Bentley, builder of some of the world’s largest and most expensive luxury cars, is getting into the SUV business.
The British automaker, which is owned by Volkswagen Group, confirmed Tuesday that it would build the yet-unnamed vehicle at its facility in Crewe, England. The vehicle will be the fourth in Bentley’s lineup and will go on sale in 2016.
"Bentley fans all around the world are looking forward to the brand’s first SUV," said Martin Winterkorn, head of the Volkswagen Group. "Together [with Britain] we will make this new Bentley another true Bentley -- powerful, exclusive and successful."
The SUV will be the most powerful on the market, according to Bentley. To do so, it will need to pump out more than 550 horsepower. That’s the current high-water mark set by several Mercedes AMG SUVs and Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo S.
Beating that number should be no problem, considering that it’s almost a certainty that the Bentley SUV would have the 6.0-liter, twin-turbocharged W-12 engine that is a staple within Bentley's lineup of cars.
That engine makes at least 567 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, though no powertrain specifics were announced for the SUV on Tuesday. Pricing was also not available, but it’s likely the vehicle’s starting price will be north of $200,000.
The design of the SUV has also to be announced. For the last 16 months, Bentley has been touring around the world an oddly styled concept SUV called the EXP 9. The goal, Bentley said, was to gauge potential customers’ reaction to the concept before finalizing what the vehicle will look like. It is unclear how much of the concept’s styling cues will make it to the production vehicle.
On hand for the announcement of the SUV was Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron. He touted the 1,000 jobs and $1.23-billion investement needed to build the SUV as another step for Britain in the automotive industry.
"One sector that we know is sprinting ahead in the global race is our booming automotive industry," Cameron said. "One vehicle rolls off a production line somewhere in the UK every 20 seconds."
Tuesday’s news comes on the heels of strong sales success for Bentley in the first half of 2013. Through June, the automaker’s sales are up 9% from the same period in 2012. The U.S. is Bentley’s largest market, and its vehicle sales in the Americas were up 12%.
Bentley also made large gains in global markets like the Middle East, Asia Pacific, and Japan, the automaker reported.
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