British company reports significant interest in controversial new model, which has started testing ahead of a 2016 launch
5 March 2014

Bentley has 2000 pre-orders for the SUV it will launch at the beginning of 2016, and the British company is now plotting a plug-in hybrid version of the vehicle.

The first prototype of the SUV has already tested in South Africa and will commence winter testing in Northern Europe in April.

The design's exterior and interior have now both been signed off by the Volkswagen Group board. Company sources report that the latest creation is less boxy and more "Bentley-like" than the EXP 9 F concept that was first shown in 2012.

Bentley's target is to sell 15,000 vehicles per annum by 2018. Its sales last year were 10,120. Wolfgang Schreiber, Bentley's chief executive and chairman, said the target can be reached using the marque's existing model range, plus the SUV.

The SUV will be built in Crewe, Schreiber confirmed. About 400 extra personnel will be hired to handle the project, and it is estimated that 600 jobs will be created among closely located suppliers. Schreiber said Bentley tries to give priority to UK suppliers.

The plug-in hybrid version of the SUV is expected to be launched in 2017, before any diesel is considered. The plug-in should offer an electric range of 20-25 miles. It will still feature a big engine, because "it's the Bentley way".

Company chiefs haven't decided which engine and electric motor combination will be used, although the existing V8 seems a strong contender.

The SUV might not mark the end of Bentley's future ambitions. Schreiber said he "could imagine" a luxurious smaller car, perhaps a coupé, that would be built in a limited production run.

However, a supersports car like the Lamborghini-based Hunaudieres concept of 1999 is entirely off the agenda now.

Read more Geneva motor show news.

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week