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Bentley's Supreme New SUV: The Bentayga Diesel

It’s a car so hotly anticipated after Bentley announced its launch that HM The Queen was reportedly top of the waiting list. We road test the new Bentayga Diesel to see if it’s worth the hype

There’s been a lot in the media recently about diesel cars. The government is considering car tax increases, additional charges for driving in central London and fuel surcharges – so why has Bentley chosen this anti-diesel atmosphere in which to launch its very first diesel car? Eager to know more, I popped down to The Vault – a secretive-sounding Bentley showroom in the bowels of Westfield shopping centre – to test the diesel edition of the brand’s Bentayga SUV and discover for myself the perks of this new Bentley engine.

Driving out of the garage, I’m aware of two things. Firstly, this car is big. And I don’t mean big as in, ‘how have they made the interiors feel so spacious?’. I mean, this is a hefty machine. I have to be careful not to scratch the alloys on the narrow exit lanes, and I’m not entirely sure I succeed – sorry Bentley. The benefit of its vast size is just how roomy it feels. I’m testing the four-seat configuration – Bentley also offers a more traditional five- or seven-seat set-up – which has two front seats installed in the rear for maximum comfort. This car has more leg room than my old flat.

The second thing I notice is that, despite its mammoth size (2.5 tonnes, 5.1-metre length and 2.2-metre width), the steering is light as air, and even though I’m trapped in a low-ceilinged parking garage with the window down faffing with the exit machine, I can barely hear the engine. Very unusual for a powerful V8 diesel that produces 429bhp and launches this beautiful beast to 60mph in just 4.8 seconds. I feel even more smug safe in the knowledge that I’m not contributing more than my share to London’s pollution levels. Thanks to the clever technology of this triple-charged, 4.0-litre engine, this is the cleanest, most efficient Bentley ever; offering 35.8mpg while producing just 210g/km of CO2.

This is the cleanest, most efficient Bentley ever; offering 35.8mpg while producing just 210g/km of CO2.

Finally out on the road, I have the massage chairs on, Classic FM on the Bentley Signature Audio system and I’m ready to brave the city traffic. Can’t see myself getting frustrated, though; short of Netflix and a bathroom I’m more comfortable here than at home. Come to think of it, thanks to the car’s internal wi-fi and media system, I could be watching TV in the back were I not too busy fiddling with the gadgets in the front. And, you know, driving.

Bentley has kept to the idea of ‘understated luxury’ perfectly with its control systems. Easy to use, refined and with little touches of elegance that prove the brand has impeccable taste; I love the ‘organ stop’ controls for the air vents. My only quibble is with the sat-nav. I’ve had poor experiences with the Volkswagen system before, and while the Bentayga has a much more user-friendly control system than the Audi R8, for example, I still found the guidance irritatingly tardy to inform you of upcoming manoeuvres. 

So what else, I ask myself, do SUV owners look for in their vehicles? I’m determined to give the Bentley a decent challenge. Cue piling my trusty test pooch into the boot and heading for the country. The first thing I note is that the parcel shelf in the boot, while able to slide back, is not removable, making my poor dog’s headroom a little lower than usual. Still, with 431 litres of boot volume despite no movable or foldable seats, she’s still got plenty of space to stretch out.

The Bentayga handles long road trips with aplomb. The drive is so exceptionally smooth you wonder where the 2.5 tonnes of car beneath you has gone. Except when you put your foot down – then you get a mighty shove of G-force as you feel the acceleration kick in. The suspension simply melts away the bumps and lumps of the UK roads, and even when we get to the uneven off-road parking at our destination, my excitable pup doesn’t wake up and realise we’ve arrived until I open the boot – excellent proof of the smoothness of the ride, as she’s usually raring to go the second we turn off the motorway.

The thing I like most about the Bentayga is how special I feel driving it. You can’t help but feel like a queen in this high-riding SUV, offering you excellent visibility, supreme comfort and space, plus all the little details that Bentley cars are famous for. No wonder Her Maj was keen.