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Driven: Bentley Bentayga Diesel. Image by Bentley.

Driven: Bentley Bentayga Diesel
Can a diesel drivetrain - even one as good as this 4.0-litre V8 - convince in Bentley’s super-luxury SUV?

 



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Bentley Bentayga Diesel

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Bentley's decision to stick a diesel engine into the Bentayga SUV is eminently understandable and, indeed, sensible (21.6mpg average on paper from the W12, anyone?), and there's no doubting the execution of the project is pretty much spot-on, but we've got the sneaking suspicion that some long-time customers of the marque might feel the Bentayga Diesel isn't quite as special as it should be...

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Bentley Bentayga Diesel
Pricing: Bentayga Diesel from £139,100, car as tested £200,685
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 diesel with EPC
Transmission: all-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: five-door SUV
CO2 emissions: 210g/km (VED £1,240 first 12 months, then £450 per annum next five years, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 35.8mpg
Top speed: 168mph
0-62mph: 4.8 seconds
Power: 435hp at 3,750- to 5,000rpm
Torque: 900Nm at 1,000- to 3,250rpm

What's this?

The Bentley Bentayga Diesel, which actually preceded the V8 version as the 'fuel-efficient' one in the mighty SUV's currently three-model line-up. Mind you, fuel efficiency is only a relative term when you're comparing things to a 6.0-litre, twin-turbo W12 unit with 608hp that's installed in something with the same stature as a modest stately home. More pertinently, the purpose of the Diesel and V8 Bentaygas is to increase the SUV's 'cruising range' - Bentley owners are significantly well-heeled enough to not care about £150 tanks of fuel each time they have to roll onto a filling station forecourt, but it's nice to think they can go longer between such unseemly trips to the pumps.

So, the Diesel's forte is its claimed 621-mile cruising range on a single tank of the black stuff (no, not Guinness). However, Bentley owners do expect a certain level of - how shall we say this...? - distinction to the powerplants their vehicles come with and so lifting a 2.0 TDI out of a Volkswagen Passat would simply not do. Luckily, the Volkswagen Group does have a Bentley-esque derv-burner on hand; it's the 4.0-litre 'tri-turbo' V8 that you'll find nestling in the conk of the almighty Audi SQ7 and not only that, but the Bentayga Diesel also makes uses of much of that vehicle's clever 48-volt electrical goodness to provide powered anti-roll capabilities and so on, promising its occupants ultimate luxury no matter what engine is doing the dirty work up front.

Spotting a Bentayga Diesel will be tricky, especially if - as on our test car - the 'V8 Diesel' badge on the lower front door edge has been deleted. You're otherwise looking for a black radiator grille with a chrome surround and those 'twin-quad' exhaust pipes at the back to determine that this is the first non-petrol Benters in the company's long and noble history. Otherwise, it has the same challenging exterior aesthetic - we don't mind its appearance so much any longer but there are plenty of people who do - and all the same top-end appointments as the W12 variant, which means it's a magnificent cabin in which to spend some time. But you're going to lament Bentley's decision to drop the knurled column stalks of the old Continental GT in favour of the thin, plasticky items that you'd find in an Audi A3 and you might also find fault with some of the ancillary plastics on the fascias, if you search, scratch and probe the Bentayga's trim finishes studiously enough.

Finally, a word on pricing. Yes, yes, it's almost an irrelevance when you're dealing with machinery that costs the same as a decent investment property, but we have to do it nonetheless. Ostensibly, the Diesel is a good £20,000 or so less money ('cheaper' is not an appropriate word for vehicles that cost six figures in basic trim) than the W12 but all the cost-option extras are still available for the V8 TDI. As evidenced by our test car, which was fitted with a breath-taking £61,585 of additional toys.

Some of these are big-ticket items - £11,850 on the Mulliner Driving Specification pack with the 22-inch alloys, £6,255 on Touring Specification, £5,690 on Rear Seat Entertainment, £6,680 on the Naim by Bentley premium sound system (albeit it is the absolute best in-car set-up you can get these days), £3,925 on the Bentley Dynamic Ride and £5,005 on All-Terrain Specification, among more - but when you're paying £690 for a hands-free tailgate or £370 for mood lighting or £500 for comfort headrests on the outer-most rear two seats, we start to think these things seem a bit churlish when you're forking out a colossal £139,000 in the first place. Thus, equipped with nearly everything, this Bentayga Diesel was a whisker more than £200,000 - more than double the last, fully-laden Audi SQ7 we drove and the same as a decently-specified W12 we drove in 2016. So the Diesel really does have a lot to prove...

How does it drive?

Oh, brilliantly. That's not in doubt. The Bentley's air suspension is utterly sublime and it manages to almost completely mask the fact that you're rolling on 22s in something that's 2.4 tonnes on the scales. And all the Bentayga's physics-defying road-holding is preserved as well, so not only can it waft you along in ultimate comfort, it can scurry through bends in a surprisingly agile and enjoyable manner. Dynamically, Bentley has got this thing about as spot-on as it could possibly have hoped to have achieved when it began the SUV project some years back.

The drivetrain is one of our favourites in the automotive game, too, and it loses nothing in furious TDI punch nor the silkiness of its delivery here in the Bentley application - but it has, sadly, lost its voice. Where the Audi SQ7 is tuned to sound almost like a 1960s muscle car, especially from the outside (listen to one of the big German SUVs burble past you and you might almost think a Camaro Z28 had just trundled by, if you closed your eyes), Bentley has gone for maximum cabin isolation. This entirely suits the Bentayga's supremely refined character and we understand the reasoning, but it does mean one of the most charismatic automotive soundtracks has been muffled to the point of total eradication, its tuneful nature sacrificed on the altar of luxuriousness.

And that kind of permeates a lot of what the Bentley Bentayga Diesel does. In short, it is sometimes too easy to forget you're driving a Bentley. If you're not looking down at the big 'B' logo on its lovely steering wheel, nor noticing the huge, flat expanse of bonnet that ranges out in front of you when you're sitting at the prow of a Bentayga, then you could very well be driving something high-sided and four-wheel drive from a lesser manufacturer than the Crewe concern. The subdued drivetrain lacks for meaningful fireworks and that robs the Bentayga Diesel of a significant portion of the very thing that is its lifeblood - namely, its ability to make you feel like you're driving something that's a considerable cut above a Range Rover , Mercedes GLS or BMW X5 , justifying its exorbitant list price.


Is an extended range on a full tank of fuel really worth such unremitting compromise? That's tough to say. But it is apparent that the Bentayga Diesel is only going to sell (relatively) well here in western Europe - in the markets where Bentaygas are most likely to be purchased, like the Middle East, China and the States, petrol is absolutely king and the derv V8 will not get a look-in. So if the upper classes here at home don't buy into the 4.0-litre TDI Bentley, who will?

Verdict

The problem for us, when it comes to this really rather splendid British luxury SUV, is that we spent a very enjoyable 200-mile-plus week in its company - and yet we could never shake the following two thoughts: one, the last Bentayga we drove, with the 'proper' W12 motor, felt extra-special and yet it, fitted with a few options, cost pretty much the same cash as this Diesel; and two, an Audi SQ7 does much of what the Bentley does, it sounds better and it has an extra two seats... for less than half the money.

OK, that won't matter to Bentley die-hards who wouldn't dream of chopping in their old Turbo R for something as ghastly as an Audi, but they're facts worth bearing in mind nonetheless. And we reckon that, if you want more cruising range on your Bentayga, then the V8 petrol model might be the one to choose. The Diesel is a superb vehicle that's beautifully engineered and finished, but it somehow lacks for the 'wow' factor that its siblings possess in spades. If you're going to go big on the Bentley Bentayga, go properly big and have the mesmerising W12 instead.

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

5 5 5 5 5 Passenger Space

5 5 5 5 5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 19 Jun 2018









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2018 Bentley Bentayga Diesel. Image by Bentley.2018 Bentley Bentayga Diesel. Image by Bentley.2018 Bentley Bentayga Diesel. Image by Bentley.2018 Bentley Bentayga Diesel. Image by Bentley.2018 Bentley Bentayga Diesel. Image by Bentley.

2018 Bentley Bentayga Diesel. Image by Bentley.2018 Bentley Bentayga Diesel. Image by Bentley.2018 Bentley Bentayga Diesel. Image by Bentley.2018 Bentley Bentayga Diesel. Image by Bentley.2018 Bentley Bentayga Diesel. Image by Bentley.








 

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