The Bentley Bentayga V8 recently launched to the motoring press might have a lightweight aluminium body, but that doesn’t make it a lightweight SUV.
It tips the scales at nearly 2.4-tonnes, more than a Porsche Cayenne Turbo S and slightly less than a Range Rover. It’s an enormous mass to manage, especially given the grunt at play from the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 lurking under the bonnet.
Armed with 404kW and 770Nm of torque, the latest addition to the Bentayga range is quick – it’ll go from standstill to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds flat, with a top speed of 290km/h.
It has loads of grip from an all-paw drivetrain and electric anti-roll control. Dubbed Bentley Dynamic Ride, it’s a sophisticated system of active front and rear stabiliser bars powered by an advanced 48V electrical system.
It works a treat too, instantly counteracting lateral body roll when cornering to provide the largest possible tyre contact patch, even at serious speeds according to Bentayga product line director, Peter Guest.
“Right from the start we wanted to come up with an SUV that was different from anything our rivals had done,” Guest told CarAdvice.
“Traditionally, SUVs have a high centre of gravity, which means you’re often compromised between ride comfort and body control. To control the mass you have stiffer roll bars, but then again you then lose on ride comfort.
“So, we wanted to make a an SUV that would feel lighter and more agile than it really is, but also had exceptional ride comfort. In the end, we looked at what systems were available, but ended up co-developing a system with Audi, though we introduced it first with some unique software, but using the same hardware.
“Actually, the biggest thing for us was the off-road capability, because with Bentayga there was a lot more off-road capability planned than there was for the SQ7.
“Bespoke software had to be developed for harsh environments like the deserts, where the landscape played havoc with system, until we solved those issues.”
When you’re driving in a straight line and the system isn’t seeing lateral acceleration, the two sides of the vehicle are essentially independent for greater wheel articulation.
But when the system recognises lateral acceleration or an aggressive body angle, it applies enough force on the appropriate side to keep the vehicle flat though corners, explained Guest.
“In Sport mode we try and keep the Bentayga flat up to about 0.7g, which is near enough to the maximum torque for the actuator at around 1300Nm in the front actuator. Above that, we allow it to roll a little just so you get a feel for where the limit is.
“In the less aggressive Bentley and Comfort modes, we then apply a little bit less roll torque so it does move a bit more, but body roll is still controlled.
“We’ve also worked very hard on trying to achieve a natural feel to the steering weight, so with the Custom mode you’re able to adjust the steering weight independently to throttle response and transmission mapping due to the fact that steering weight is just so subjective.”
Guest also said Bentley engineers benchmarked a bunch of different cars – including those from its own Volkswagen Group stable – like the Audi SQ7 and Porsche Cayenne to find the ultimate balance between ride and handling.
“We’ve tried to position the Bentayga throughout the engine range to sit right in the middle of the comfort and sportiness market, the car you can jump in and get a bit more comfort if you like, then you can dial up the sportiness if you like, but at the end of the day it’s still a Bentley.”
We also checked with Guest about the full-strength Range Rover, and asked if Bentley sees the 5.0-litre SV Autobiography as a potential threat to the Bentayga V8, as least as far as ultimate comfort goes.
“I think the Range Rover has got different attributes in terms of its always tuned in its typical DNA fashion, so while it might offer a softer ride, the biggest thing for me is its lightweight steering and that’s not what we want in a Bentley.
“Historically, the steering is quite light and remote without a lot of effort build. And, in terms of ride comfort and body control, I think we probably sacrifice a little bit of secondary ride to give our customers more of a performance feel. Either way, it’s a care balance that we try and achieve,” concluded Guest.