I’m behind the wheel of the Bentley Bentayga V8, driving out of Portland, Oregon to test the brand’s decidedly luxe SUV in the foothills of Mount Hood. With only eight cylinders, it sits below Bentley’s more classic 12-cylinder Bentayga. While the idea of an ultra luxury SUV may still rub some the wrong way, there is proven demand—think the Lamborghini Urus, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, and the forthcoming Mercedes-Maybach SUV. Furthermore, while it may seem odd, an SUV is actually a strong fit for Bentley, as the brand has developed a penchant for making vehicles with a multitalented skill set and broad appeal.
Consider the luxury of the Mulsanne‘s spacious backseat without forgetting that in its Speed trim, it can pull to 305 km/h and makes more than 800 lb-ft of torque. Similarly, the Continental GT blends the power, performance, and platform of a sports car with continent-crossing comfort, room for luggage, and massaging seats.
One could argue that most Bentleys offer some mix of sport and everyday utility. With the Bentayga, they’ve applied this formula with strong results—their 4-litre V8 makes the Bentayga feel sharp, responsive, and a bit more wild than the stoic W12. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the W12 in the Continental GT—it’s a wonderful, smooth, and very powerful engine—but the V8 seems so much more at home in an SUV application, and with it, the Bentayga shines.
This example, in Verdant Green on a Saddle tan leather interior, looked especially sharp with 22-inch five-spoke wheels, red brake calipers, and the dark brightwork common to Bentley’s V8 models. Compared to the much shinier grill and ample chrome of the W12 Bentayga, the V8 looks sporty, youthful, and just a bit mean.
With Mount Hood dominating the horizon out of Portland, the Bentayga V8 delivers on my general expectations of a Bentley. It’s quiet, comfortable, and incredibly easy to drive. The interior is sophisticated, with a two-tone black on tan treatment that is accented by metal trim and fine stitching. While the multimedia interface is regrettably not the more advanced and user-friendly system seen in the new Continental GT (and the Porsche Panamera), the systemis navigable with a bit of practise, queuing up the latest indie-folk tunes from Father John Misty—a very Pacific Northwest-appropriate soundtrack—while I cover a steady course towards the 3,429-metre-high mass of Mount Hood.
With a gross weight of 3,250 kg, the Bentayga V8 is no lightweight, and that engine, especially with the vehicle dynamics set to Sport, certainly punches like a heavy weight, making fantastic noise along the way.
The idea with the Bentayga V8 is to offer a strong impression of what makes a Bentley so special, but at a price point that will attract a new, likely younger, audience. While the base price of the Bentayga W12 is $293,000, the V8 model starts at a hair under $210,000. Though certainly still a premium price (it is a Bentley, after all) that’s a considerable drop in sticker price and the V8-spec Bentayga manages to undercut the base price of the new Lamborghini SUV by more than $20,000 (though it is worth noting that the Urus offers more performance, if perhaps less style).
From the backcountry highways of rural Oregon to the crawling afternoon traffic of downtown Portland, the Bentayga V8 is everything you expect it to be. The bar is undoubtedly high for any Bentley, but the Bentayga manages to live up to the ethos set forth by impressive family members like the Flying Spur, the Continental GT, and the Mulsanne. It’s effortlessly fast, supremely comfortable, and with the massaging seats set to pulse, I had half a mind to point the Bentayga north and carve a path along the entirety of the Cascade range. I could be in the foothills of Mt. Rainier by dawn.
Photos by James Stacey.
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