Car news

19 March 2014

This is Bentley’s new SUV

Crewe offers a first look at its first-ever 4x4, which will launch in 2016

Sam Philip
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This is your first look at Bentley's upcoming SUV, which will reach the roads in 2016.

And, OK, we know it's not the most revealing first look, showing as it does (a) rather a lot of sand and (b) a front-end that looks not unlike the rest of Bentley's range, if a little taller.

But it does show that the as-yet-unnamed SUV has ditched the vast single headlights of 2012's EXP 9 F concept in favour of a twin-lamp arrangement more similar to that of the Continental GT: proof positive that, as Bentley told us in January, the styling of the production car will be ‘completely different' to that concept.

"The front, side, rear and roof has changed," Bentley chairman and CEO Wolfgang Schreiber reiterated today. "We created a completely new car, a real Bentley SUV. Now it will meet the expectations of our customers much better than two years ago. Even if there was no badge, you'll know it is a Bentley."

Bentley boasts the 4x4 will create ‘a completely new segment in the SUV market', heralding it as ‘the world's first luxury SUV'.

That's a claim that might irk a few Land Rover employees, who could reasonably claim their new Range Rover - especially in long-wheelbase form - does a pretty decent job of playing luxury SUV.

But Bentley says its SUV will be pitched at a more monied market than even the priciest Range Rovers, with even the entry model starting ‘just above' the stretched RR's asking price: as yet unchartered territory for SUVs.

"We want to solve the problem for all those who want to spend more on an SUV," grinned Kevin Rose, Bentley's marketing boss, with tongue perhaps slightly in cheek. "This is what Bentley does. When we launched the Continental, it had no direct competitor. If you can be first to do something, it's very powerful."

Despite other luxury brands, including Maserati, readying uber-SUV offerings, Bentley says its 4x4 is leading the race. "We definitely will be the first to market. We'll be the benchmark," said Rose.

Bentley predicts it will sell around 3500 of its SUVs each year, boosting the company's annual sales to 15,000 cars by 2018. 2013 was a record year for the Crewe company, selling just over 10,000 cars and returning an operating profit of Rs 1,415 crore.

The SUV will launch with Bentley's existing V8 and W12 engines, and will be followed in 2017 by a petrol-electric hybrid version. Bentley confirmed today that it will become the sole producer of W12 engines for the VW Group, supplying units for use in big Audis and Volkswagens.

The development, which will create 100 new jobs in Crewe, could see 9000 W12 engines built annually in Britain, and represents the first time Bentley has exported engines.

But back to that SUV. Schreiber confirmed the as-yet-unnamed 4x4 has already completed summer testing, which was described as ‘very successful', and will now undergo a winter testing program. We'll see the finished car in two years time: reckon Bentley's onto a winner with this one?

Tags: exp 9 f, bentley suv, bentley

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