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Bentley Bentayga V8 long-term test verdict: seven months in the uber-SUV

Published: 01 April 2019

► We live with a Bentley Bentayga
► Long-term test of the new V8
► What's it like day-in, day-out? 

Month 7 of our Bentley Bentayga V8 long-term test review: the conclusion is in

Hospitals don’t feature much in the promotional photography for Bentley’s luxury SUV, quite understandably. But it was outside a hospital early last summer when it became clear to me that the Bentayga is a talented car for all occasions, not just special ones. A car with qualities that extend far beyond simply telling the world, in no uncertain terms, that you’re wealthy. Strip away the pretension and the peacocking and, far from being left with nothing, you discover instead an oft overlooked core of impressive ability and versatility. 

A phone call in the night, a knot in the stomach, a hurried two-hour drive that took both moments and days, hospital. A couple of hours later, when late night morphs into early morning and tiredness hits like a truck, four of us emerged from strip-lit corridors into the sodium dawn. Wrung-out, we just needed to get home. At such times the Bentley’s triple-row knurling, First Class rear-seat entertainment and carbonfibre roof spoiler count for nothing. What you need is a hug. And the Bentayga hugs like a bear.

Like shipwreck survivors in a lifeboat’s blankets, tired bodies fell into the Bentley’s cloud-soft leather seats. The Bentayga’s calming ambience and demure performance smoothed worry from furrowed brows as an open fire banishes cold from your bones. Passengers who hadn’t slept for 24 hours did so now, the car’s murmuring V8 and whispering Pirellis soothing them to sleep. At that moment the Bentley was peerless, perfect: a fast, near-silent refuge with killer heated seats.

Bentley Bentayga V8 long-term test review

In the end, all the worry was for nothing. But the Bentayga’s strongest asset – its ability to strip road travel of any semblance of stress or discomfort – has been consistently impressive, whether it’s been hammered along Lincolnshire back roads like a £200k Group B rally car, its suspension steam-rollering viciously rutted and broken tarmac, or packed with cases and urged serenely to the South of France. 

A 4x4 limo then, and nothing more nuanced or versatile than that? Yes and no. The 4x4 side of things is certainly a misnomer. I’ve driven Bentaygas on rough ground and they can certainly handle it. The real question is whether you can handle the inevitable stone chips, scuffed paint and scarred rims. 

A driver’s car? While the V8 Bentayga’s billed as the enthusiast’s choice, and undoubtedly enjoys a less ponderous nose on turn-in than that of the flagship W12, I found myself wafting much of the time rather than thrashing, and not just because I couldn’t afford the fuel to endlessly work the V8.

If you decide to go for it, shifting the car into Sport mode, playing the shift paddles and working the engine until your eyes and brain can no longer keep up with the physics, the Bentayga is breathtakingly quick. This is not something to be forgotten; hot hatches, sports saloons, performance two-seaters like Boxsters and TTs – none can live with the Bentley’s onslaught of panoramic forward visibility, outlandish grip, surreal anti-roll chassis and thumping power. 

And unlike the fast SVO Range Rovers, the Bentley works well when driven this way. The steering wheel is compact and keen in your hands, the throttle response clean and quick, and the cabin architecture snug enough to make this sort of carry-on feel almost appropriate. The drivers you overtake might beg to differ; this vast night-blue monolith morphs from storm cloud in their mirrors to presence at their shoulder to rapidly disappearing blob on their horizon in a matter of moments.

The Bentley is an SUV that doesn’t force the driver in you to go cold turkey, but neither can it really satisfy on this count – its methods are too brute and lacking in nuance for that. 

CAR magazine editor Ben Miller and his Bentley Bentayga V8

Standout moment, hospital aside? Undoubtedly a long weekend’s foray across France, the car’s magnificence and sense of occasion taking every sting out of long days on the road. Used thus, its only drawbacks aren’t so much faults with the car as incompatibilities with me as its keeper. For mortals, fuel economy in the low 20s never stops feeling painful, and it’s not just the expense. (Broadly £100 to fill the tank, on which you can expect to travel 320 miles or so before reserve.) Stopping for fuel all the time is just tedious, particularly when you’re trying to cover most of France in a day. Perhaps the imminent hybrid will help here; perhaps it won’t. 

The other main gripe with the Bentayga, costs aside, is the sheer size of the car. Fine for vast swathes of the planet, the Bentley is, I think, simply too big for the UK, and by that I mean too wide – particularly if you’re of a considerate or anxious disposition. Entering medieval towns or ancient British lanes feels like Russian roulette, every kerb, oncoming car and photogenic old stone wall at the roadside a potential round in the chamber. Maybe I just worry too much. Or maybe it’s just that the mental scars of reversing into a metal railing, cracking the rear bumper and its lustrous carbonfibre inlay strip (part of the £19,350 Black specification), as I did, will take years to heal. Suffice to say the repair bill dwarfed that of the replacement Pirelli required when the offside rear tyre picked up a nail in the shoulder and a slow puncture (£500, give or take). A slightly lacklustre air-conditioning system aside, the Bentley was perfectly reliable. 

Now the Bentayga’s gone it’s the little things I miss about the very big thing: the weight of its key in my hand, the childish but undeniable thrill of hearing it wake to a prod of the starter button, and the tangible sense of wellbeing its luxury, capability and – yep, I’m going to say it – good looks bring to your every day.

By Ben Miller

Logbook: Bentley bentayga V8

Price £136,200  
As tested £213,875  
Engine 3996cc 32v twin-turbo V8, 542bhp @ 6000rpm, 568lb ft @ 1960rpm  
Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive  
Performance 4.5sec 0-62mph, 180mph, 260g/km CO2  
Miles this month 365  
Total 7436  
Our mpg 25.1  
Official mpg 24.7  
Fuel this month £117.63  
Extra costs None

Count the cost: Bentley Bentayga depreciation

Cost new £213,875 (including £77,675 of options)
Private sale price £168,105
Part-exchange price £158,105
Cost per mile 28p
Cost per mile including depreciation £6.44


Month 6 living with a Bentley Bentayga V8: neat deets

For the first few weeks of Bentayga ownership you just swan around smiling and refusing to get out. Six months in, the really good stuff starts to make its presence felt.

Booting it
A car this big should never be short on space, but the Bentley’s adoption of just the five seats on the three-row Q7 floorpan means the Bentayga’s accommodation always feels luxuriously roomy. Natty sliding boot divider prevents tedious luggage thump-thumping when you’re travelling solo and in a hurry. You won’t be surprised to learn that the boot floor does not conceal a full-size spare.

Bentayga boot

Beaut V8, mate
If you can live with the guilt – and if you’re buying Bentleys, my guess is you probably can – this is a fine engine: cultured and grunty when you’re chauffeuring, rampant when you’re not. But most Bentayga owners plump for the W12 and, unfashionably, I’m with them. Ridiculously, the vast Bentley needs the W12 to feel properly fast. Hybrid V6 finally arrives this year, if anyone’s interested.

Bentayga engine

Air superiority
You can order a new Bentayga without Dynamic Ride Control (essentially electrically tweaked anti-roll bars) but, since such a thing has never been allowed within 25 miles of a CAR journalist, we can only assume DRC is the way to go. And it is brilliant, instantaneously shifting the Bentley from flat-cornering B-road monster in Sport to ludicrously soft motorway barge in Comfort. 

Bentayga air suspension

Apple to the rescue
Forgive us, for this is becoming a familiar sentiment on these pages, but flipping between Bentley’s own infotainment home screen and CarPlay is like having your own little 2015/2019 time machine. There’s nothing wrong with the native system: it’s just dated faster than a tweet about the scoreline in a Liverpool game. The Conti’s revolving interface would be a nice addition; but don’t hold your breath.

Bentayga apple carplay

By Ben Miller

Logbook: Bentley Bentayga V8

Price £136,200
As tested £213,875
Engine 3996cc 32v twin-turbo V8, 542bhp @ 6000rpm, 568lb ft @ 1960rpm Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance 4.5sec 0-62mph, 180mph, 260g/km CO2 
Miles this month 854
Total 7071
Our mpg 25.6
Official mpg 24.7
Fuel this month £239.83
Extra costs None


Month 5 of our Bentley Bentayga long-term test review: to Goodwood!

To drive the Bentayga is to be swept along by its charms. I borrowed it for a weekend at one of Lord March’s upper-crust fancy dress parties with my car-loving mate Will. Wemarvelled at how humble VW underpinnings had been Crewe-cut, with lovely leather and finger-strokin’ chrome air vents. Fast and agile, too. Just a shame the regular fuel stops cost £100+ a pop.

The drive to West Sussex passed in a whisper-quiet cocoon; our Bentayga rides remarkably well, considering its outsized 22-inch wheels, and the raised ride height truly dwafs most other cars on the road. A fact we were reminded of when we parked up next to an exquisite Ford Escort Mexico belonging to Ford UK. Proof, were it needed, that car inflation is alive and well.

By Tim Pollard

Logbook: Bentley Bentayga V8

Price £136,200
As tested £213,875
Engine 3996cc 32v twin-turbo V8, 542bhp @ 6000rpm, 568lb ft @ 1960rpm Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance 4.5sec 0-62mph, 180mph, 260g/km CO2
Miles this month 1720
Total 6217
Our mpg 25.6
Official mpg 24.8
Fuel this month £483.02
Extra costs None


Month 4 living with a Bentley Bentayga V8: a French holiday

The drive back from Cahors, in south-west France, to Lincolnshire is one of those journeys unconcerned with your method, your speed, your tactics or even your route (skirt well wide of Paris? Brave the Périphérique? Unscrew the number plates and set the cruise to 150mph? Jokes) – it’s a long day at the wheel, whichever way you cut it. And so 24 July started with a 6.30am alarm in deepest rural France and ended at 8.30pm that night with the Bentley’s instruments telling the story in a few curt digits: 11hrs 20mins, 715 miles, 63mph and 25.6mpg.

The really impressive bit? That we then went out for dinner, rather than crawling into bed with eyes like sandpaper (and not just because there was nothing edible in the fridge). Just one reason why, when a weekend away for a friend’s 40th birthday came up, I decided against booking a couple of budget airline tickets and booked the Eurotunnel instead (high ’n’ wide carriage, naturally). No one remembers taking flights; with any luck you wake up on landing. Great European drives (and rides) make memories. 

Driving a Bentley Bentayga to the south of France

Rewind. Before the drive back there was the drive down, naturally. In a world obsessed with staying connected, the Bentley’s first win is to start to soothe your frenzied mind before you’ve even made it to Folkestone. Sure there’s Bluetooth connectivity and CarPlay (not to mention full rear-seat entertainment, complete with headphones) but we choose instead to block incoming calls, fire up the carefully crafted playlist (power ballads mainly – don’t judge me) and settle in. Post rush hour miles pass effortlessly, first east to Cambridge then around the M25 and on to the south coast, Kent basking in another fine day from summer 2018’s generous quota. The sumptuous seats do their thing and the Bentayga’s air ride isolates the road beneath you just as its insulation and glazing isolate the roar of displaced atmosphere around you. Up ahead the big V8 feels indomitable, effortless and reassuringly over-endowed. In a world increasingly unwilling to let you do so, we just let our thoughts wander.

The route down (in stark contrast to the one-hit charge back) splits into three legs: Stamford to Amiens, Amiens to the sleepy town of La Souterraine, and a final two-hour cruise to Cahors for the birthday weekend.

Under the Channel, into France and the Bentley gets to work on covering the vast autoroute network. Bigger is better: it’s one of nature’s incontrovertible rules, like survival of the fittest and running water’s fondness for the easy way out. Just as light aircraft worry about bird strikes, storms and turbulence where an A380 doesn’t, so there’s a stress-salving peace of mind to heading south not in an inconsequential tin box but in 2.5 tonnes of crafted SUV that smells like a saddler’s toolkit and feels at least as expensive as an Airbus.

Bentley Bentayga to France

The Bentley’s air-conditioning, with its unfeasibly satisfying organ-stop vent controls, takes the sting out of the Europe-wide heatwave as the adaptive cruise removes any real element of effort from the act of driving. The cruise control stalk is conspicuously Audi but having gotten accustomed to it in my previous long-term test car, the RS5, I’m a fan. Set your speed with the button on the end of the stalk (set low and to the left of the steering wheel), adjust speed up and down by – you guessed it – prodding the stalk up and down, and set the ferocity of your tailgating using the toggle, from ‘dignified and distant’ maximum to the ‘Move. Now!’ minimum.   

Mostly we cruise in Comfort but now and again there’s cause to stir my idle left arm, twirl the Bentley’s beautifully tactile drive mode rotary counter-clockwise for Sport, with its iron-will determination to stay level in corners and unbridled enthusiasm for savaging any road wide enough to let you exploit the epic powertrain. The fuel gauge needle freefalls. You can of course try to chase half-decent fuel economy in a V8 petrol Bentley (the short-lived Bentayga Diesel, though excellent, is no more) but the temptation after each toll booth is too great, particularly when we lose so much time feeding in tickets across the yawning foot-wide chasm I’ve left to the kerb, fearful of scraping the car’s gloss back 22s. Window back up, pedal to the carpet and the Bentley’s prow rises to the guttural roar of the twin-turbo eight. 

At Amiens the Bentayga takes its first drink: 117 euros in exchange for the day’s 365 miles. Ouch. Still, who cares? I’m unlikely to make a habit of summer holidaying in Bentleys, and we’re still running a smaller tab than flying. 

Quilted leather seats in our Bentley Bentayga V8

After a night at the gorgeous La Cour 26 (chambre-hote-amiens.fr – handy if you’re ever blasting away from, or back to, Calais and need a nice room for the night) we put in the stint south to La Souterraine, the Bentley’s sheer road presence moving holidaying British traffic aside with disdain. By now the obscenely powerful audio system has proved pretty special. Hardly an audiophile, I’ve always struggled to understand how anyone could justify spending £6615 on a stereo. I still can’t, but I can now at least appreciate that doing so is not a waste of money. Few that I’ve used actually get clearer and more detailed the louder you go – the Naim does, just as the V8 sounds best when you’re whipping it like a two-stroke. 

Again we luck out on accommodation. After a very enjoyable 20 minutes of deserted back road off the A20 motorway, we roll into sleepy, sun-drenched La Souterraine mid-afternoon. Park up, admire the Bentley’s bluff and bug-smeared nose (the headlights might be too small for the car but their detailing is exquisite) and go in search of a cool beer in the shade. On my phone, updates on various unfolding Ryan Air nightmares among other attendees light up WhatsApp. The poor, wretched creatures.

Maison No.9 (maisonnumeroneuf.com/en) is a short walk from the square and a glorious old sprawl of a place lovingly restored and run by an English couple, Duncan and Lisa, who swapped the stress of running pubs in the UK for the sanctuary (but equally hard work) of this quiet corner of France.

Big Bentley a tight squeeze in narrow French streets

The Bentayga squeezes through the gates to take up residence next to several vast lavender bushes in the shady walled garden, looking entirely in its element. Duncan and Lisa have had Bentleys stay before, classics with chassis like trucks and engines like an aeroplane’s, not to mention a couple of French-registered, open-wheel Bugattis that arrive each September on their way to the classic street races at Angoulême (circuitdesremparts.com/en).

I imagine their owners now, in these hours before dinner, checking oil levels and effecting carburettor adjustments for the prevailing conditions. With the Bentayga there’s absolutely nothing to do but look at it, so we do, Duncan adamant he’d rather drive his world-weary Freelander 1 than be seen in something so ostentatious. Duncan, my man, that’s how everyone feels until they try it…

Bentley Bentayga long-term test review

And in that way that it does when you’re on holiday, the clock then goes onto fast-forward, time passing in a blur of late nights, late starts and fiercely hot days only a pool and nothing to do can see you through.

The Bentley just gets on and does its thing, feeling special every single time you climb into it and making every trip easy, whether we’re popping into town for yet more fresh bread, hauling five to the local go-kart track or blatting up the nearby hillclimb of a backroad for no other reason than it’s deserted and fiendishly technical. (And because it’s high time the unofficial course record, apparently set in a Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, was shattered.)  

The next day we get up early and simply drive home. And make more happy memories in 11 hours 20 minutes and 715 miles than you’d hope to find a lifetime of Ryan Air flights. 

By Ben Miller


Month 3 of our Bentley Bentayga long-term test review: a lovely interior

The cool, techy interior of Audi’s Q7, suitably optioned, is a nice place to be. But a Q7 doesn’t smell like a Bentley, and neither does the Audi prompt a little smile every time you open the door, catch the illuminated flying B badges projected on the rain-lashed car park tarmac and step inside. 

The Bentley difference? Careful use of fine materials and an all-consuming attention to detail, according to Darren Day, who designed the Bentayga’s interior. 

Bentley Bentayga interior

‘Our interiors start with the flying B logo as their inspiration, which brings a symmetry,’ he explains. ‘Allied to that we have our wonderful natural materials, which we use in a natural way –  you can have the loveliest leathers but if you don’t use it on organic forms it’ll look synthetic. So straight away you get this feeling of calm in a Bentley; that this is a nice place to be.’

He’s right. I feel my heart rate slow every time I climb aboard, and the happy sigh passengers let out when they sink into their seats is often audible. It may also explain why I drive one of the most powerful cars I’ve ever ‘owned’ with such glacial restraint. 

Day is keen to pick out a key Bentayga differentiator I hadn’t noticed. ‘Dashboards have to pass through the front door apertures, which imposes production limitations,’ he says. ‘This usually means they can’t be very deep – in fact, they usually finish just where your knee meets them, creating an uncomfortable edge. We have these seamless, leather-finished parts that extend from the dashboard into the footwells, so that when you find yourself subconsciously bracing against the car you’re comfortable. There was a cost attached but I think it makes a difference, and it feels good when you persuade the bean counters to part with another few million pounds!’

A more obvious recipient of Day’s attention (and the VW Group’s budget) is the rotary drive mode selector – a far more tactile and intuitive solution than Audi’s. 

Bentley Bentayga rear seats and passenger compartment

‘You do have to pick your battles, and I wanted to design an absolutely Bentley drive mode controller. It looks good and it’s so intuitive you find yourself adjusting it constantly, going to Sport mode for a twisty section of road and then, when you turn off down a rough back road, twisting it into Comfort without even looking.’

Again, he’s right – you do. On the move I find myself endlessly playing with the rotary’s position – counter-clockwise to go sportier; clockwise for more waft – to such an extent that curious passengers have asked what I’m up to. 

But there is some Audi in the mix, isn’t there Darren… ‘Yes, the cruise control stalk is Audi, but at least it’s a good part!’ he says. ‘And we’re getting there. We’ve designed our own stalks for the Continental GT.’

Any details Day’s particularly proud of? He reels off a dozen, from the striking blood orange needles on all the instruments to the consistent three rows of knurling; from the handsome typography to the mineral glass cover over the driver’s display. Fortunately I’ve another three months with the car in which to drink them all in.

By Ben Miller


Month 2 living with a Bentley Bentayga SUV: long-distance cruiser

The Festival of Speed’s only flaw is that Stamford and Goodwood House are 155 tedious miles apart. But miles matter less in a Bentayga; they’re easier and ultimately inconsequential. You sit there, happy, and you arrive places. This is unusual. Land travel has always demanded effort on the part of the traveller – and a Bentley lets you off the hook. The air suspension smooths the M25 just as it flattens the Duke of Richmond’s parched fields and, should a gap appear two or three cars up the road, the V8 simply puts you in it at very little notice. 

Bentley Bentayga V8 long-term test review

Flies in the ointment? The low-level but consistent anxiety that comes with running a 4.0-litre V8, with its attendant fuel consumption and, when we get creative with our route into Goodwood, the fundamental incompatibility of ancient Sussex lanes and a Bentley that feels every inch of its two metres wide. 

By Ben Miller

Logbook: Bentley Bentayga V8 

Price £136,200
As tested £213,875
Engine 3996cc 32v twin-turbo V8, 542bhp @ 6000rpm, 568lb ft @ 1960rpm
Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance 4.5sec 0-62mph, 180mph, 260g/km CO2
Miles this month 1303
Total 2145
Our mpg 20.4
Official mpg 24.8
Fuel this month £389.41
Extra costs None

Browse Bentleys for sale


Month 1 of our Bentley Bentayga long-term test review: the introduction

Already ‘my’ V8 Bentley Bentayga has claimed its first victim, Tim Pollard, current keeper of an equally blue (if nothing like as expensive) Audi A8. ‘I really didn’t want to like it,’ he confesses as he slides the Bentayga’s weighty key back across the desk one Monday morning. ‘But when you drive it you just can’t help thinking that, really, it’s pretty fantastic.’

Professing a fondness for a car in month one of a six-month tenure isn’t the done thing, but Mr Pollard’s experience chimed so perfectly with my own (a bold swing from scepticism to open admiration of the W12 Bentayga) – and with that of managing editor Colin Overland (smitten by the Diesel) – that I’m learning to relax a little about liking a 2400kg SUV with a 542bhp V8.

Bentley Bentayga specs, prices and verdict

The Bentayga’s remit is laudably simple, if ideologically nonsensical: to be the fastest SUV in the world, and to pair this performance with ‘unparalleled levels of luxury on and off road’. At launch it did this with a single engine choice, the magnificent W12 (referred to simply as the ‘Bentayga by Bentley’), but that car’s since been joined by the Bentayga Diesel and a petrol V8; the latter a version of the VW Group’s twin-turbo 4.0-litre unit. 

More Bentley reviews by CAR magazine

While the Diesel is the UK’s best-seller, as much for its ability to run further between fuel fills as for its mildly less punishing running costs, it’s the V8 that has us most intrigued. With a lighter, less overbearing engine in its nose and the promise of a more engaging, wieldy drive, is the V8 Bentayga the SUV a BMW M5 or AMG E63 driver can enjoy? 

If it is, they’ll need to find a little more folding first. Our M5 long-term test car weighs in at £103,000 with options. The Bentley’s base price is £136,200. On top of that, this example stacks £77,675 of options for a total of £213,875. And while the Bentley might be monstrously quick (0-62mph in 4.5sec and 180mph flat-out), the Bentayga’s easily out-gunned by some far more affordable machinery; when a car is made in relatively low numbers, and with so much done by hand, it can’t help but be expensive. But to get hung up on the numbers would be a mistake: the V8’s the sporting Bentayga, not a sports car. 

Editor Ben Miller and 'his' Bentley Bentayga V8

So, how do you spend the price of a new Audi SQ7 on options? Well, to kick off you help make the Bentayga handsome by ordering the stunning metallic blue paint (Peacock, £4545, from Crewe’s extended range) to accompany the Black Specification (£19,350; 22-inch five-spokes and a front splitter, rear diffuser, side skirts and a bootlid spoiler in carbonfibre).

Also doing their bit are rear-seat entertainment (£5690), Bentley Dynamic Ride (the must-have active anti-roll bars that help make the Bentayga drive like a big hot hatch, £3925) and the £6680 ‘Naim for Bentley’ audio upgrade. Then there are two bundles, or ‘specifications’ as Bentley prefers to call them: Touring (adaptive cruise, lane-keep assist, traffic assist, night vision and a head-up display) and All Terrain (stout underbody protection, all-terrain driving modes, top-down camera and the boot’s natty sliding luggage management system).

Fuel spend aside, the Bentley should make for a memorable and luxurious summer. Next month the Bentayga will get its Grand Tourer on, with a cruise down to Cahors in southern France for a few days away. And the following month I plan to take if off-road, for some gentle wilderness driving on the kind of rock-strewn tracks Land Rover Defenders eat for breakfast but that £213,875 Bentleys might find harder to stomach. 

By Ben Miller

Logbook: Bentley Bentayga V8 

Price £136,200
As tested £213,875 
Engine 3996cc 32v twin-turbo V8, 542bhp @ 6000rpm, 568lb ft @ 1960rpm
Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive 
Performance 4.5sec 0-62mph, 180mph, 260g/km CO2 
Miles this month 842 
Total 842 
Our mpg 20.55 
Official mpg 24.8 
Fuel this month £295.97 
Extra costs None

By CAR's road test team

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