Bentley's first ever SUV has started performance testing at the Nürburgring ahead of its planned launch in 2016. This latest test mule also loses some of the camouflage which has thus far kept much of the SUV's styling details hidden.
Already spotted testing on mountain roads and in the UK, the Bentley SUV is set to cost from around £140,000 when it goes on sale - placing it high above luxury rivals like the Range Rover. Company boss Wolfgang Dürheimer has previously said the model's price would start where other high-end SUVs finish.
Compared to previous test mules, this development model sports less camouflage, meaning its large front grille, air intakes and muscular flanks can be seen more clearly. The air intakes and large grille will be key in keeping the SUV's 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine cool.
Traditional Bentley oval headlights feature at the front, but at the rear stickers appear to have been used to mask the true shape of the SUV's tail lights.
It's no surprise to see the Bentley SUV tackling the Nürburgring as part of its development. Despite not going on sale for another two years, performance will be key to Bentley's marketing for the new model. Company officials have already targeted a top speed of 200mph for the car.
One of the major engineering jobs on the new Bentley will be evaluating aerodynamic performance, engine cooling and tyre longevity at 200mph. The air suspension, for example, will have to be controlled electrically to lower itself automatically as speed increases.
Previous mules have already revealed parts of the new car's interior, which features a large digital dashboard similar to that seen on the new Audi TT. As well as the main digital instrument display, a large central infotainment screen should also be offered running bespoke navigation software.
The SUV should help to push Bentley's overall sales volume beyond the current 15,000 models per year. Dürheimer has also previously said Bentley has plans for two new model lines following the launch of the SUV, which include a new entry-level model to sit below the Continental GT.
Among the big rivals for the Bentley's 4x4 will be Rolls-Royce's new SUV, which is planned to launch a year later in 2017. Set to cost more than £200,000, the model has been described as "a kind of Mercedes GLK-plus plus" by insiders, and will be aimed at the kind of successful, young entrepreneurs found in the growing Chinese market.
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