UN­TIL now, buy­ers of Bentley’s SUV, the Bentayga, have had to choose be­tween only two vari­ants – the flag­ship 600hp 6-litre W12 or the more ecofriendly 429hp 4-litre V8 diesel. But with the in­tro­duc­tion of an all-new down­sized V8 petrol en­gine to the range, there is now a third op­tion. How­ever, where Bentley is con­cerned, down­siz­ing is rel­a­tive, since the new en­gine still boasts twin tur­bos and a 4-litre ca­pac­ity, and de­liv­ers 550hp of power and 770Nm of torque.

These num­bers trail those of the range-top­ping W12, but in pure per­for­mance terms the new boy is not far off, lag­ging by a mere half-sec­ond to 100km/h (at a still-ridicu­lous 4.5 sec­onds) and be­ing 11km/h slower all-out, at 290km/h. The V8 is also 15% more fuel-ef­fi­cient and about 12% less pol­lut­ing than the full­fat W12, aided by its abil­ity


to de­ac­ti­vate half of its eight cylin­ders un­der light load.

The en­gine is de­ployed in two other re­cently launched VW Group SUVs, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and the Lam­borgh­ini Urus, although in dif­fer­ent states of tune.

Bentley has not re­vised the Bentayga’s styling, so its looks are still an ac­quired taste. But the Bri­tish au­tomaker has taken the oc­ca­sion of the V8’s launch to in­tro­duce some new op­tions which will be of­fered across the Bentayga range. Chief among them are 10pot car­bon-ce­ramic brakes. The front pair, at 440mm in di­am­e­ter, are the largest ever fit­ted to a pro­duc­tion car, so it’s prob­a­bly safe to as­sume that they are well up to the task of haul­ing this thun­der­ing SUV down from speed re­peat­edly without wilt­ing. Use­fully, the quar­tet of car­bon-ce­ramic discs also weigh 20kg less in to­tal than the stan­dard me­tal discs, which helps make a slight dent in the car’s con­sid­er­able mass.

There is also a Black Spec­i­fi­ca­tion op­tion, where the car’s chromed ex­te­rior bits are fin­ished in gloss black in­stead, for a mood­ier, less for­mal look.

Bentley has also in­tro­duced some new trim op­tions for the sump­tu­ous cabin, such as high­gloss car­bon fi­bre in­serts for the fas­cia, cen­tre con­sole and door cards, and a new cabin leather colour in­spired by the ma­hogany­like colour of a cricket ball – pre­sum­ably for fans of the game.

But while the Bentayga’s tar­get au­di­ence may now in­clude the cricket fan, it has never re­ally stretched to the driv­ing en­thu­si­ast – no car weigh­ing well over two tonnes could ever truly be de­scribed as a driver’s car.

Still, the Bentayga V8 is in­cred­i­bly ag­ile for its hip­po­like size. It does weigh 120kg less than the Bentayga Diesel (although the dif­fer­ence to the W12 ver­sion is less, at about 50kg) and the re­duced mass is pal­pa­ble in its keener turn-in, and the way it tra­verses bumps and un­du­la­tions without bob­bing about gently like the Diesel does.

Even on tight turns the car re­mains im­pres­sively level, thanks to elec­tric ac­tive anti-roll tech­nol­ogy (dubbed Bentley Dy­namic Ride). On a chal­leng­ing road such as the icy moun­tain passes on our test route, the V8 can be hus­tled with poise like a big sports saloon, with im­pec­ca­ble ride and body con­trol.

Even on the sporti­est of the air sus­pen­sion’s three set­tings, the oc­cu­pants re­main un­trou­bled by what­ever bumps, ruts and pot­holes the road sur­face dishes out. The steer­ing is sur­pris­ingly sharp and ac­cu­rate, too, al­low­ing you to place the car quite pre­cisely in turns and on nar­row lanes. And that new pow­er­plant is a joy. Mas­sively torquey, it punts the near 2.4-tonne Bentayga along with seem­ingly no in­er­tia and spins freely to 7000rpm, mak­ing it the high­estrevving Bentley en­gine ever.

A look at the torque curve partly ex­plains that ef­fort­less thrust – the curve is an ab­so­lute plateau at 770Nm all the way from 1960rpm to 4500rpm, so hurtling ac­cel­er­a­tion is al­ways just an an­kle-flex away.

The en­gine is also won­der­fully re­fined, yet with the drive mode se­lec­tor in Sport it ser­e­nades with a thrilling V8 war­ble as it homes in on its red­line. But ease off at a cruise and the stir­ring bel­low sub­sides to a hushed purr.

Cou­pled with the cushy yet con­trolled ride and the plush, su­perbly in­su­lated cabin, the Bentayga V8 is a mas­sively ca­pa­ble (as well as a mas­sive) long-dis­tance de­vice. At $820,000 without COE, the V8 costs a full $100,000 less than the W12 and only $20,000 more than the Diesel, mak­ing it surely the gem in the Bentayga range.

The 2018 Bentayga boasts new trim op­tions in­side the cabin and a new V8 in­side the en­gine room.

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