The last Bentayga PH put to the test was the diesel variant, a car we wrote about almost a year ago. Despite sharing its cutting-edge V8 with the Audi SQ7 and being pretty much everything you'd expect, it's probably safe to assume that Bentley hasn't shifted the £135,800 oil burner by the bucketload in the current climate - certainly not with a Hybrid model due before the end of the year. In the meantime, Crewe has launched another V8 version for good measure: a petrol-powered iteration with 550hp and 568lb ft of torque, and virtually the same price tag.
The twin-turbocharged unit is the same one defying the normal conventions of time and space in the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, where its output is equal, albeit with less weight to carry. For its sins, the 2,388kg V8 is lighter than the original W12, although only by 52kg when measured the EU's way. Its starting price makes it around £30k cheaper on paper, too - although, as ever, £136,200 is really the jumping off point; our test car, embellished with the Mulliner Driving Specification and much else besides, clocked in at £201,590.
If that thought doesn't automatically endear you to the smaller-engined Bentayga, then rest assured you're not alone. Even in the avowedly Marmite fast SUV segment, the Bentley occupies a remarkably unsubtle, guilty-pleasure niche. Granted, the winged B has never really been about blending in - but the upscaling of the firm's forthright design language never did the car any real favours. Nor did its final dimensions, which resulted in an SUV both longer and wider than a full-size Range Rover.
Driving this over-inflated ego in the UK takes its toll. Including mirrors, there's 2.24m of it to squeeze through gaps and it doesn't afford quite the same confidence-inspiring level of visibility that tends to come as standard with Land Rover's larger products. You fret about those 22-inch Mulliner spec wheels in town. Then you wonder aloud who on earth would spec a Bentayga with 22-inch wheels, which are on the Palm Jumeirah scale of bling. We'd venture the same opinion of the Breitling clock with dark mother of pearl face (£3,020), too. And of the less than brilliantly reconciled rear seat entertainment (£5,690).
What you won't wonder about - not ever, not even a little bit - is the logic of installing that 4.0-litre V8. Lingering doubts about a Bentley of any stripe sharing an engine with the splashiest Cayenne are nixed by the noiselessness, elasticity and outright velvety shove of the new powertrain. Compared to the W12, the V8 gives up 96lb ft of torque, but the deficit accounts for zilch in the real world because the smaller unit is hardly any less assured at filling out the principle job of a Bentley engine. Which is to dawdle and crawl and waft with the effortlessness of a pond skater, while leaving its driver in no doubt whatsoever about the reservoir of pent-up energy being held in reserve.
Dip your toe and on you crisply go, apparently without regard for turbo lag or the limitations of a 2.5-ton payload. The forcefulness of the delivery, expertly marshalled by the default eight-speed ZF automatic, is ideally matched with the molasses-like flow of the chassis. There's a price to pay for those oversized rims, of course, but it's a small one. For the most part the wheel control is in the large SUV sweet spot: ostensibly soft, yet irrefutably planted. Factor in the knowing heft of the steering and the uncanny control of body roll enabled by the (optional) electric anti-roll bars, and it makes the big Bentley exceptionally easy to rub along with.
Or it does on the motorway, anyway, and against the backdrop of a long abandoned Welsh quarry. Both afford the Bentayga the space it needs to really shine, and no-one with three hours of M4 ahead of them could argue with the smell of the leather, the pillowiness of the seats or the hand-polished gloss of the wood veneers. One might conceivably pick holes in the gearbox's default insistence on going into 'coast' mode off throttle (and thereby taking half a second each time to re-engage) but otherwise Bentley's SUV works like a large, silent and very well appointed decompression chamber on long journeys.
It's not too shabby when the tarmac finally runs out either. Despite being limited by Pirelli P-Zero tyres (a slightly bewildering choice, given the presence of something called All Terrain Specification on the option list) nothing on an admittedly rather tame wet hillside troubled it. Prodigious peak twist helps, of course, as does the caution one naturally extends to an SUV wearing a McLaren 720S's price tag. Unlike a Cayenne or Range Rover Sport SVR, the Bentayga doesn't feel like it would give an unsuspecting Super Series owner a run for his money on the surrounding B roads - although in its S mode, a wonderfully baritone, gear-holding, neck-testing, semi-rabid affair, the new V8 does enough to convince you that it possesses the right stuff in just about equal measure. Elsewhere, Bentley's SUV remains unapologetically big and brash. But that comes with the territory.
SPECIFICATION - BENTLEY BENTAYGA V8
Engine: 3,996cc, V8 twin-turbo
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 550@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 568@1,960-4,500rpm
Top speed: 171mph
Weight: 2,388kg (EU, with driver)
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