For a limited time only, we revisit what motoring was going to be before the world got all sensible. Enter the Bentley Bentayga Diesel
When faced with the opportunity to test drive a demonstrable ugly car, I normally ignore the call and play pong on my mobile phone instead. Because what’s the point really? There is a new car launched every week, and they generally have the decency to look half decent. But when the call came through for the R3-million-and-change Bentley Bentayga with a triple turbo V8 diesel that’s in town for a limited time only; before, I don’t know, it’s needed on an interstellar space mission to realign Jupiter’s rings or something, you just say yes and worry about the story afterwards.
However, contrary to popular sentiment and without completely judging a book by its cover, it’s not difficult to find things to like about the Bentayga. Firstly, everyone makes SUVs these days but this completely opulent iteration is still somehow in a standalone class. Secondly, and most crucially, there’s its motor: a tri-turbo 4.0-litre V8 diesel that boasts 320kW and 900Nm of torque, the monster TDI that managed to survive the #dieselgate fall out, like a bandit on the run in the Wild West. It’s almost certainly the last of its kind in our ‘totally woke AF’, post-dieselgate world. The adventurous Volkswagen Audi Group of a decade ago was going to put a massive V12 TDI engine into an R8 supercar for goodness sake, but alas, #dieselgate and the electric vehicle agenda has been a paradigm shift too far for so-called dinosaurs of the black pump. A shift that’s brought everything back to sensibility… and made things worse.
Lest we forget, diesel is more power dense than petrol, which is why it requires a heavier cast-iron block to withstand greater combustion force. Because of this it’s also more efficient, and aside from the noxious gasses argument, better for CO2 emissions, too. A fair argument when you have a mere 210 g/km CO2 coming from the tailpipe of a nearly three-tonne behemoth. And believe that claimed economy of 8.0l per 100 km, it’s easily attainable on a highway cruise. But its teetotaling ways doesn’t stop it booting you to the horizon in 4.6 seconds to 100 km/h before topping out at ratio limited 270 km/h in no time at all. Don’t forget, unlike a comparable X5 or GL, this car has more than a passing semblance of practicality to go with it. Its sheer girth allows for many cats to be swung around inside, the only downer in employing such a tactic will be scratches in the Burnt Oak leather hide seats with embroidered Bentley emblems and claw marks in the symmetrically patterned wood veneer centre fascia.
Rumour has it, that before #dieselgate came along to mess everything up, the mighty 4.0-litre diesel – like the W12 and V8 motor – was going to get a highly sought after moniker to signify its maximum uber-ness, but quite rightly the powers that be realised a Bentley R or S, in traditional fashion, should be more than just glutinous grunt off the line, so they just called it the diesel instead. Although, this Bentley does handle well enough considering its extraordinary size, assuming you treat it with respect and realise the traction and stability control systems are on maximum alert all the time. Apply any amount of steering lock in a tight corner, weld your foot hard down on the throttle, and she goes completely numb, going nowhere in a hurry. Like Rhys Millen on his Pike’s Peak record run – you’ve got to drive around its girth all the time.
What I do particularly enjoy is the weight of the steering. It’s solid, heavy and yet feels connected all the time, promising a sporty turn-in at any bend. When you do corner however, the weight takes over and no matter what setting you’re on in the air ride (three on-road settings and likewise for off road), there is a sea of body roll, and a lot of air suspension reluctantly trying to rein the fat boy in beneath you. It has optional carbon ceramic brakes, too, to slow you down. Forget about all that though because this car is really all about straight lines. When you sink that throttle pedal into the carpet, huge lungfuls of air and the devils’ juice are slurped up and spat to the wheels in a wall of pulverising torque. In its torque band from 1 500rpm till 4 500rpm, this Bentley diesel is intergalactic.
Is it ugly? I’m afraid so, yes. Is it sensible? Not in the slightest, when you could have a Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg or Audi Q7 for nearly half the price. Is it a brilliant two-fingered salute to the #dieselgate naysayers!? Absolutely, probably the finest proponent of its type of internal combustion technology ever. Where on earth did we go so wrong?
In a nutshell
Bentley Bentayga diesel
4.6 sec 0-100 km/h, 270 km/h, 8.0 l/100 km, and 210 g/km CO2.
What’s good? V8 triple turbo diesel
What’s bad? Like you need to ask
Price: (from) R2 950 000
Maintenance: 3 year / 100 000km
Must-have options: 21-inch diamond spoke wheels, Bentley Dynamic Drive