Voltaire said, “Perfection is attained in degrees; it requires the hand of time.” And so it is with the Bentley Bentayga.
To be clear, the first-generation Bentayga with the W12 engine was automotive perfection. I know, because I drove it a couple years ago through the Colorado Rockies like a speed demon on highways and like a dirt devil on off-road trails and it never missed a beat.
So why is the new Bentayga with the V8 engine “more perfect?" It all comes down to honed efficiency and an entry price some mortals might consider attainable—all without sacrificing superpower performance and opulent comfort.
To test what some are calling the Bentayga’s new “little brother,” I went to Iceland, a land known for extremes—in December of all times—and was handed the keys to one of these 2019 super SUVs for a couple days.
The first thing you notice is the vehicle’s presence. It doesn’t have an imposing, in-your-face attitude, rather a refined and confident profile, which is what you’d want and expect from a century-old British luxury automotive brand that cut its teeth on grand prix racing.
It also doesn’t hurt that Bentley is now owned by Germans, who are renowned for their understated precision in both design and engineering. And while the character of the Bentayga is polished and poised, this 4x4 never hints at delicacy. There’s a self-confident assertiveness that calmly says, “I may wear a suit and tie but I can still climb Everest.”
So with the best of both worlds—the British tradition of a clubroom on wheels and the German custom for rolling spaceships—I set out to experience the harmonious blend of Anglo-Teutonic craftsmanship.
What’s spectacular about Iceland is that mountains, beaches, volcanoes and glaciers can all be found within relatively close proximity, not to mention fantastic waterfalls, gorges and barren wastes reminiscent of the Arctic.
To access these attractions, I sped out of the small capital city of Reykjavik on the island nation’s main highway. While speed limits are strictly enforced (and fines are reported to be in the thousands of dollars), there was still an opportunity to feel the power of the twin-turbo charged, four-liter engine that produces a whopping 540 horsepower.
The top speed of 180 mph was never approached but that doesn’t matter, the 0-60 in 4.4 seconds was exhilarating proof that this all-terrain vehicle can perform like a supercar.
Turning off onto a lava boulder-strewn trail threading between the volcanic mountains, the only preparation needed was the demanding task of turning a control knob to select one of four different terrain settings while my back was massaged through the heated leather seats. (By the way, the seat massager has six different settings. I tried them all; Wave is the best.)
Everything you’d need to seriously drive off-road—traction control, height clearance, hill descent, etc.—is attainable at the touch of a button. Not only is it effortless and straightforward but incredibly capable and extremely civilized.
From ancient lava fields, it was on to sandy beach tracks where, unsurprisingly, the Bentayga performed like a perfect gentleman and never broke a sweat—no slipping, no grunting, no sway, just surefooted execution.
From there I took the Bentley on what was the trip’s highlight—a thousand year-old Viking road that crosses to the north of Iceland across a frozen, empty lunar landscape capped with glaciers and affording views that extend to Valhalla.
Now disused, the road is a remote 4x4 track and not another vehicle was seen for hours. In fact, a sign at the beginning of the road said “impassable” but my local guide said that didn’t apply to me.
Best of all, there was a river to cross—complete with ice floes—and the Bentayga plunged in with composure and decisiveness. Again, despite the water rising past the bottom of the door sills and the wire-mesh grill parting through chunks of ice, the vehicle confidently and perfectly carried me through to the other bank, all while I was nestled in lavish comfort.
Really, it comes as no revelation that the Bentayga V8 can pass muster in the harshest of environments. What is a revelation is that the 8-cylinder has just about the same impressive performance and amenities as the famous 12-cylinder but at a greatly reduced price.
The base price for the W12 is $230,000 whereas for the V8 it’s $165,000. While that’s not affordable by most definitions, it’s a significant savings for a supreme dual-purpose vehicle that concedes very little to its bigger brother, and it opens the door of Bentley ownership to a much wider audience.
While the Bentayga model leapt onto the world stage only three years ago, the new V8 version has benefited from that time and experience and it can rightly argue the case for perfection. And with the difference in savings, an owner could afford to hire a chauffeur, although I would never recommend it. The pleasure from driving this super SUV in all conditions is just too valuable.