JUST AS THE CAYENNE offended purists but made Porsche enough money to make endless GT3 derivatives, so the Bentley Bentayga SUV seems certain to allow the British firm to return to the two-seater sports car market. The Bentayga has been a smash, comfortably outstripping its predicted production run of 3600 cars in 2016 to hit a total of almost 5500. And forthcoming long-wheelbase and ‘coupe’ editions will only add to the coffers at Crewe.
Bentley has been weighing up whether to base the next phase of its expansion towards annual production of 15,000 cars on a smaller SUV, or square up to rivals with a production version of the EXP 10 Speed 6 concept that was revealed at the 2015 Geneva motor show. Now the firm’s CEO, Wolfgang Durheimer, has given the strongest indication yet that the two-seater is the preferred choice. He has confirmed that a plan for a third model line is inplace (to sit alongside the Continental and Bentayga) and that it is no longer the baby SUV.
‘The problem with a smaller SUV is that it ends up against many other premium brands [such as Porsche], not luxury ones,’ he says. ‘The new car will be younger and more exciting than anything currently in our lineup, and we will be up against our luxury rivals; this is what I prefer.’ When asked if these rivals would include Aston Martin, Durheimer replied, ‘They are a good example.’ The sports car, due in 2019, will probably be based on a shortened version of the Porsche-developed MSB platform that will underpin next year’s all-new Continental.
Power could come from the twin-turbo V8 revealed in the new Panamera Turbo, although Durheimer has confirmed that the Continental will also get a V6 during its life, so that could conceivably be slotted into the smaller model, too. MSB also supports four-wheel drive, but Bentley is likely to keep its sports car rear-driven.
The new model could well carry the ‘Barnato’ badge in a nod to famous Bentley racer Woolf Barnato, who won the Le Mans 24Hours in consecutive years between 1928 and 1930-impressively, the only years he entered the race. Bentley applied to trademark the name around the same time it registered Bentayga, and the motorsport connection would be a useful one as it tries to establish itself as a serious luxury rival to the next generation of Aston V8 Vantage.