With every premium-luxury vehicle I drive, it becomes more and more obvious that the most critical sensation the genre can provide is that of … nothing. Nothing at all. Silence. Whisper-quiet, no matter the road beneath your tires or racket beyond the double-pane acoustic glass shrouding your cossetted existence.
That’s the true hallmark of luxury. Comfort is a close second, provided by firm but enveloping leather thrones and thick pile carpet that makes you want to take off your shoes, dig your toes in, and purr like a cat. Performance, in all frankness, sits a distant third. Every measure of suspension stiffening and engine growling and lightness-infusing detracts from the primary mission of ultimate remove from the world around you, driver-tunable settings notwithstanding. Granted, luxury rides with track sensibilities are much fun and I’m generally all about them, but when it comes to shedding the frazzled day-to-day existence, or sitting with your own thoughts as you swallow up the miles, or diving into your favorite music via effortlessly supercharged sound systems unimpeded by the automotive racket others must contend with, sepulchral quiet is the way to go.
So my week spent with the Bentayga V8 passed in blissful silence, as I drove the 5,200-pound behemoth across three states and back, more sure than ever that you can learn more about this car at 65 mph than 180, its top speed. Not that I didn’t experiment. After all, the down-tuned V8 model Bentayga comes four cylinders shy of the standard W12 version but is slightly lighter and not all that much less powerful than its sibling. The 4-liter twin-turbo engine produces a still-generous 524 hp and 568 lb-ft of torque, while its big brother reaches 600 and 664, respectively. The practical application of this power adds less than a half-second to the 0-60 time, clocking 4.4 seconds. (It’s also a boatload more accessible, with its $165,000 entry point making it the new most-affordable Bent you can buy.)
While I certainly tested those measures and kissed some higher velocities as conditions permitted—enjoying the hunkering down of the air suspension and the tightening of the throttle response in Sport mode—invariably I found myself happiest in an easy cruise, cycling through my favorite tracks in the $9,000 Naim enhanced audio systems, one of the best in the world. The Bentayga became my personal home-away-fr0m-home-theater, and a far greater one than I’ve ever been able to set up at home. I heard new things in every song, details that lingered beyond the reach of most car audio systems. Some credit here goes, again, to the clean slate afforded by the Bentayga’s V8—though Naim can claim the lion’s share. Still, engine noise is more distant than in the W12 version, until you actually want to hear it, that is. The suspension and sound-deadening strategies embedded throughout the car do the rest of the work. It’s like a NASA quiet-room on wheels.