This twin-turbo V8 is throaty but civil, well-mannered but, deep down, pretty raucous. It’s versatile, too, and will fade into the background at a cruise but still fires the Bentayga along at just as alarming a rate as the W12 can, except on those rare occasions you’ve got your right foot resolutely pinned to the floor.
A redline set at 7000rpm means this is the highest-revving Bentley road car ever, and that’s reflected in the way the V8 goes about its business. The torque curve is a table-top job, with peak delivered between 1960rpm and 4500rpm, though maximum power arrives satsifying high up, at 6000rpm. This engine possesses a levity that’ll have you running it right up to that redline.
The delivery is magnificently wrinkle-free, too, because this eight-speed ZF transmission is, as we’re increasingly finding, almost impossible to find fault with. In fact, if there’s one criticism of this powertrain, it’s that despite the placement of the turbos, there’s just as much lag as with the W12. No, it’s not a yawning delay between action and reaction, but it’s just a little longer than is desirable in a more sporting model, which is how Bentley will market the V8 Bentayga.
Another small criticism. Bentley has spoken about developing the V8 exhaust note to achieve a characterful offbeat muscle car tone but, in truth, the noise this engine makes is a bit vanilla by the standards of the genre. It’s still considerably more distinctive than the W12, mind, which has a tendency to sound like a big-boned V6, and an Akrapovic-developed sports exhaust is in the works too. We’d expect that to deliver the goods aurally, though whether that is what a car like this really needs is another matter.
In dynamic terms, there’s no change to the adaptive air suspension set-up of the W12, with its four selectable ride heights and multiple modes ranging from Comfort to Sport via the generally very well sorted ‘Bentley’ setting. You also get the same active roll bars, which keep the body unerringly flat until you surpass cornering forces of 0.6G, at which point a little pitch is permitted as a reminder that you’re pushing on in a very substantial car.
Bentley says it has introduced more feel into the steering, but on the damp roads of the car’s Austrian launch – and with winter tyres to contend with – that wasn’t in evidence. Then again, expecting a car that does luxury almost without peer, can demonstrate commendable off-road dexterity and has the pace to see off bona fide sports cars to also possess a talkative chassis is perhaps asking the impossible.