It’s hard to imagine the Bentley Boys of the 1920s approving of it, but the company’s first diesel has plenty to commend it
There’s been no shortage of criticism of Bentley’s first SUV from day one. Now the company that has built a reputation on the whims of moneyed folk faces another potential banana skin with the release of its first car powered by the once derided diesel.
As it’s a Bentley, it’s not what you might call an everyday diesel. Jointly developed with Audi, this 4.0-litre V8 uses two turbochargers and an electrically-driven supercharger to generate 492bhp and the same amount of pulling power as the twin-turbo 6.0-litre petrol W12 Bentayga.
Bentley Bentayga Diesel
Price: from £135,800
Engine: 4.0-litre V8, diesel with electric compressor and twin turbos
Gearbox: Eight-speed auto
Top speed: 168mph
CO2 emissions: 210g/km
The diesel’s maximum pulling power is available between 1000rpm and 3250rpm, taking it from 0-62mph in 4.8sec and on to a 168mph top speed. Bentley says it’s the world’s fastest diesel SUV.
Official combined fuel economy is 35.8mpg, with 210g/km CO2 emissions.
A black radiator mesh and quad exhausts are the main visual distinguishers of this non-petrol Bentayga. Under the skin, the suspension has been tuned to take account of the extra weight of the 23-litre AdBlue tank. No major noise reduction work has been carried out as the car was designed with the less refined diesel format in mind. It’s hard to discern the presence of an oil-burner under the bonnet at all, even when you give it the beans in neutral. Such engine noise as there is is quite engaging.
With no untoward dieselly din to distract, the driver can get on with enjoying the effortlessly elastic thrust that makes such easy work of hustling this 2.5-tonne car along the road. Audi SQ7 drivers might be non-plussed by the difference: the silken Bentley makes it feel like a clumsy tool by comparison. The syrupy eight-speed automatic gearbox obviates any need to exceed 3000rpm in exchange for swift and refined progress. Sport mode will open up a path to nearly 5000rpm, and the delivery remains smooth all the way, but it all seems a bit unnecessary. As W O Bentley himself might well have said, performance should be impressive but also discreet.
Over mixed Spanish roads the trip computer showed 26.5mpg, a decent improvement over the petrol car and one that gives some credence to a real-world potential range of 500 miles between fuel stops (Bentley claims a theoretical range of 621 miles).
In group testing, the petrol Bentayga has already beaten the petrol Range Rover. The gap between the two diesel derivatives might well be closer, but that’s more about the diesel Range Rover being the best option in that range than it is about any weaknesses in the Bentley. Luxurious space delivered with satisfying precision: that’s the Bentayga proposition.
Any qualms? Well, the slow speed ride over large lumps could be smoother, and you never get much of a feeling of connection to the road. The bafflingly large range of driving modes smacks of excess, but it could be argued that conditions vary greatly around the world, and most Bentayga customers would qualify for the term ‘world citizens’, so perhaps having settings for wet grass, sand or snow can be justified.
Audi’s latest cabin tech claws back some of the mechanical ground lost to the Bentley. Its infotainment system is easier to operate and has a more contemporary look. There again, aren’t Bentley owners meant to be more traditional? It’s all relative. You can’t really define a difference as a fault.
The Bentayga effectively quashes the myth that a diesel Bentley shouldn’t exist. It’s a massively accomplished machine that combines versatility and luxury with a wonderful sense of relaxed maturity. If you can’t easily get diesel in your neighbourhood, or place great store by thunderous 100mph-plus pace, stick with the W12 petrol version. Otherwise, go for the diesel version and save yourself £24,400. Or lease one: the repayments are not as mad as you might think.