I am not a fancy mom, or any kind of mom, really. I more self-identify as a childless dirtbag blogger, even more so these days thanks to my lax COVID-19 lockdowns dress code. But over the summer and fall I got to drive two of the fanciest of SUVs on the market, vehicles on opposite ends of the fancy car price spectrum: the Bentley Bentayga V8 and the Genesis GV80. I’m here to finally tell you which vehicle you should drop your big mombucks on.
(Full Disclosure: Bentley delivered a fully gassed-up Bentley Bentayga V8 to my house for three days of driving. Genesis also handed me a nice GV80 at this drive launch.)
To be fair, the GV80 is an upstart that isn’t even on the Bentayga’s radar. Genesis has only existed as a brand since since 2015, and the GV80, its first luxury SUV, came out last year. The over 100-year-old Bentley brand and is focused on beating out fancier models more in the Bentayga’s weight class like the Mercedes GLS-Class, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, Porsche Cayenne Turbo and the BMW X7. The new GV80 aims slightly lower, on the Audi Q7s, BMW X5s, Lincoln Aviators and Mercedes-Benz GLEs of the world. Still nice! But probably not Bentley nice.
Is the Bentley worth all of the extra cash? Is crossover luxury like the spice levels at a Thai restaurant, so that once you’ve reached a certain level, a mere lower-middle-class mortal like myself can’t tell the difference between spicy, extra spicy, and extra extra spicy? Is that extra $100,000+ for the Bentley worth it? I think it very well may be, but it all depends on your approach to ownership and driving.
Oh, honey, you’re inquiring about a base Bentayga V8? Really? How did you even wander into this Bentley dealership, are you lost? Is there some sort of care facility we should contact?
This is definitely a case of, “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it,” but let’s take a look at just how “affordable” the Benteyga V8 can be. I’m focusing specifically on the V8, not the Bentley Speed, which still comes with the brand’s ferocious W-12, or the Bentley Bentayga Hybrid (though honestly, just having a hybrid option is a huge mark in the pro column for the Bentayga).
The 2021 Bentley Bentayga V8 got a nice midlife cycle refresh to its body. The newish Bentayga now looks more like its Continental and Flying Spur sisters, with the LED headlights moving slightly up the fascia and the grille moving slightly down. The taillights are also now the jeweled ovals of the Conti and Spur. Is that a good thing? I’m not sure. The taillights have a bit of an Eye of Sauron with conjunctivitis look to them. They work well on the sleek Spur and Continental but don’t seem to work as well on the beefy Bentayga.
The 2021 Bentley Bentayga V8 has a base price of $180, 500, but you’re not gonna set one foot into Bentayga country without adding some packages and features. This is a car with 85 exterior color options and 10 interior leather color options — the packages get extremely granular, not to mention pricey, extremely quick.
The First Edition package, for instance (available only in the first model year) costs $42,430 on top of the vehicle price, which could almost pay the entire bill for a base GV80 with rear-wheel drive. Sure it gets your Bentayga active anti-roll suspension, upgraded 1,780-watt, 20-speaker Naim audio system, First Edition badging, mood lighting, the all-important Touring Package (more on that in a moment) and the heated and cooled 22-way comfort front seats, but still. Yowza. What this kind of personalization does, though, is give customers a chance to really make a Bentayga theirs.
The GV80, on the other hand, is Genesis’ first foray into the luxury SUV market, and grabbing a ‘base’ version isn’t unthinkable — in fact, the lower end of the GV80 spectrum is quite nice. This upstart starts at $48,900, but the 2.5-liter inline-four version can go all the way up to $63,400 with the all-wheel-drive option. If you want to get really fancy (and score the third row) you need to get the 3.5-liter V6 model with the extra fancy Prestige package. That tops the GV80 out at $70,950.
When it comes to power, the GV80 doesn’t even come close to the Bentayga. The base GV80 comes with a 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder making 300 horsepower and 311 lb-ft. If you want a third row, or just a bit more power, you can go with the 3.5-liter V6 putting out 375 HP with 391 lb-ft of torque.
That’s all well and good for a cute, brand-new baby SUV, but the Bentayga comes in heavy with that twin-turbo V8 making 542 HP. The Bentayga also weighs in at 7,165 lbs, and it has a whole lot more heft to move than the GV80, which varies from 4,464 to 5,093 lbs.
Both cars come with excellent noise-canceling technology that makes driving a still, cloud-like and almost Zen experience. Still, I feel like the engine size and power once again reflect a very different driving philosophy. To Genesis, the point of its luxuries is to make you forget you’re even driving, while Bentley wants to engage its drivers.
Here’s a quick list of all of the standard safety systems that come on the base GV80: Front and rear parking sensors, Rain Sensing Wipers, Forward Collision Drivers Assistance, Lane Keeping/Following Assistance, Blindspot Collision Avoidance, Safe Exit Assist, Driver Attention Warning Assistance, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, Highway Driving Assist II, Smart Cruise Control with machine learning and Rear Occupant Alert. Phew! Say all that three times fast (I’ll wait).
Some of these, like Rear Occupant Alert, which lets you know if you’ve left a child in the car or if a child has wandered into the car, and Safe Exit Assist, which keeps doors closed if the car senses oncoming traffic, are obviously tailor-made for the parents in the crowd.
Bentley offers a lot of safety features as well, but most will cost extra. Standard on the V8 is Emergency Braking Preparation, Blind Spot Warning Accident Avoidance System, Emergency Braking Assist and a Pre-Collision Safety System.
The Touring Package has a ton of extra safety features like Adaptive Cruise Control, Traffic Assist, Lane Assist, a Head-Up Display (which the GV80 is sorely lacking) and Night Vision. The whole thing will set you back an additional $8,555. Not much when compared with the overall cost of the Bentayga or the lives of those inside the car, but again, much of that cool tech is standard on the cheaper GV80. The really expensive packages are appearance packages, which definitely tracks: The Bentayga is all about style and letting its customers express that style.
Speaking of style, I am a big fan of the GV80's, both inside and out. On the exterior, you have the large grill that is now standard for a luxury vehicle, but the light elements have a sharp, angular, almost Art Deco quality that I just totally dig.
I love the clean infotainment system layout on the inside of the GV80. Some reviewers think the floating screen in the dash looks tacked on, but I really like its placement, size and intuitive ease of use. The two-tone leather interior feels modern and clean and there’s optional seats that automatically fill various air bladders to massage the driver’s back to prevent fatigue during long drives. It may not be as cushy or opulent as a Bentley, though the quilted leather seats in my tester sure seemed luxurious to me, but the Genesis does have a cleaner and more modern interior layout.
A screen placed where the driver can see it while making selections with a knob close at hand will always be easier than having to poke through a touchscreen at my solar plexis height. The GV80's greenhouse is light and airy and, while the third row feels a little tacked on, the second row is just as plush and comfortable as upfront.
However, I don’t think any other model aside from the Rolls-Royce Cullinan even comes close to the opulence and comfort of the Bentley Bentayga V8. It’s incredibly plush inside, with thick high-pile carpet and rich leather which comes in 10 different color choices. Ten! The wood grain is gorgeous, as is the optional dark brushed aluminum in a diamond pattern. The whole interior glows with high-end materials. The seats can be adjusted from multiple angles with heating and massage. The second row is spacious and comfortable as well.
The interior layout does feel a little dated to me, though. Bentley swapped out its old 8-inch touchscreen for a 10.9-inch in this mid-model refresh, but it’s still the familiar layout of a basic screen on the center stack surrounded by HVAC vents and its controls.
Some of the appearance packages for the Bentley get down to the nitty-gritty of the car’s appearance. The Black specification, which will set buyers back $19,975 for 22-inch five-spoke wheels, a gloss-black tailpipe, everything in the Bentley styling specification (which adds a bunch of carbon fiber bits to the exterior) and everything in the Blackline specification, which adds a gloss black finish to door handles, headlamp bezels, roof rails, wing vents and a host of other tiny details only you, the loving owner, will appreciate.
There are dozens of appearance and performance packages available, so I won’t go into all of them, but if you want your Bentayga to look a certain way — any way at all — Bentley seems to have you covered in a way that Genesis just can’t compete.
I didn’t expect to love the Genesis GV80 this much, but it’s a great car for a great price. That comes with the caveat that no one knows what a GV80 is yet, not really anyway, but everyone knows a Bentley when a one shows up.
Luxury products signal to your fellow money-havers just what kind of rich you are, and the Bentley is a wonderful, widely-known SUV with a big beautiful B screaming on the front. It communicates a clear message to the world, and to its owner, of taste and refinement. The Bentayga begs you to make it your own in any way you can imagine.
Both SUVs are good, but take entirely different approaches to luxury. If you value investing in an SUV that looks great and is nice to drive, you won’t be interested in shelling for the opulence the Bentley has to offer. Having money and making these decisions seems stressful. I’m gonna stick with something more in my stars, like the Nissan Rogue instead.