After months of rumours, Bentley has officially confirmed that its first ever SUV will be named the Bentayga. Now undergoing the last stages of development and testing, the luxury SUV will go on sale in 2016 – but the full production car will be unveiled at a motor show later this year.
We already have a good idea of what the Bentley Bentayga looks like thanks to spy pictures, teaser images and our own exclusive renderings. The new Bentley SUV is set to be made at the firm's factory in Crewe, Cheshire, rather than alongside the platform-sharing Audi Q7 in Bratislava, Slovakia.
To accompany this announcement, Bentley released a sketch revealing a slightly sportier profile than the upright 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.
“Bentayga is a name that reflects what we know our SUV will do better than any other car in the world – combine the best automotive luxury with outstanding performance to take the Bentley experience to new environments,” said Wolfgang Dürheimer, Bentley Chairman and CEO.
The name is designed to encapsulate the wide variety of climates and terrains that the Bentayga is capable of tackling. It comes from a combination of ‘Taiga’ – the world’s largest snow forest that crowns the entire Northern Hemisphere – and Roque Bentayga, a rugged peak in the Canary Islands.
Bentley's Bentayga luxury SUV was caught testing in a disguised production body as it blasted round the Nurburgring late in 2014. A test mule fitted with the 6.0-litre W12 engine from the Continental GT had already been seen, and we expect the 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8 to appear as well.
In comparison to the Bentley SUV EXP 9 F concept, we can see the general shape and structure of the SUV will remain intact, but a Continental GT face has been crafted onto the front end. Look closely at the images and you’ll see Bentley has added some rather bulbous cladding over the front and rear wheelarches in an attempt to hide its more curvaceous styling.
Viewed in profile and from the rear, there is more of a resemblance to the concept than there is round the front. The steeply raked rear windscreen and two oval exhausts give a more athletic look, while the number plate and tail-lamp positioning seems unchanged from the concept car.
Bentley has tiptoed towards the official reveal its Bentayga SUV by releasing a series of teaser videos and images. The latest teaser picture shows the side vents will be sculpted into the shape of Bentley’s classic flying B. A short video (above) of the flagship 6.0-litre W12 model testing at the Big Red dune in Dubai also gave a demonstration of the car’s off-road ability, and the 12-cylinder exhaust note.
According to a statement from the Crewe-based manufacturer, the black-and-white film below apparently offered “a rare glimpse of the company’s design approach” to show how the new Bentley Bentayga's exterior was developing.
As you can see, the minute-long teaser doesn’t give much away, although there are fleeting shots of the flanks, rear and stylised alloy wheels, with the SUV apparently set to combine “contemporary and distinctive design” and the brand’s meticulous attention to detail.
Also visible towards the end of the clip is a full frontal view of the 4x4’s Flying Spur-inspired front end, as previewed by a teaser image in March 2014 that showed the car emerging from a dust cloud (below). While the two-part headlight configuration passes over unchanged from the concept car, the grille itself appears to have been enlarged significantly, creating a more striking and pronounced nose.
Not only is the Bentley Bentayga 4x4 the first SUV from Bentley, it will also be the first model from the marque to feature a petrol-electric powertrain. The engine fitted beneath the test mules we've spotted is the familiar 6.0-litre W12 engine, but it’s expected the brand will offer the more frugal 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, too.
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 hint 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 mid-2015), a car it will share its lightweight aluminium construction with.
Schreiber 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,” he 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.”
The new Bentley Bentayga luxury 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 has revealed that Bentley has had over 4,000 ‘expressions of interest’ in the Bentley Bentayga from customers – way ahead of initial predictions.
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 and 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 £140,000, but prices are likely to rise to £200,000 for the range-topping models.
Bentley Chairman and CEO, Wolfgang Durheimer, has also expressed interest in a expanding the number of Bentley SUVs, to compete with the likes of Land Rover, albeit at a higher price point. The revelation came during a press conference where Durheimer announced record global sales of 11,020 cars in 2014 – a nine per cent increase on 2013.
“There are good examples in the market, so a derivative is an interesting idea,” Durheimer said. Kevin Rose, head of sales and marketing, added: “We are keeping a close eye on what Land Rover has done with the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and even the Evoque.”
The rapid growth of the SUV segment, which Durheimer revealed is expanding at three times the rate of the new car market as a whole, clearly hasn’t escaped his attention and could be the catalyst for both a smaller SUV and sportier derivatives of the car we’ll see later this year.
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