From £155,6808
The W12 Bentayga is dead in Europe, but we’ve got this sharpened V8 instead

What is it?

While some parts of the world still get a W12-powered Bentley Bentayga Speed, this was been dropped for Europe with last year’s facelift – slackening demand and tightening emissions standards being the official reasons. Now Bentley has created a junior model that we will be able to buy, the Bentayga S, adding most of the same dynamic tweaks to the V8.

Bad news first: there is no more power. Company insiders say the complexity of homologating different powerplants within Europe precluded the possibility of an output tweak, although the 4.0-litre V8’s peaks of 542bhp and 568lb ft remain impressive enough. On Bentley’s figures, the S’s 4.5sec 0-62mph time and 180mph top speed are just 0.6sec and 10mph off the respective figures for the W12.

Suspension changes from the standard V8 are more significant. Bentley says the dampers are 15% stiffer but that the S has also been given a more dynamic ESC tune in its Sport mode. It also gets the Dynamic Ride system as standard, this being the active set-up that uses 48V motors to counter lean under hard cornering loads by applying torque to the anti-roll bars.

Visually, the S gets the darkened trim of the Bentayga’s optional Blackline package as standard, subtle badging on the doors, a larger rear wing and oval tailpipes – plus 22in alloy wheels as standard. There is also stitched S branding on the seats.

2 Bentley bentayga s 2022 first drive tracking rear

What's it like?

While the Bentayga’s styling and proportions have been likened to those of a stately home, the car has always felt fleet of foot when pressed hard – and the S does indeed improve on the impressive dynamic abilities of the regular V8.

There might be no more power, but a new sports exhaust has given the V8 a significant increase in character. It fires into life with a fruity idle, burbles under gentle use and develops an angry snarl when worked hard. While it sounds great to petrolhead ears, especially driving past at full throttle, the volume is getting towards anti-social levels; neighbours are certainly going to notice any Bentayga S owners trying to sneak out early in the morning.

Yet the chassis still feels impressively well judged, with even a relatively short drive in California proving the stiffened settings haven’t compromised the standard Bentayga’s pliant athleticism. Sport mode gives the ride a noticeable edge over high-frequency imperfections but never turns the car harsh. Comfort mode feels nearly as pliant as the regular V8, despite the huge wheels, and the air springs always use their travel intelligently to absorb and digest bumps rather than fight them. As before, the default 'B' dynamic mode leaves the car to its own devices, and it definitely makes the right choices most of the time.

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The anti-roll system works almost invisibly. It doesn’t entirely cancel lean under hard cornering loads; a small amount has been deliberately left in to give the driver a sense of the forces at play. But it feels impressively lithe and wieldy for something so tall and heavy, putting up a spirited resistance to understeer in tighter turns before ultimately surrendering to it.

The eight-speed autobox’s Sport mode remains too aggressive, kicking down under gentle throttle applications rather than trusting in the engine’s mighty torque and holding onto low gears for longer than it needs to. The transmission also feels slightly dull-witted when ordered to make changes by the steering-wheel paddles, sometimes missing ratios when multiple shifts are requested in short order. And the five-spoke alloy wheels will also be wide of many tastes, the combination of polished faces and black spokes on the car I drove making them look very aftermarket.

9 Bentley bentayga s 2022 first drive cabin

Should I buy one?

While few Bentayga buyers are likely to put dynamic focus at the top of their list or purchasing priorities, the S’s improved handling and soundtrack are significant upgrades.

A £182,300 price tag represents a substantial £24,500 supplement over the standard V8, but it isn’t much more than the combined cost of the extras it offers as standard when fitted to the regular car. If you want the best Bentayga available in the UK, this is it.

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16 Bentley bentayga s 2022 first drive cornering front


Mike Duff

Mike Duff
Title: Contributing editor

Mike has been writing about cars for more than 25 years, having defected from radio journalism to follow his passion. He has been a contributor to Autocar since 2004, and is a former editor of the Autocar website. 

Mike joined Autocar full-time in 2007, first as features editor before taking the reins at Being in charge of the video strategy at the time saw him create our long running “will it drift?” series. For which he apologies.

He specialises in adventurous drive stories, many in unlikely places. He once drove to Serbia to visit the Zastava factory, took a £1500 Mercedes W124 E-Class to Berlin to meet some of its taxi siblings and did Scotland’s North Coast 500 in a Porsche Boxster during a winter storm. He also seems to be a hypercar magnet, having driven such exotics as the Koenigsegg One:1, Lamborghini SCV12, Lotus Evija and Pagani Huayra R.

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Add a comment…
Blackwood 18 January 2022

Why oh why do they have to be sooo ugly? l

Looks like a posh Hackney carriage.

Sorry even if Iwas wealthy would find better ways of spending on  a new car.

runnerbean 18 January 2022

Who on earth chose that colour for the car in the photographs?  I thought that everyone knew that big cars look terrible in that blood red.

TempleOrion 18 January 2022

What kind of idiot buys these hideous monstrosities?! Laughable...