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It should come as no news to you that Bentleys are expensive or that they’re built for and marketed exclusively to the 1 percent. Just as the Bentayga SUV can travel to farther corners of the world than any other Bentley, though, it’s now reaching out to farther corners of the market with a bargain-priced V-8 model.

Starting at just about $165,000, it’s the cheapest Bentley you can buy and undercuts the 12-cylinder model by a staggering $64,000. Why expand your market from the global 1 percent to the 2 percent? Likely because their money is the same color, and there are more of them. Plus, you’ve got to figure if someone is willing to pony up 200,000 clams for a top-shelf Range Rover, they’d jump at the chance to buy a Bentley instead. The $35,000 of wiggle room between the two leaves budget for doing up the Bentley just the way you’d like.

And do it up you should, because you’re giving up more than just four cylinders. Nearly everything that’s standard on the OG W-12 Bentayga is optional on the V-8, which to be fair allows you a wider latitude of customizability. It also goes both ways, as new features added to the V-8 model, such as black exterior trim and ridiculously labor-intensive “cross stitching” of the leather, are also available on the W-12. Whatever you’d like, Bentley is happy to take your money. The trick to identifying a V-8 in the wild: quad exhaust tips.

Anyway, saving an E-Class’ worth of simoleons means getting a bit less in return. You’ll get 58 fewer thoroughbreds and 96 fewer lb-ft under the hood, but Bentley suggests they’ll pull around up to 400 fewer pounds of vehicle, which seems exaggerated. As a result, you’ll arrive at 60 mph from a stop in a more leisurely 4.4 seconds than the 3.5 we measured with the W-12, and your top speed drops by seven mph.

With $64,000 to work with before you hit “shoulda just bought the W-12” territory, though, you can add a few things back. This vehicle weighing well over 5,000 pounds and capable of 180 mph, we’d start with the new world’s largest carbon-ceramic brakes (outdoing Bentley’s own current claim to the title), measuring in at 17.3 inches in front and handled with 10-piston calipers. Next, we’d spring for a stereo upgrade; the base 10-speaker system leaves something to be desired in a six-figure vehicle, as if you’re listening to it from the next room. Were it us, we’d also spring for the Touring and City specifications, which will get you all the latest driver aides, so you don’t squish anything.

Where you go from here depends on how you plan to use your Bentayga. If you’re buying the V-8 because Bentley says it’s the sporty one, not just the cheap one, you’ll want the Dynamic Ride system. It’s difficult to overstate what a remarkable job these electric active anti-roll bars do to keep this big SUV from leaning over on its door handles as you go around a corner. You won’t miss them if you never leave central London, but if you enjoy driving even a little, they transform an SUV with up to 9.6 inches of ground clearance into a Flying Spur wagon. It really drives no differently than Bentley’s entry luxury sedan, save the more commanding view of the road.

If you do plan on driving quickly, though, we’d recommend keep it in Sport mode. The standard “B” mode is fine for tooling around town, and Comfort makes it ride shockingly well on failing pavement, but both suffer from a lazy throttle pedal. Whether Bentley went too far in programming it to waft away from a stop, needed a trick to improve real-world fuel economy, or just couldn’t find a way to spool the turbos up any quicker, there’s an inescapable two count between when you start pressing the pedal and when anything noteworthy happens. It’s a powerful engine, but it’s a lot of car, too. If you prefer your Bentley’s engine to react the instant you summon it, Sport mode delivers until you get around to programming Custom mode to your liking.

That covers most buyers, but there are those among you who’ll actually treat it like the SUV it is. Whether it’s getting out to the country house in the rainy season or the ski chalet in the dead of winter, you’ll want the All Terrain specification with its dial-a-scenario off-road modes. To be certain, we deviated far off Bentley’s prescribed drive route and into the Austrian Alps. Turning off the B roads onto various farm tracks and dirt access roads to hunting cabins, all of them under nearly a foot of snow, the big Bentley clawed its way up the mountains like the world’s most ostentatious billy goat. A good set of winter tires and an activated snow mode were all it needed.

If this sounds like you, you would do well to take it slow. Although the Bentayga proved shockingly capable of climbing snow-covered switchbacks and muddy two tracks, its first preference in loose conditions is to understeer. Once the front end finds its bite, a bit of throttle helps it dig in and can rotate the rear end around a little. Get too aggressive with the throttle, and you’ll find it actually drifts quite nicely, again like a tall wagon rather than a lumbering SUV, and the various off-road modes will let you hang it out quite a bit. Brake early, because you’ve got a lot of SUV to slow down and little grip to do it with, and let the front end find its footing before you turn sharply or get back in the throttle.

The rest of your money you’re free to spend as you do on a Bentley, on Breitling clocks and acres of leather and wood in whatever finish suits you. We’re particularly fond of the new “cricket ball” red leather option, which is a far classier shade than the usual brothel parlor red. Just please don’t waste your money on carbon-fiber trim (it’s not a sports car) or piano black wood (which looks like black plastic even when Bentley does it). The Tamo Ash is particularly delightful.

If you’ve not yet attained the net worth necessary to not care what your Bentley costs, you’ll be pleased to know that beneath the wood and leather the V-8 is just as good an ultra-luxury SUV as the W-12 original at a far more reasonable price. There’s no getting around the fact it’s a bit pokier, but otherwise, your ability to make it exactly the off-road-capable luxury apartment of your dreams is limited only by your budget, and that kind of freedom to choose is truly luxurious.



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