Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

A Bentley SUV? Why Not?


For those who enjoy the finer things in life, there are certain combinations that should never take place. Champagne and chocolate chip cookies, a Tuxedo and flip flops and ultra-luxury auto brands making SUV’s.

For those who still can’t get past the idea of Porsche selling the Cayenne, the latest high-end nameplate looking at building an SUV will not sit well.

Photo: Getty Images

According to reports out of Europe, Bentley is now looking at whether to build an SUV. The decision will reportedly come early this year. But with Bentley CEO Wolfgang Durheimer indicating the Bentley SUV would cost at least $140,000, it looks like Bentley is doing more than just kicking around the possibility of building a sport-ute.

Why would Bentley build an SUV?

Would it cheapen the brand? Would high-end buyers really buy this ultra-luxury SUV?

The answer is a Bentley SUV would not only sell, but likely do very well. Especially in the two of Bentleys biggest markets; the U.S. and China. In China, where Bentley sales more than doubled in in 2011, the very high-end SUV would be in demand from buyers who are increasingly looking to drive and ride in a sport-ute.

What about the concern an SUV in the Bentley line-up would cheapen the brand?

I remember when the masses howled that the Cayenne would make Porsche seem less refined. While the Cayenne may not be what people are looking for in an SUV, the model itself has not led to the decline of Porsche. In fact, it has sparked a substantial expansion in sales. Through November, Porsche had sold more than 12,000 Cayenne SUV’s, compared to just over 15,000 for all of its other cars combined.

That’s the bottom line for Bentley when it comes to building an SUV. Like it or not, there is a segment of high-end auto buyers who will want an ultra-luxury SUV. Sure, it may sound strange at first, but eventually people would come around to accepting a Bentley SUV.

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