RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Bentley is hatching plans to introduce a sportier, coupelike version of the Bentayga, the brand’s first SUV.
Bentley CEO Wolfgang Duerheimer said advance design and engineering work on a performance-enhanced, fastback Bentayga variant are under way, though the program still needs formal approval.
The so-called Bentayga sport coupe is being developed to attract younger buyers to the venerable British brand known for ferrying Queen Elizabeth II around London.
Bentley, the first ultraluxury brand to market a modern SUV with the Bentayga, will face competition when Maserati, Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini and others soon enter the fray.
“We anticipate most of them will come to market in two to three years -- 2018, 2019,” Duerheimer said of rival SUVs during the global media introduction for the Bentayga here. “When they arrive, I want to have an answer.”
While the final design remains a work in progress, he suggested the fastback Bentayga would resemble the styling of the EXP 10 Speed 6 concept coupe that debuted in 2015 at the Geneva auto show and also awaits production approval.
“Imagine the EXP 10 as an SUV,” Duerheimer said. “It doesn’t look ‘old Bentley.’”
Stefan Sielaff, head of design for Bentley since June, said several teams are working to come up with a final design.
Bentley’s global sales have topped 10,000 vehicles three straight years and Duerheimer expects 2016 volume to hit a record with the introduction of the Bentayga. The SUV is expected to become Bentley’s top seller, with 2016 output set at about 5,000. It goes on sale in the U.S. in May priced from $229,100, including shipping and other fees.
The EXP 10 Speed 6, if approved, would be priced and positioned lower than the Continental GT and provide additional sales volume for Bentley. But some analysts expect the Bentayga sport coupe to be priced higher than the Bentayga.
The Bentayga and EXP 10 Speed 6 are being developed to draw younger buyers to Bentley. Sielaff said the challenge for designers is coming up with a sporty fastback that looks like a Bentley but offers a fresh, advanced styling approach.
The Bentayga is based on Volkswagen AG’s MLB-Evo platform used for the redesigned Audi Q7 and the next-generation Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg.
The new variant will also help Bentley leverage the $1 billion spent on design, engineering and tooling for the Bentayga, which is built in Crewe, England, along with the rest of the Bentley lineup.
“The Bentayga doesn’t stop us from dreaming and looking down the road,” Duerheimer said of the planned sport coupe. “The more success we have with it, the more we can take the best of it and run with it.”
Bentley officials said Volkswagen Group is expected to decide on the EXP 10 Speed 6 and Bentayga sport coupe programs near year end.
In a related matter, Bentley plans to use the Geneva auto show to introduce a freshened Mulsanne and a long-wheelbase version of the Mulsanne.