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SUV is go for Bentley in 2016

Sands of time: Bentley’s forthcoming SUV is said to have real off-road ability so it can “climb the steep sand dunes of the Middle East”.

Bentley promises its first SUV will be the world’s most powerful sand-dune ripper

Bentley logo20 Mar 2014

By TIM NICHOLSON

BENTLEY has teased the production version of its highly anticipated new uber-luxury SUV that will feature different styling to the polarising EXP 9 F concept that made its debut at the 2012 Geneva motor show.

The Volkswagen-owned prestige marque confirmed that the yet-to-be-named SUV will go on sale in 2016, but offered few other details about its first high-riding all-wheel drive wagon.

A statement released by Bentley said the new model would be “the most luxurious and powerful SUV on the market, setting it apart from any other SUV, true to the brand hallmarks of luxury, performance, quality and craftsmanship”.

At a press conference in London, Bentley Motors chairman and chief executive Wolfgang Schreiber added that the model would “create a completely new segment in the SUV market”.

The image released by Bentley shows the SUV driving through the desert and covered in sand – perhaps hinting at the company’s growing market share in the Middle East.

What is clear through the disturbed sand however is a restyled front-end, with a new headlight design that is reminiscent of the Continental GT, with a large circular light flanked by a smaller unit, presumably housing the indicator, sitting higher up alongside it.

This replaces the unusual set-up of the EXP 9 F that featured two identically sized headlights sitting on top of each other – one in the front three-quarter panel and the other in the front bumper – sitting next to small air intakes on either side of the grille.

Bentley appears to have retained the silver mesh grille from the concept, as well as the overall shape of the bonnet including the centre crease.

The British marque is yet to confirm when it will officially reveal the SUV, but it could debut at the Beijing motor show next month, highlighting the company’s growing presence in China.

Another possible launch scenario is the Paris motor show in September, in Bentley’s European home market.

Bentley has previously said the SUV will be powered by modified versions of its existing twin-turbo V8 and W12 engines, with a V6 plug-in hybrid – the brand’s first – to be added to the line-up in 2018.

Dr Schreiber told GoAuto at the 2012 Geneva show that the production version of the SUV would also have real off-road ability.

“This car will be able to climb the steep sand dunes of the Middle East, it will be good in mud and dirt in winter, so there will be no limits,” he said.

It is likely to be built using a new version of the Volkswagen Group’s MLB platform that will underpin the forthcoming Audi Q7 as well as next-generation Volkswagen Touareg, Porsche Cayenne and possibly Lamborghini’s mooted Urus SUV.

UK publication AutoCar is reporting that Bentley is scheduled to commence winter testing of the SUV at the end of this week, while the production facility at Crewe is getting set up for the start of production.

Arch-rival Rolls-Royce has confirmed it is investigating the viability of adding an SUV to its line-up in the coming years. However, if it does get the green light it is unlikely to surface until later in the decade.

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