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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Road test: 2018 Bentley Bentayga V8

Is this SUV is an ugly duckling or a chic cygnet?

If ever there was a motoring ugly duckling, it’s the Bentley Bentayga. Widely derided as a slab-sided, bulbous-faced monstrosity when it was revealed in 2015, it has since gone on to have the last laugh, selling almost 10,000 units.

The original incarnation came with Bentley’s patented W12 engine, but even the world’s stateliest carmakers are beginning to acknowledge the need for downsizing – we can’t all roll around powered by a dozen cylinders and think that the environment might not go into cardiac arrest. Now, say hello to the (probably overdue) Bentayga V8.

For successful examples of how less has become more in recent years, look no further than Bentley’s fellow top-brass British brand, Aston Martin. Raw power aside, the DB11 V8 is superior in almost every way to its heavier V12 counterpart.

In a similar Anglo-Germanic manner to Bentley and the Volkswagen Group, Aston has used Mercedes in recent times – the technological advances behind the DB11 V8 have already made AMG’s V8 one of the best engines. Good enough, indeed, to almost make you forget that Merc still employs 12-pots at the top end of its range.

Europe also benefits from the choice of a diesel V8 or hybrid Bentayga – the former isn’t likely to ever make it here, although the latter probably will. In the UAE, the current single choice between V12 or V8 petrol at least makes things simpler.

Going small isn’t exactly a hardship when you consult the stats, even if they are down on the W12: the 4.0-litre V8, developed with aid from Porsche, produces 550hp and a rather substantial 770Nm of torque, with a top speed of 290kph. Not a budget banger, then. And all of this with a range of 746 kilometres, although presumably not if you’re testing out its 0-to-100kph time of 4.5 seconds.

In good news for the environment, during my test drive of the Bentayga V8 – from the outskirts of Dubai to the top of Ras Al Khaimah’s Jebel Jais, then back again – the convoy format of the event means that speeds are kept sensible. Obviously on main public roads, that should be a given, although it is a little disappointing not to fully test the Bentley’s ability to zip up the UAE’s tallest mountain.

Should you be pushing along at a rather quicker velocity, you will hardly notice, such is the level of luxury afforded to the Bentayga’s interior – 130 man hours go into handcrafting these cars, while they are painted and mirror-finished by hand.

Scaling down its cylinder count isn’t restricted to removing four from the W12. The V8 can also shut down half of its eight cylinders when conditions allow, while its green credentials are enhanced by the addition of stop-start technology.

Exterior swagger hasn’t been disregarded in the face of such changes, though, with new optional 22-inch black wheels and a black grille smartly accentuating the sporty intentions of the V8, as does carbon-fibre addendum. That said, the exhaust could be a little more vocal, a la Merc’s fine eight-cylinder fireworks display.

As Bentley prepares to enter its second century, it seems the competition at the most-potent end of the SUV market is only set to further intensify – the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, for one, is about to bite chunks out of the Bentayga’s market.

With the V8 in its arsenal, though, it’s well-armed to take on that battle head-on.

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Read more:

Road test: We take the Rolls-Royce Cullinan for a spin

The new Bentley Continental GT delivers gently

The UAE's fastest, largest and most luxurious SUVs

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