Car Review: The Bentley Bentayga Diesel, a frontrunner in the luxury SUV segment

SUV, Bentley Bentayga

A diesel-powered ultra-luxury SUV is just as ludicrous as it sounds, but in a good way

The very idea of an ultra-luxury SUV was laughable up until very recently when the Bentley EXP 9F concept (it would eventually become the Bentayga) rolled onto the stage at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show.

Whether or not people were laughing at its design, or that a storied carmaker like Bentley would sully its name by venturing beyond limousines and grand tourers is up for debate, but let’s get back on track.

The Bentley Bentayga made its debut two years ago with a far more conciliatory design and an engine that everyone (barring militant environmentalists) could agree on – a six-litre twin-turbo W12.

However, the Bentayga’s controversy-courting ways wouldn’t end there. Last year, a Bentley Bentayga with a diesel engine made an appearance, the first car from Bentley to come with one. Now this is heresy.

Traditional wisdom dictates that diesels clatter, making them rather unbefitting for a luxury car. Also, they’re slow. While they might have phenomenal mid-gear grunt, they’re usually a little sluggish off the line, making them rather unbefitting of a Bentley.

Petrol Vs Diesel

But obviously, traditional wisdom hasn’t quite reckoned with what Crewe can do. With a four-litre displacement, the Bentley Bentayga Diesel produces 429bhp and 900Nm, the latter figure identical to the W12 variant. The Bentley Bentayga Diesel’s century sprint time, however, is slower than the Bentley Bentayga W12 by 0.7 seconds. But frankly, unless you’re armed with a stopwatch at all times, it’s barely noticeable.

Taking Control, Quietly

Despite the brutal sounding acceleration time, flooring the throttle from a standstill is curiously undramatic. There’s a turbine-like whooshing from somewhere around the Bentley Bentayga’s fore and aft ends, and aside from a speedometer arcing round with alarming speed, not much else. No neck-snapping acceleration, no screeching tyres. Just an extremely insistent and very rapid accrual of speed.

The key to all that is its 48-volt electrical architecture that supplements the two turbos with an electric “supercharger” that virtually eliminates lag. Interestingly, there isn’t actually a physical supercharger, it merely uses electrical power to pre-spin the first turbo, adding even more responsiveness and low-end grunt to the diesel engine.

Fairly complex stuff, to be sure, but all you really need to know is the Bentley Bentayga Diesel’s engine is as silken as it is powerful, and along with the remarkable silence of its cabin, an amazing grand tourer. Interior amenities, of course, are well catered for. Plush leather seats, and if you so choose, a Naim audio system and rear seat entertainment can be specified.

One small fly in its ointment is its ride quality. It’s as plush as can be in Comfort mode, but switch it over to the Bentley mode (denoted by the carmaker’s B logo on the console) and it becomes a little more lumpen than I was expecting.

It’s nowhere near jarring, but the relative lack of damping sophistication is a bit of a letdown when you consider how big an achievement the rest of the car is.

The biggest evidence of that is in how compact the Bentley Bentayga feels to drive. It’s a large car, to be certain, but it feels no more intimidating than any mid-sized luxury saloon.

King Of The Roads

The Bentley Bentayga is the undisputed king of ultra-luxury SUVs at the moment. Some might point out that it’s the only ultra-luxury SUV on the marketplace right now, but that’s a moot point. And it’s a diesel-powered one at that, which makes what the Bentayga has achieved all the more impressive.