Parkers overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 4.2
  • Fantastic V8 twin-turbo motor
  • Plug-in hybrid the sensible choice
  • Eight-speed automatic transmission

Petrol engine

The bonkers 6.0-litre,12-cylinder, twin-turbocharged Speed W12 isn’t available in the UK. So the engine lineup kicks off with the V8. It’s hardly a poor substitute for the W12, as it’s still wickedly quick and muscular.

Its 4.0-litre V8 makes 550hp and it’ll crack the 0-62mph sprint in 4.5 seconds. To drive, it feels effortless in all situations, yet when you need the power to overtake, it simply flies, with almost instant seamless response. The well-judged throttle response allows the driver to gently coax the Bentayga around city centres easily too.

The acceleration is impressive considering the size of car we’re dealing with here. It tips the scales at 2.4 tonnes, which is around twice the weight of a Ford Fiesta, but it’s also much, much quicker, and incredibly laid-back about it, too. To conserve fuel, it features a cylinder shut-down function that effectively switches off half of the engine when it’s not needed, but you won’t notice this working.

Plug-in hybrid

Being a plug-in hybrid, power is developed by a 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine paired with an electric motor that’s fed by a sizeable battery pack. Total output is 449hp and it’ll cover the 0-62mph dash (with a fully-charged battery) in 5.2 seconds.

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, so let’s talk about the performance.

In electric mode it’s fine around town and when you’re mooching along a flat road, but steep hills and heavy acceleration cause the engine to fire into life. The changeover is exceptionally smooth.

While it’s certainly brisk flat out, the V6 feels and sounds a little strained when you’re really going for it. So while it’s a great city companion, it doesn’t feel like a true Bentley on the open road when you’re looking to make progress. Word of warning, with a completely drained battery this engine feels positively asthmatic in comparison with the V8.

What’s it like to drive?

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

It’s a big car, but not as unwieldy as you might expect. A major contributing factor to this relative agility is the optional 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 quick cornering easily achievable.  

We’d point out that this clever tech is only available on V8 models, though. Sure, the Hybrid gets air-suspension that can be stiffened and slackened as standard, but the extra weight of the big battery causes greater levels of body lean and it doesn’t feel as agile, either.  

All Bentaygas are easy to handle at low speeds. 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.

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.

How about off-road?

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. This is only available on the V8.