit harder, but didn’t get close to the phenomenally high limits of what it can do. Very, very impressive.’
Day 4: Absolutely nothing happens
I get up, I drive to work, I work, I drive home. Nothing interesting happens, apart from a neighbourly moan over the fence about the state of our drive (unkempt, with a mountain of earth awaiting removal) that turns brighter and friendlier when I invite him to pop over for a nose around the Bentley.
So, nothing interesting happens, but still the Bentley quietly goes about its business – the business of making your life a little better and a little easier than it was before it arrived. You barely close the doors, because they’ll close themselves when your weak shove fails to do the job. Cold mornings are rendered balmy by a heated seat like the great fire in a Scottish castle and a fast-acting heated steering wheel. Drives short or long are simply completed, with no trepidation or moaning beforehand and no fatigue or stress on the road.
The Bentley’s noticed but not by everyone, and it prompts neither racers nor haters. The diesel V8, with its sequential turbos and lag-killing 7kW electric compressor, seems to halve the Bentley’s 2.5-tonne kerb weight, as does the very clever, immensely capable chassis, at least until you bungle into a tight right-hander 20mph too fast and physics finally demands to be listened to.
Day 5: Counting the cost
The point of the Bentayga Diesel, of course, is to take the teen miles-per-gallon pain out of running a 2.5-tonne car that’s faster than most 1.5-tonne cars. To an extent, it works – over my 450 miles or so with the car the Diesel managed 25.6mpg. In the W12, albeit trying a little harder, I managed 14mpg. I dare say 30+ mpg is possible in the diesel but mid-to-high 20s is realistic. If you drive slowly and generally accelerate like a tectonic plate, you’re probably buying the wrong car.
At £136k the Bentayga Diesel sits £25k below the W12 (as does the new, sportier V8 petrol), a useful saving you’ll not actually save thanks to the options you’ll then add on: £3885 Bentley Dynamic Ride has to be considered essential, as does the eye-watering £6195 Touring Specification (adaptive cruise, lane-keep assist and head-up display). That Breitling and the awesome Naim for Bentley audio system (£6615) you might decide you can live without.
Then the Bentayga was gone, and life was ever so slightly less easy and agreeable than it had been.
By Ben Miller
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