When you set an all-time sales record you have plenty of reason to celebrate, but Bentley is giving fans of the British ultra-luxury brand their own reason to celebrate with the release of the first images of the maker’s upcoming SUV.
Originally teased in concept form as the Bentley EXP 9F, the production version has been given no official name yet, but we do know at least a few things about it, starting with a production date of sometime in 2016.
“It will create a completely new segment in the SUV market, hints the brand’s chairman and CEO Wolfgang Schreiber, who also promises the new model will be “the most luxurious and powerful SUV on the market.”
Bentley has already confirmed that the new SUV will be offered with a mix of powertrain options to include the brand’s first-ever plug-in hybrid – most likely borrowing from technology being developed by affiliate Volkswagen AG brands Porsche and Audi. That would be critical if the marque were to stick with its goal of slashing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
(Bentley hits record sales on surge in U.S., China. Click Here for the story.)
A plug-in drivetrain would be “a technology fit for Bentley,” the maker’s tech chief Rold Frech told TheDetroitBureau.com during an interview at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. At that time, Frech cautioned that specifics of the ute’s drivetrain options were still being worked out — and when asked if the SUV could even go with a V-6, Frech said, “If it is necessary for the legislative side, why not?”
Last year, VW officials also hinted we will likely see the new luxury ute offer the new Bentley V-8 found in such other models as the new Flying Spur, though the brand’s classic 12-cylinder engine could be in the offing, as well.
(Rolls-Royce planning to add a plug-in hybrid. Click Here to find out more.)
Bentley officials have been surprisingly candid about their desire to bring the SUV to market since the concept was unveiled in March 2012 – despite decidedly mixed reviews of the EXP 9F’s rather over-the-top styling.
While this teaser image covers up some significant details it is clear that the front end has been toned down, the SUV adopting a front end much more in line with existing Bentley models, such as the new Flying Spur, notably including the brand’s familiar grille and headlights, with their LED accent rings.
How much of a real ute the new Bentley will be remains to be seen. It’s likely to feature at least some off-road capabilities though it’s expected to be more of an on-road model than the current Range Rover. It’s also likely to position itself above that competing British brand – though the latest Range Rover models have been nudging into ever-higher price segments with limited-edition products like the latest Range Rover Autobiography Black model which nudges over the $200,000 barrier.
(Click Here to find out more about Land Rover’s latest limited-edition models.)
Bentley is betting it can sell as many as 3,000 SUVs annually — a figure that exceeds all Bentley sales a little more than a decade ago. The maker reveals it set a record in 2013, moving 10,120 of its various luxury models, a 19% increase. The U.S. was the largest of its markets, accounting for sales of 3,140 vehicles last year, with China in second, with 2,191 sales, but gaining ground fast.