Parkers overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 4.2
  • Fantastic V8 twin-turbo motor
  • Plug-in hybrid and W12 to follow
  • Eight-speed automatic transmission

There's one version of the Bentayga to choose from right now, but the plug-in hybrid and W12 are on their way. The old diesel version is long gone now, which is a shame because it was a superb all-rounder with (comparatively) low running costs paired with the same hit of torque as the most expensive W12 petrol car.

V8 petrol

This is the only one to have right now, but you're not going to be in any way shortchanged. Slightly slower than the old and magnificent W12, this 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged Bentayga develops 550hp and 770Nm of torque. It takes 4.5 seconds for the 0-62mph dash and boasts a top speed of 180mph. This is coupled with a soul-stirring soundtrack, certainly compared with the W12's refined whir at least.

Bentayga Speed W12

Our experience of this is of the pre-facelift model. But the new model's engine is unchanged, a 6.0-litre, twelve-cylinder, twin-turbocharged petrol engine, so its performance is outstanding. It develops 635hp and 900Nm of torque, the latter figure available from very low rpm, meaning 0-62mph acceleration in 3.9 seconds, while maximum speed is 190mph.

But it’s not the serious speed this car is capable of that impresses most. It’s the laid-back decorum with which it goes about its day-to-day tasks. At idle the engine is almost silent: you wouldn’t know it had fired up if it wasn’t for the slight shudder through the car at the point of ignition as a dozen cylinders begin moving in unison.

Once you’re in motion you notice the perfectly judged throttle response, which allows the driver to gently coax the Bentayga around city centres easily. Head out in the countryside and push your right foot into the thick carpet, however, and you’ll reach the national speed limit before you’ve had a chance to breathe. The acceleration is nothing short of spectacular considering the size of car we’re dealing with here. It tips the scales at 2.4 tonnes, so for perspective it’s well over double what an MX-5 sports car weights, but it’s also twice as fast.

The Bentayga also features a cylinder shut-down function that effectively switches off half of the engine when it’s not needed to save fuel, but you won’t notice this working: its integration is seamless.

Plug-in hybrid

Our experience of this model is also of the pre-facelift car. Being a plug-in hybrid, power is developed by a 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine paired with an electric motor this most environmentally concious Bentayga puts out 449hp and 700Nm of torque. It's the slowest accelerating version but still pretty respectable, taking 5.2 seconds to sprint from 0-62mph and reaching a top speed of 158 mph.

The obvious benefit of this version is the ability to recharge its lithium ion battery pack and drive for miles using electricity alone. We've detailed its range and economy in the Running Costs section. We'll see what technical improvements will be applied to improve those numbers.

Flawlessly matched transmission

The eight-speed automatic gearbox manufactured by ZF is perfectly matched to the engine’s performance when driven quickly or slowly; its changes are lightning-fast or almost undetectable.

There are steering wheel-mounted paddles to dictate changes yourself, but we found ourselves eschewing them in favour of letting the car do the work. This ‘box features a coasting function too, which decouples the engine from the gearbox in the top three gears when the driver lifts off the throttle to save fuel.

Previously available engines

The first ever diesel Bentley was powered by a 4.0-litre V8, producing 435hp and 900Nm of torque. It boasted the lowest CO2 of any of the manufacturer's models but make no mistake, it was a sledgehammer of an engine, capable of propelling this SUV from 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds and onto 168mph.

Obviously this model missed some of the evocative noise associated with the petrol Bentayga but in terms of everyday use it was a strong all-rounder.

Handling

  • Capable handling at all speeds
  • Recipe there for off-road potential
  • Easy to manoeuvre at parking speeds

We’ve mentioned the sheer weight of the Bentayga before, but in this respect we’re surprised to report it isn’t an issue. A major contributing factor to this is the advanced active anti-roll system, which uses a 48-volt electrical supply to adjust the force it takes for the car to tip over when cornering. Its application in combination with the standard air suspension is very well judged indeed, with sportier driving benefiting from its own mode to stiffen the chassis, making astonishing cornering speeds a possibility.

It’s good at low speeds, too. In fact, once again this is where the car’s at its best. We were surprised by the small turning circle – especially given it doesn’t have rear-wheel steering available, like the Audi Q7 the Bentayga shares its platform with – but it’s surprisingly easy to park, and more so with the optional automatic parking system installed.

The electrically assisted steering is sharp, direct and nicely weighted, with more heft required to turn the wheel in Sport mode.

Off-road in the Bentley Bentayga

We’ve driven it on a challenging off-road course, and our impressions are that it's going to take quite a lot to stop this car. Although it's no Range Rover in terms of its off-road hardware, we found it perfectly capable of traversing deep mud and water, with hill descent control coping well with steep inclines. Wading performance is impressive, although the idea of taking a £150,000-plus car mud-plugging like this is an alien concept.

As standard it comes equipped with an advanced stability and traction-control system, hill-descent control for measured downhill performance and height-adjustable air suspension.

If you specify the All-terrain Specification package you’ll get an additional four driving modes for trickier conditions (Mud & Trail, Sand, Dirt & Gravel and Snow, Ice & Wet Grass) along with more underbody protection and an overhead camera so you can see your surroundings.