Bentley Considers More SUVs, All-New Continental Is Next in Queue


Bentley Considers More SUVs, All-New Continental Is Next in Queue

Mar 12, 2016

Bentley is actively considering several new models with the company’s engineering director, Rolf Frech, admitting that another SUV model would be an “obvious direction” for the brand to take following on from the early sales success of the Bentayga.

Although Frech he remained predictably tight-lipped on the exact details of Bentley’s future model strategy, he admitted that the brand is looking to expand on several different fronts, confirmation of remarks recently made by Bentley CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer that Bentley ultimately will produce seven different model lines.

He confirmed that the next-generation Continental will come first, with development well on its way for a launch in—we think—2018. Although it was given a heavy mid-life makeover for 2011 (and again for 2016), much of the current Conti GT (and its cabriolet and Flying Spur sister) dates back to 2003. Frech confirms that the new car will continue to be offered with both V-8 and W-12 engines.

“We did so much work with the W-12 in the Bentayga and that was to make it available in all markets, to fulfill all the legislation,” Frech told us. “The decision we made when we decided to use it was to continue with it for the long term. Other manufacturers can say it’s a dying element, but if you sit in such a car and drive it then you realize it still has very strong emotional appeal.”

Bentley Considers More SUVs, All-New Continental Is Next in Queue 1

Frech admits that it might ultimately be necessary to offer the W-12 in conjunction with a mild hybrid assistance system, but suggested that it would be a “big challenge” to get it to work as a plug-in hybrid. We believe that there will be a plug-in variant, but that this will be powered by the same gasoline V-6 that is used in the Porsche Cayenne.

Frech also confirmed that the new Continental will be much lighter that the current car—it would be hard to create a car much heavier without using depleted uranium—and says he is “fighting for the weight, to make it as light as possible, but we must make sure it feels like a Bentley.” He told us, “Look at the GT3 race car, we got more than [2200 pounds] out of the car by keeping the same structure, and that shows our capabilities there. But we have to balance between the expectation of the customers and what we can deliver.”

After the Conti, we’re hoping that Bentley’s next model will be a production version of the stunning Speed 6 concept the company showed last year. Although insisting no decision had yet been taken, Frech admitted the response had been overwhelmingly favorable: “We took this car to clinics all over the world. Wherever we have been the only answer was for us not to goof around. [People said,] ‘Don’t ask me any questions, just do it.’ So what should we do?”

Which sounds like a pretty broad hint to us. Intriguingly, Frech also admitted that there might be space for a rear-wheel-drive version of a production Speed Six: “For a sports car maybe that’s an alternative, but as a derivative. I think that Bentley is an all-wheel-drive company and will stay that way, but as we showed with the GT3R road car we have been thinking about how to make a car feel more rear-wheel drive.” (Note: Bentley’s Continental GT3 race car features rear-wheel drive.)

He also admitted that the logic of the luxury-car market suggests Bentley should seriously consider another SUV alongside the Bentayga, possibly a more expensive one. “We have not found the limit and we are looking where the limit is,” Frech said. “When we find it, we will push it. The Bentayga is maybe the first model we are introducing, but you can be sure we are looking for space. If there is demand then we want to be able to fulfill it.”



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