The top end of the automotive market is home to surprising levels of competitiveness, even among brands traditionally seen as staid and reserved. Rolls-Royce fits this description, though the maker of opulent drawing rooms on wheels isn’t one to back down from a schoolyard scrap (as we saw earlier this year following some mild trash talk from Aston Martin-owned Lagonda).
Bentley, the rival-turned-family-member-turned-rival-again, has always positioned itself as the sportier alternative to Rolls-Royce, so it’s only natural that the lads in Crewe are planning a response to their competitor’s introduction of an ultra-lux SUV. Sure, the Cullinan pampers its occupants until they develop gout, but can it pull out their remaining hair follicles through sheer speed?
According to Britain’s Autocar, a more muscular version of the top-flight (and somewhat odd-looking) Bentayga SUV is on the way.
Bentley design chief Stefan Sielaff told the publication that the automaker has a Speed version of the luxo-utility under development, and that brand loyalists should expect a “big change” in the model’s design.
The transition to a performance model should see the Bentayga don “typical” go-fast accoutrements found on other Speed variants, Sielaff added. Meaning, of course, a slightly menacing look brought on by a combination of larger — or at least more aggressive — wheels and rubber (the Bentayga already boasts 22-inchers), a revised lower fascia, prominent side sills and valences, additional mesh, larger binders, and perhaps a slightly lowered ride height. There’s always ways to tart up an SUV.
Most important, of course, is an added helping of power. Sielaff claims the Bentayga’s W12 — a 6.0-liter twin-turbo unit generating 600 horsepower and 663 lb-ft of torque — stands to gain extra ponies. And rightly so. The Bentayga’s platform-mate, the Lamborghini Urus, already makes 641 hp from its 6.0-liter.
Pushing the top end of the model line to new heights only makes sense after the brand added a lower-priced V8 variant for the 2019 model year. In that spec, the Bentayga makes a measly 542 hp and 568 lb-ft from its twin-turbo 4.0-lighter. Of course, the consolation for this punishment is a $30k reduction in MSRP, which lowers the entry cost of the model to about $165,000. Expect a Speed variant to crest the quarter-million mark, at least after the destination fee and perhaps a modicum of options.
While not the most common sight in America, some 1,152 U.S. buyers made off with a Bentayga last year. A new level added to the SUV’s range would mean a new status symbol for well-heeled shoppers, and the potential for greater profits. Given that the Bentayga, Urus, and Porsche Cayenne all borrow the platform found beneath the Audi Q7, parent Volkswagen Group now holds many licenses to print money.
As we saw with Rolls-Royce’s decision to build the Cullinan, the prevailing attitude in the auto industry remains “if you don’t have an SUV in your stable, you don’t have much of a future.”
[Image: Volkswagen Group]