Bentley's anticipated venture into sport utilities finally got a green light today, as the company announced its plans to begin production with an aim to hit dealerships in 2016. The vehicle will be produced in Crewe, England, and provide the Brits with over 1,000 new jobs —part of Bentley's $1.2 billion master plan to invest in new models — while giving the world its most expensive factory-built SUV.
Bentley's original EXP 9 F Concept, pictured above, was poorly received thanks to a distinct lack of grace. But the transition into the luxury SUV market remains a logical step for the Volkswagen-owned brand. It makes more sense than when Porsche entered the fray with the once equally controversial and yet ultimately successful Cayenne SUV. And with Bentley's platform being shared with the likes of Volkswagen Group's next-gen Cayenne, Audi Q7, VW Touareg and perhaps even Lamborghini's upcoming SUV, the move looks smart. Fortunately, Bentley promises to make major revisions to the styling showcased on the frumpy original concept, where the front end looks more like a trunkless elephant.
On hand for Volkswagen's announcement at the Bentley headquarters in Crewe was British Prime Minister David Cameron. Despite claiming the auto industry was "booming" in the UK, when in reality the whole of Europe is struggling mightily, the Prime Minister did state the importance of Bentley's investment in the country, and pointed out that a car comes off a production line somewhere in the UK every 20 seconds. Bentley Chairman and Chief Executive Wolfgang Schreiber added that Bentley's fourth model line will "leverage the success of the global SUV market." And that the vehicle will remain a true Bentley at heart, sporting the ultimate in "luxury, performance, quality and craftsmanship." And as with any Bentley, it will also likely cost well north of $200,000 — and yet, thanks to the world's insatiable demand for cars that look like trucks, it will likely be the brand's best-selling model.