You could be excused for having missed the birth of a new class of automobile - the super SUV. Eterniti coined the term for its 620 hp Porsche Cayenne remanufacture, and in short order a number of 600 bhp contenders such as the Lamborghini Urus, Maserati Kubang and Bentley EXP 9 have emerged.
That makes four new extremely high perfromance SUVs in one day (the first day of Auto China in Beijing), I think it's safe to say we have a definite trend. Let's hope enough people like the idea of having an around-town car with the torque of an armored tank.
The Maserati Kugang is alike all the others listed here, a high-perfromance luxury sport SUV and in making its Asian debut at the 2012 Beijing Motor Show, it won't be seen again before the final production Maserati SUV will make its debut at the end of 2013.
Bentley automobiles are characterized by many things, not least the surge of torque provided by a big turbocharged motor flinging you at the horizon.
Fans of the marque will be pleased to know the flagship luxury Sport Utility Vehicle will use a twin-turbo 6.0 liter W12 engine - essentially three quarters of a Bugatti Veyron engine - developing 600bhp and 800 Nm of torque driving an 8-speed close-ratio transmission. More than enough fling methinks, though it will be worth watching what the German tuning houses do with the beast.
This is the same engine (in exactly the same state of tune), that Volkswagen used ten years ago to set a raft of speed records with its W12 concept car, the first of which saw the W12 average a staggering 294 km/h (183 mph) over 24 hours.
The production of the W12 was announced, and they took it back to Nardo in Southern Italy in February 2002, averaging 322.89 km/h for 24 hours. Sadly the car didn't make it to showrooms, as there are very few cars which can average 200 mph indefinitely.
Had the W12 reached production it would have been one of the fastest production cars in the world, and now we have several SUVs with similarly prodigious outputs.
Beyond the use of the twin-turbo W12 in its range-topping model of the coming EXP 9 range, Bentley is considering a range of powertrains including its recently launched 500bhp, 4.0 liter Twin turbo V8 and a V6 plug-in hybrid. The V6 will offer a 30km fully electric range, CO2 emissions of 130g/km, and a 0-100km/h time of less than 5 seconds.
The company is presenting the muscular SUV as "a compelling new take on the Grand Touring Bentley – a vehicle that feels equally at home at an opera gala performance, on the sand dunes and the overtaking lane of the autobahn."
It is just short of ten years since Volkswagen acquired Bentley from BMW. BMW had acquired the brand just a few years earlier from Vickers, and as recently as the beginning of the 1980s, Bentley was owned directly by Rolls Royce.
Bentley enjoyed such remarkable success that it managed to somehow survive the Great Recession. When it floundered financially, Rolls Royce recognized (in purchasing the company from the receivers in a blind auction in 1931), that the strength of the Bentley Brand would see it endure ... and it did, despite being mismanaged and eventually falling victim to not being Rolls Royce's core business, which by the seventies was in aerospace.
Bentley is now part of the powerful Volkswagen Group, with stablemates such as Bugatti, Lamborghini, Audi, and very close family in Porsche, plus its own network of 160 dealers spread through ultra upmarket neighbourhoods from Shanghai to Beverly Hills.
It has always been a luxury brand of the highest order, but has evolved into a global luxury brand under the ownership, stewardship and stability of Volkswagen.
Its customer base is now much younger and far more diverse than ever before. Hence the development of an SUV which combines Bentley's traditional attributes of spacious luxury and muscular performance in a new package designed to appeal to a younger audience.
The four-zone electro-chromatic "sunroof" is a first in that it allows individual passengers to select their preferred level of light screening. Nice touch, considering how useful it might be. A panoramic roof with one control for the variable lighting can be a liability if different passengers want vastly different settings, though I still foresee plenty of potential for disharmony amongst the passengers with this system given that the sun is rarely overhead and hence someone else's square foot of roof will likely control your comfort.
The back transforms between business and leisure mode. Business mode includes a fold down keyboard and internet connectivity via a tablet.
Leisure mode puts the seat in a semi-reclined position and elevates the passenger's feet via a powered footrest. There's also a drinks table and an infotainment screen for movies.
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