Why did Bentley put a diesel engine in the Bentayga?

Why did Bentley put a diesel engine in the Bentayga?

As we take the world’s most upmarket SUV for a spin, we reckon the audacious bet has paid off.

In the rarefied world of luxury products and services, there are no expenses spared and no compromises suffered. For a wristwatch, a wizened old man, using tools his grandfather bequeathed to him, would craft for you a mechanical movement, preferably one fitted with a tourbillon.

In a hotel, a personal butler would greet you at the door, usher you to your penthouse suite and unpack your Louis Vuitton steamer trunk. When it is time to depart, he would fold your bespoke Savile Row suit with layers of gossamer-thin tissue paper, so that they arrive crease-free at your next destination. All this while you sip organic cappuccino topped with gold flakes at the Michelin-starred restaurant downstairs.

In other words, for those who pay top dollar, only the most over-the-top solutions to life’s First World problems suffice. So what was Bentley thinking when it installed a diesel engine in the Bentayga, powered by the fuel of choice for lorries, tractors and taxis?

Yes, yes, we have all heard that such motors are more efficient. But they are also inherently more rattly than petrol-driven ones, due to the way diesel fuel ignites (read: explosively) in the combustion chamber. In any case, saving that odd dollar or two at the pump is hardly a concern when you are buying an $800,000 car.

The audacious move makes Bentley the only carmaker in the top echelon, an intimate space that it shares with just Rolls-Royce and perhaps Mercedes-Maybach, that has an oil burner on offer. Not just at the current moment, but in all their respective histories. It is a huge gamble in these circles, so the question is, why did Bentley place this bet?


ENGINE 4-litre, V8- cylinder triple-charged
POWER 429bhp between 3,750 and 5,000 rpm
TORQUE 900Nm between 1,000 and 3,250 rpm
0-100 KMH 4.8 seconds
TOP SPEED 270kmh

Thing is, with efficiency comes better range. In the W12 petrol model – built for ludicrous amounts of performance – you can almost watch the fuel gauge needle inching towards zero just idling at the lights. But Bentley claims that this one, the Bentayga Diesel, is good for 1,000km. On paper, that is more than enough to traverse Malaysia and over the Thai border, without stopping for fuel. Even taking into consideration optimistic reckoning, the car ought to make it to Kuala Lumpur and back on one tank. Because having to stop every few hundred klicks and get your hands dirty at the forecourt is not luxury.

And the 4-litre V8 engine does not sound all that bad either. Bentley says it has “made a number of specific developments to provide peerless refinement”, like an acoustically engineered exhaust system to quieten harsh noises. Certainly, you can still discern the distinct clatter of the diesel when you strain your ears while standing outside the car, but once you are inside where you should be, it is a different story.

BUT, NATURALLY It may be all luxury inside, but the car is most at home off road.

DARK SIDE A black grille and redesigned tailpipes are the only styling changes for the Bentayga Diesel.)

UPSIZED Options for the trunk include a third row of occasional seats and bespoke picnic hampers.

It sounds just like what a decent V8 should – bassy, throaty, gorgeous – like Zeus roaring after stubbing his toe on the nightstand. I was surprised to learn that, unlike the actions of other manufacturers that cheat, none of this is artificially piped in through the speakers. It is all natural.

Did I mention over-engineered solutions? The other party trick of this V8 is its triple chargers: two turbos and a special supercharger powered by the car’s 48V system (an electrical circuit, separate from the traditional 12V one, that supplies juice to the car’s many gadgets, including the active anti-roll bar) that spools up within 30 microseconds. That is 30 millionths of a second; in other words, approaching the speed of light, which all but eliminates the lag between prodding the accelerator and the turbos catching up.

Here on our road test in New South Wales, where the number of speed cameras per kilometre rivals the number of sheep to people, the instantaneous throttle response – all 900Nm of torque available at just 1,000 rpm – makes it a doddle to deftly execute overtaking manoeuvres. No need for a long lead-up to build speed. Despite having to keep to the strictly enforced and otherwise tedious 100km/h limit, I found the Bentayga Diesel relaxing to drive, with the V8 suiting the laid-back character of a long-haul cruiser to a T.

The big snag, though, is that diesels are now being demonised after having been championed for yonks as more environmentally friendly than petrols. The conventional wisdom is that such engines, with its lower carbon emissions, contribute less to global warming and is hence kinder to the planet. But recent studies have shown that while polar bears love diesels, they emit more particulate matter, which tends to hang aroun in urban air and hurt us folks.

Cities such as Paris, Madrid and Athens have planned or are planning anti-diesel measures. Singapore’s new vehicular emissions scheme, which replaces the carbon emissions-based vehicle scheme next year, will consider four other pollutants, namely hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, on top of carbon emissions.

WELL OILED There is a diesel engine underneath the hood – and that is a good thing.

Not that it will affect Bentley – its cars with its mighty engines will all be taxed at the highest band anyway – and there is no doubt that further development by the boffins at Crewe will reduce the harmful effects of diesel. A plug-in hybrid version of the Bentayga is rumoured to be in the works.

Truth be told, until we devise a way to create electrons from water and air, and to fashion batteries out of coconut husks, all cars are going to pollute anyway. With cycling as the only alternative, I would take the Bentayga Diesel. After all, I can even specify a tourbillon clock for the fascia. In rose gold, thanks.

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