2016 Bentley SUV Won’t Have An Ugly Mug After All – Forbes
It seems like every luxury automaker wants a sport utility vehicle in its lineup these days.
Bentley, Lamborghini and Maserati all have talked up plans to add one as they rolled out concept versions in recent years. Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce also are said to be considering the idea.
Now Bentley – which got a lot of grief over the styling of its EXP 9 F concept – is offering the first glimpse of what the production version of its SUV will look like.
The teaser photo reveals a revised front end that has more in common with the Continental GT and Flying Spur than it does with the controversial EXP 9 F.
Though much of the as-yet-unnamed Bentley SUV is obscured by dust in the photo, the headlights and grille can be seen.
Gone are the dinner-plate-sized lights stacked on top of each other and the origami creases of the front end that riled so many. Smaller lights and more smoothly curved fenders are evident.
Bentley says that it will start selling the SUV in 2016. A hybrid version, possibly a plug-in, is likely to be added about a year later. A diesel option is also a possibility.
Notably, Bentley already has 2,000 pre-orders for the SUV, even though no specifics about it have been released. Buyers don’t know yet what it will look like or how much it will cost.
Considering the boutique British automaker expects to produce only about 3,000 of the SUVs a year at first, its foray into this new segment appears to be well on its way to success.
Ever since the unveiling of the EXP 9 F at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, Bentley has been working to build interest in an SUV.
It took the concept vehicle to auto shows around the world, hosting events along the way to give Bentley customers a closer look and gauge their reaction. By the time of the North American debut at Pebble Beach – which we wrote about here – Bentley already had a redesign underway.
In recent months, Wolfgang Schreiber, Bentley’s chairman and CEO, has talked about how the production version of the SUV is going to look much different than the EXP 9 F. And with the teaser photo, Bentley offers up some proof.
This will be the fourth model in Bentley’s lineup, after the Continental GT, the Flying Spur, and the Mulsanne. Bentley is counting on it to help boost annual worldwide sales to 15,000 by 2018.
Given that Bentley is enjoying strong growth already, its goal hardly looks like a big stretch. Sales for 2013 increased 19 percent from the prior year, to 10,120. The momentum comes in part from the newly redesigned Flying Spur, which debuted at the Geneva Motor Show last year.
More competitors will be arriving soon as other luxury brands, eager to boost sales, launch SUVs of their own.
Much like Bentley, Maserati is projecting dramatic growth as it gears up to introduce a compact crossover called the Levante. The Italian automaker’s ambitious goal is to hit annual worldwide sales of 50,000 vehicles overall by 2015, as we wrote about here.
It had sales of 15,400 in 2013, up 145 percent from the prior year, as the Ghibli, an entirely new model, and a redesign of its Quattroporte arrived in dealerships. The Levante would be the fifth model in Maserati’s lineup.
But Bentley is nonplussed about what else might vie for upscale SUV shoppers, so sure is it of outclassing all comers. It has been saying all along that the Bentley SUV will be the “most luxurious and powerful” one on the market.
See photos of the EXP 9 F concept:
Read about other luxury SUVs: