x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Bentley joins a crowded road with plan for SUV

The Life: Volkswagen has given its luxury Bentley marque the go-ahead to build a sport-utility vehicle.

Bentley will roll out a $244,000 luxury SUV in 2016. Patrick Fallon / Bloomberg News
Bentley will roll out a $244,000 luxury SUV in 2016. Patrick Fallon / Bloomberg News

Volkswagen has given its luxury Bentley marque the go-ahead to build a sport-utility vehicle. When it goes on sale in 2016, it is expected to be the most luxurious and powerful SUV on the market.

With an estimated retail price of US$244,000, it is also expected to be the most expensive SUV out there. The vehicle will be based on the EXP 9 F concept that was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show last year.

That design included "picnic hampers for polo-ground tailgating, 23-inch wheels and gaping turbine-like air intakes", according to Bloomberg. However, the design has since been given substantial tweaks, the news agency said.

With the SUV, Bentley is branching out from its current model line-up, which includes the Continental GT coupe and convertible, and the Flying Spur and Mulsanne sedan, and taking on the likes of Porsche which introduced its Cayenne SUV more than a decade ago.

That model now counts for more than half of all Porsche's sales and Bentley hopes to achieve the same. Bentley is spending $1.23 billion to develop the SUV and other models, and upgrade its manufacturing plant.

However, the road ahead looks somewhat jammed with new SUV designs.

Lamborghini is teaming up with Audi to launch the Urus SUV in 2017; Maserati's Kubang is on the horizon as is Land Rover's latest Range Rover Sport. Porsche also plans to add a compact SUV called the Macan next year.

"It's certainly a courageous step to see if other types of vehicles can establish themselves in the super-luxury segment," Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive Management at the University of Applied Sciences in Bergisch Gladback, Germany, told Bloomberg. "The business case isn't that easy because the segment is pretty tight."

Other sceptics are concerned that the SUV might detract from Bentley's brand exclusivity and history.

 

lgutcher@thenational.ae