Bentley has started to tease its first ever SUV that will only launch in markets worldwide in 2016. We first saw the face emerge through a sandy haze in march, and now the company has released a teaser video that shows off the bits and pieces of the new SUV's lines and silhouettes. Its a more definite impression of what the car will look like. From that what we can glean is two basic things. The first, that the SUV is no doubt full size, and will rival the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GL in size and stature. The second is that its a much lither, aerodynamic and prettier design than what was shown by Bentley in 2012 at the Geneva Motor Show, when it unveiled the EXP 9F concept.
That concept car was criticized for being unattractive, and just a surprising rendition of where Bentley may take its proposed SUV project. But the mistakes appear to have been corrected. The fluid lines and swept back fenders reveal a more Continental-like design language. Which is wise really if you ask me. I had wondered at the Geneva Show as well - when you have such an attractive design as the Continental why would you go the Mulsanne way when trying to design car that has 'sports' in its nomenclature? The proportions of the new SUV also show you that it will be ample, in that the shoulder-line, width and stance, are in-keeping with the EXP 9F. And that will be crucial when taking on the likes of the Range Rover.
Land Rover had already seen the writing on the wall with concept SUVs springing up from Bentley, Maserati, Lamborghini and even Aston Martin - that its stranglehold on the luxury SUV space will soon be threatened. This is why over the past 18 months we have seen a realignment of its portfolio, where the new generation of the Range Rover has gone into the ultra luxury space on price and positioning, while the Range Rover Sport has moved in tot he position occupied by the former. And so it remains to be seen what happens with the rest of its Discovery family that will roll out in 2015.
But back to Bentley, and its obvious why the company feels the need to usher in an SUV. Porsches success with the Cayenne is only the precursor. Its the massive growth seen in this space - starting from the Audis and BMWs, right up to the Cayenne and Rangey - and yes I'm counting the years immediately after the financial crisis - thats prompted Bentley into action. Its two biggest markets remain the USA and China, and guess what - these are obvious big SUV markets, with Audi, Porsche and the others targeting them in particular rather heavily.
The Crewe, UK-based company has seen its sales peak in 2013, with a new sales record at 10,120 units. Of these 3140 were sold in the USA, and 2191 units in China. Get the picture? Those numbers could shoot up - even double - if there is an SUV to play with.
So expect many variants, but all of them to be luxurious and expensive! Yes Bentley is promising the world's most luxurious SUV. I suspect it will also be powerful, well-engineered and thankfully now from the first glimpses - good-looking too.