Does Bentley Need an SUV?

Bentley chairman Franz-Josef Paefgen has gone on record saying that "Bentley does not need an SUV--it would be counterproductive for our brand image." But there is no question that Bentley will continue to expand--from more than 6000 units last year to at least 12,000 annually--and Bentley's Volkswagen overlords have asked Paefgen to consider a crossover. Such a vehicle, the Germans maintain, could be positioned as an Allroad by Bentley, but Paefgen is unconvinced.

If VW prevails and a Bentley crossover comes to market, it would likely be based on the next VW Touareg/Porsche Cayenne/Audi Q7 platform and powered by the same twin-turbo, 6.0-liter W-12 already stuffed into the Continental GT and the Flying Spur--in which case, 550 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque aren't out of the question. VW's SUV already has been fitted with the W-12, albeit in normally aspirated form, in the Touareg Sport. A 500-unit run of the maximum Touareg has nearly sold out, further bolstering VW's hopes for a high-powered people mover from Bentley's factory in Crewe. (Although the Sport didn't come here, it has been quite popular in the Middle East.)

In the meantime, the 550-hp Arnage S, the Arnage Drophead Coup, and the Continental GT convertible all are on track for the 2006-07 timeframe, while VW mulls the possibility of a new, entry-level Bentley slotted below the Conti at about $100,000. So far, Paefgen is not interested in that scenario, either.

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