Bentley’s lineup of motorcars represents some of the most opulent travel money can buy. Cosseting passengers in fine leathers and carefully selected wood trims, these cars prove to be a brilliantly tranquil means of covering large distances. The British brand is also known for its sporting lineage, but when Bentley introduced its first SUV in 2015, it opened a whole new chapter in its history. With the addition of an adventurous high-riding model, questions about its ability to follow paths less trodden naturally arise.
The freshly updated Bentley Bentayga V8 is as lovely as the plush SUV has ever been. Its interior continues to bathe passengers in premium materials, but rear occupants can now recline with 100mm more space than before. There’s new tech on offer as well in the form of a 10.9-inch infotainment system and digital instrumentation. Outside there are some restyled lighting signatures, a new grille, fresh alloy wheel designs, reworked bonnet and ovular exhaust exits.
You can’t have the grand W12 engine in a Bentayga anymore, but this potent V8 more than suffices. 542bhp and 770Nm of torque makes this car brisk to say the least, something further highlighted by a 180mph top speed. On the road the well-mannered SUV is comfy and surprisingly dynamic in equal measure. But we sort of knew all of that… What we want to know is what this near £140,000 luxury SUV is like off-road.
Chaperoned by two other Bentaygas, I left the road for a gravel path that quickly became consumed by woodland. Instructed to raise the air-suspension to its highest position and inform the Bentley’s traction systems that things were about to get interesting, the convoy moved on. The gravel quickly turned into a sticky brown tar that quickly began clinging to the carefully polished paintwork of the Bentley. These cars were on all-season tyres, so nothing that would help them off-road in any particular way.
Our muddy trail wound its way through the forest, slaloming the occasional tree before descending down a slippy embankment. Considering that this car weighs around 2,500kg the Benteyga’s Hill Descent Control needed to prove competent to prevent something resembling a muddy runaway train. Confidently, the big SUV kept things moving at just a few mph while each wheel individually manage traction. Thanks to this Bentley’s relatively short overhangs front and rear, approach and departure angles are pretty good.
The next obstacle was a steep climb – seriously steep – up an uneven slope with a loose surface. Taking up the challenge, my Bentayga pitched itself skyward, with the angle being so aggressive that my forward view was that of just bonnet and sky. The all-wheel drive system continuously diverted power to the wheels with the most traction, and thanks to the V8’s maximum torque being accessible from just 2,000rpm, this SUV simply walked up at a steady pace.
Driving further along our route we were soon joined by countless ducks – well, I say countless, we were informed there are some 400,000 on the estate. Why so many ducks in a largely wooded environment? That would be due to the huge lake that now presented itself in my path. The term ‘lake’ is not hyperbole, I actually mean a deep lake where fish live! Encouraged over the radio to simply drive in, every fibre in my body was telling me that I was about to write-off this six-figure car.
Plunging into the water with a splash and a momentary floating sensation, the Bentayga’s wheels met with the lakebed. Moving forward at about 7mph created a nice bow wave, but the engine’s refinement meant that the car’s sloshing through the water was unnervingly audible. In front of me and out of the left window was open water rippling in the sunlight, and if it weren’t for the steering wheel, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were inside a boat. All of this was made possible thanks a the Bentayga’s wading death of 500mm – a figure I believe we were right on the limit of after rainfall.
My brief cruise was brought to an end when the Bentley calmly hoisted itself out of the water and up an embankment. The next task was to return to the road, but not before pitching the SUV laterally some 22 degrees while driving along a grassy bank. Touching Tarmac once more and selecting Bentley Mode, the Betayga’s off-road excursion was at an end.
It would be fair to say that this off-road course was far from the most taxing, but it did highlight that the Bentayga is capable of far more than running to Waitrose and back. Will owners of this Bentley ever take their car to such extremes? Of course not! It’s a £140k car for goodness sake. However, it is nice to know that should the situation arise, the Bentley Bentayga is equipped for enthusiastic country pursuits.