2022 Bentley Bentayga S review: International first drive

  • Doors and Seats


    5 doors, 5 seats

  • Engine


    4.0TT, 8 cyl.

  • Engine Power


    404kW, 770Nm

  • Fuel


    Petrol (98) 13L/100KM

  • Manufacturer



  • Transmission


    8 Spd Auto

  • Warranty


    3 Yr, Unltd KMs

  • Ancap Safety




Mike Duff

Understudy to the W12 Bentayga Speed offers sharper handling and a snarling soundtrack

  • The characterful V8 engine sounds great with the sports exhaust
  • Impressively good to drive hard
  • S package seems like good value given the extras

  • No more power than a regular V8
  • Dull-witted gearbox is the dynamic weak link
  • No prettier than baroque sisters

International drive: Los Angeles, California USA

Bentley has dropped the W12-powered Bentayga Speed in many parts of the world, killed by falling demand and increasingly tight emissions standards.

The new V8 Bentayga S is intended as being a replacement for those now denied the 6.0-litre version, featuring many of the Speed’s dynamic tweaks and some useful spec upgrades.

Even though Australia still gets the chance to buy the W12 we’re going to get the S to understudy it as well. Raising the obvious question: is there any point in paying extra?

I drove the Bentayga S in California, on the same press event where Trent put the new Flying Spur Hybrid through its paces. It’s fair to say the contrast between the two cars was close to total. The Spur is previewing Bentley’s fully electrified future and could barely be detected approaching when operating in its stealth EV mode.

The Bentayga S is much more closely aligned to the brand’s past. It’s a rowdy celebration of both combustion and excess. Ears twitched every time one got started up at the launch venue, an ultra-designer house overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The S’s approach could be heard from at least 500 metres away when the air was still.

Although it sounds much more potent, the S doesn’t get any increase in power over the standard V8. Bentley insiders admit the difficulty of homologating powerplants within Europe – something which has delayed several of its recent introductions – made it impossible to justify making significant changes for a variant.

But the 4.0-litre’s peaks of 404kW and 770Nm remain impressive even by the increasingly unhinged standards of this segment. On Bentley’s numbers, the Bentayga S’s 4.5-second 0-100km/h time might be 0.6-sec behind that for the W12, but it still matches the time claimed for the Aston Martin DBX (although the freshly-announced DBX707 will build on those substantially.)

Bentley has made more significant suspension changes, although these have been carefully managed not to ding the regular Bentayga’s pillowing compliance.

Engineers say the S’s dampers are 15 per cent stiffer than those of the regular V8, and the Sport dynamic mode has been reworked to boost agility when pushing hard – this is matched by a more liberal tune for the ESC stability control.

The most significant change to the driving experience over a bare-bones V8 is standard fitment of the active Dynamic Ride system which is an option on the lesser car.

This uses a 48 Volt electric motor to counter lean under hard cornering loads by applying torque to the anti-roll bars.

2022 Bentley Bentayga S
Price (MSRP)$450,200
Boot volume484L seats up / 1774L seats folded

Apart from some very small S badges, and a new design of five-spoke 22-inch wheels, visual changes mostly come from the existing options list. The S gets the Blackline specification as standard, with black gloss trim details and a dark tint to the lights. The rear spoiler also grows bigger and there are new quad tailpipes, with a pair of half-ovals fitting together at each side.

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The cabin gets plenty of the Alcantara trim that interior designers like to indicate sporty intent with S branding on the dashboard and stitched into the seats. As with other versions of the Bentayga, buyers will be able to choose between a bench or individual seats at the back, plus the option of a part-time third row. 

In short, it’s a very posh parts bin special, and although overall changes are modest the overall result feels like a compelling upgrade on the regular V8. The new exhaust is definitely the defining feature. It’s loud and rorty, even when starting up in its quieter switchable mode – no S owner is going to be able to sneak out for an early morning drive undetected.

With the exhaust turned loud and the engine worked the Bentayga develops the sort of snarl many V8 racers would be proud of – a noise that (to judge from the sometimes startled reactions of onlookers) doesn’t quite match with the Bentayga’s stately size and proportions.

The V8 responds keenly and revs hard, but the gearbox struggles to match its enthusiasm. The eight-speed torque converter auto feels slow and dull-witted when compared to the much smarter twin-clutch ‘box in the Flying Spur, tending to miss changes when multiple downshifts are requested through the steering wheel paddles and also holding onto low gears for much longer than it needs to when the transmission is in its Sport mode.

At a glance2022 Bentley Bentayga S
WarrantyThree years / unlimited km
Service intervals12 months or 16,000km

But the chassis really impresses. Although less athletic than the Cayenne and Urus the Bentayga has always been willing to hustle for something so tall and heavy, and the S builds on this dynamic base without sacrificing comfort.

Selecting Sport mode gave the ride an edge over high-frequency bumps at lower speeds, likely due in large part to the sheer size of the 23-inch rims, but body control was outstanding with bigger loadings – and in Comfort mode, the S is nearly as pliant as the regular V8.

Most buyers will likely just trust the default ‘B’ dynamic mode, which seems to make the most call most of the time.

Key details2022 Bentley Bentayga S
Engine4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol
Power404kW @ 6000rpm
Torque770Nm @ 2000-4500rpm
Drive typeAll-wheel drive
Transmission8-speed torque converter automatic
Power to weight ratio166.7kW/t
Tow rating3500kg braked
Turning circle12.4m

As before, the anti-roll system does its work almost invisibly. It doesn’t entirely cancel out lean, which can create a sense of disorientation as loads increase. A small amount remains to give the driver a sense of the considerable forces at play, but the Bentayga S changes direction quickly and keenly, grips hard and resists understeer well.

And although the front axle does eventually run out of adhesion first it does so gradually and progressively. While it seems unlikely anybody is going to be buying a Bentayga for regular track sessions, the S really does handle.

Australian pricing pitches the ‘S some $71,600 over the regular V8 ($378,600), and although comparatively higher than the £24,500 (A$43,000) gap in the UK market, the supplement over the regular V8 isn’t much more than the cost of the various options it brings as standard.

On first impression, this feels like it should be the sweet spot of the range.

Ratings Breakdown

2022 Bentley Bentayga S Wagon

8.3/ 10

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Infotainment & Connectivity

Mike Duff

Our bloke in the UK has been writing about cars since the late ’nineties, and served time on the staff of CAR, Autocar and evo magazines. These days he combines his duties for Drive with being European Editor for Car and Driver in the ’States. He loves automotive adventures and old Mercs, sometimes experienced together.

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