With the Bentley Mulsanne having effectively retired, the big question is what, if anything, the British luxury maker intends to put in its place. Which is the one we asked CEO Adrian Hallmark in a recent telephone interview.
It’s no surprise to learn there definitely won’t be another saloon in the space vacated by the Mulsanne.
“In the good old days, 20 years ago, when the Arnage was on the road with the [Rolls-Royce] Silver Seraph, the total global four-door sales in this part of the market were about 1500 to 2000 a year combined,” Hallmark told CarAdvice. “Now, they are less than 1000, and we are 50 per cent of that.”
That, of course, is nothing near enough to justify the cost of engineering a direct replacement.
“The cost of developing those cars with the technology and requirements for emissions and crash [safety] mean that they are no less expensive to develop than a car you can sell 5000 a year of,” Hallmark said. “If we only see potential for 400 to 600 a year it makes the business case extremely tough.”
Pictured in this story: The EXP 9F concept that eventually led to the Bentayga.
Unsurprisingly, Bentley isn’t planning to leave this bit of the market. “Our ambition is to fill that price space, for sure,” Hallmark said. “it won’t be a sports car, we will not build sports cars.”
Which leaves one obvious alternative. “SUVs were 47 per cent of our sales last year,” he said, “if you look at the segment below us it’s about 50 percent. So the clear indication is that both premium car buyers and luxury car buyers now see SUVs as being far more attractive options.”
While that’s not a confirmation, it’s pretty close, with company insiders confirming that any new range-topper is “highly likely” to be an SUV. A 'bigger Bentayga', as we reported recently.
We’re also told it won’t be a pure electric vehicle (EV), being launched some time after the first fully-electric Bentley which Hallmark said would be on sale in 2025.
Nor will any ultra-luxury SUV come with a W12 engine, Hallmark also confirming that the 6.0-litre engine’s days are limited.
“For 100 years we have tried to make engines bigger and more powerful,” he said. “For the next 10 years we’re going to try and make them disappear.”
With Bugatti believed to also be working on an SUV, it seems likely the two cars would share a substantial amount of technology. Watch this space.