The long-awaited Bentley SUV has been confirmed, although we still don't know what it's called, what it will cost or even what it will look like - though our exclusive images give us a good idea. The new Bentley SUV is set to be made at the firm's factory in Crewe, Cheshire, rather than alongside the next Audi Q7 in Bratislava, Slovakia, as previously suggested.
Bentley released a sketch to accompany this announcement, and it reveals a slightly sportier profile than the concept. There’s an uncanny resemblance to Porsche’s Cayenne, too, suggesting the two SUVs will share more than just a platform – they’ll have similar proportions as well.
The new Bentley SUV will go on sale in 2016, with the company set to invest over £800million in its Crewe HQ and developing new models before then. More than 1,000 UK jobs will be created as a result of this investment.
Dr Martin Winterkorn, chairman of the board at the Volkswagen Group, said: “We believe in the UK as a competitive location for industrial production. Bentley fans all around the world are looking forward to its first SUV. Together we will make this car another true Bentley – powerful, exclusive and successful.”
CEO Dr Wolfgang Schreiber told Auto Express: “We already have 2,000 pre-orders without customers knowing the price or styling. Since the concept we’ve worked hard on the exterior and interior, and it’s now ready for final development. It looks more like a Bentley; more modern.”
Schreiber doesn't expect to have the ultra-luxury SUV segment to himself for very long though: “Competition is always good for the customer. We all know Rolls Royce is thinking about an SUV, Aston Martin is also considering one we all know about the Range Rover. There could even be some others that come along.”
And Bentley's sales and marketing director, Kevin Rose, is confident that the SUV will be a showroom success: “Thirty per cent of our existing customers already have a high-end SUV, so if we can convince even a small amount of those into buying the car we have a very strong business case indeed.”
The plan is to sell 3,000 to 4,000 SUVs a year, which would make the new model a crucial part of Bentley’s aim to boost annual sales from 8,510 last year to 15,000 cars by 2018. The biggest markets are expected to be the US and China - accounting for around 50 per cent of sales - with Russia and the Middle East close behind.
Schreiber also said there’ll be a small overlap with the Range Rover on price, suggesting the SUV will start at around £120,000.
The 2016 UK-built Bentley SUV is set to break new ground for the British brand on a number of fronts. Its CEO, Wolfgang Schreiber, has dropped the biggest hint yet that it will be the first Bentley to use a diesel engine, and the first model to feature plug-in hybrid technology from 2017 onwards.
“We are definitely investigating a diesel engine. It will fit anyway into the platform we are using, so it could make sense to do it,” Schreiber said. “Sales in Europe for a car like that could be very high, and for relatively little investment on our part.” The most likely candidate is an updated 4.2-litre V8 diesel shared with the next-generation Audi Q7 (due in 2014), a car it will share its lightweight aluminium construction with.
Schrieber also sees plug-in technology as a fit for the SUV. “We will have a plug-in powertrain, but it needs to be more than the existing systems – with more power, more torque,” Schreiber confirmed. “The SUV will get it first, you won’t see it in our existing cars because it's too expensive, but by 2017 the SUV will get it.”
“Bentley is in a good position as part of the VW group,” said Schreiber. “With technology like hybrids you need lots of investment. Smaller companies will struggle, so it’s a good opportunity for Bentley to use synergies from the VW group. For example, batteries can be used across numerous models.”