By Jens Meiners
It’s official: the Bentley SUV will happen. Today, Volkswagen Group chief Martin Winterkorn declared that the long-rumored off-roader—previewed by the unfortunately styled EXP 9 F concept at the 2012 Geneva auto show—will go on sale from 2016. British Prime Minister David Cameron’s presence added a political dimension to the announcement, highlighting Bentley’s investment of more than £800 million, roughly $1.2 billion, which will see the SUV built in Crewe and generate 1000 jobs in the U.K.
No further details were provided, but Bentley did say, however, that the new model “will be a thoroughbred Bentley” and “the most luxurious and most powerful SUV in the market.” The SUV moving to production will be a late triumph for Wolfgang Dürheimer, the recently dismissed head of Audi’s R&D program, who was Bentley’s CEO when work on the SUV model commenced.
Echoing Dürheimer’s remarks of last summer, Bentley maintains that the reaction of customers to a Bentley SUV has been “extremely positive.” Nevertheless, the vehicle will receive a complete makeover; design chief Luc Donckerwolke is in charge of a comprehensive restyling that will address some of the concerns about the model’s design.
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What we know is that the Bentley SUV will be based on the Volkswagen Group’s MLB architecture, originally designed by Audi and to be shared with the next generation of Audi Q7, Volkswagen Touareg, and Porsche Cayenne. It will be available with a range of powertrain options that will include a hybrid, a V-8 diesel, and a twin-turbo W-12. Competition will come from the likes of Range Rover, an upcoming Jaguar SUV, and top-drawer versions of the Porsche Cayenne and the Audi Q7. Perhaps most interesting will be the dynamic between Bentley and Lamborghini, as Audi CEO Rupert Stadler announced that the Italians’ Urus SUV project will arrive on showroom floors roughly at the same time as Bentley’s SUV. Just how the VW Group plans to position two similar models with such historic badges and astronomical sticker prices will be fascinating to say the least.
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver