New model likely to be priced within current range and could be a luxury Range Rover-style SUV

Bentley is edging away from a cheaper, entry-level model as a potential expansion of its range, Autocar has learned.

Instead the company is more likely to add a vehicle priced close to its current range of £140k to £230k, because it better fits its brand positioning and can be engineered with the strong balance of performance and luxury that is the company’s historic strong point.

However, there’s still no decision on what form the model will take. A plan to extend Bentley’s model range to a third model was started under previous boss Franz-Josef Paefgen as a tactic to make the two model range — the Continental family and Mulsanne — less vulnerable to demand swings in the product cycles.

Full story: new Bentley boss on firm's future

The project is now firmly in the in-tray of new boss Wolfgang Durheimer, formerly of Porsche. Critically, Durheimer has experience of the vital product planning decisions at Zuffenhausen when the Cayenne was added to Porsche’s then two-model range of 911 and Boxster.

Significantly, the Cayenne has brought new customers to Porsche and is less vulnerable to fashion-related sales swings than sportscars and coupes. As a result it holds sales more level and makes Porsche more immune to downturns in the market.

There’s no official suggestion yet that a Bentley SUV is the chosen model for the range expansion, although a vehicle with a loftier driving position and a little more practicality must be one of the options.

Read Autocar's first drive of the new Bentley Continental GT

Given Bentley’s skill in crafting fabulous luxury interiors, a fast and refined crossover could be positioned close to or above the Range Rover, which currently reigns supreme as the world’s most desirable expensive 4x4.

Despite the global downturn, Range Rover sales have remained remarkably resilient, a benefit that Bentley won’t have missed.

Other options might be a vehicle in the mould of the Ferrari FF, a sporty three-door, four-seater with speed, luxury and sure-footed 4WD traction, yet more practicality than the Continental, while not treading on the toes of the four-door Flying Spur.

Julian Rendell

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