Frankfurt Auto Show: Bentley Introduces Bentayga SUV

Bentley Bentayga - H 2015
Courtesy of Bentley

Bentley Bentayga - H 2015

Bentley is the first superluxury brand to deliver an SUV, but Lamborghini, Maserati, Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce are not far behind.

Confirming the relentless popularity of SUVs among wealthy buyers, Bentley introduced its long-gestating Bentayga at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, becoming the first superpremium marque to field an SUV.

The Bentayga will be the world's most expensive SUV when it goes on sale next year, starting at $230,000 (the addition of a single option, a dash-mounted Breitling Mulliner Tourbillon clock, effectively doubles the price of the vehicle). In a publicity masterstroke, Queen Elizabeth will take delivery of the first Bentayga to emerge from Bentley's Pyms Lane factory in Crewe, England.

Meanwhile, Lamborghini, Maserati, Aston Martin and Bentley archrival Rolls-Royce are deep in development on their own SUVs.

Why are bespoke carmakers who not long ago sniffed at SUVs as downmarket affectations suddenly so eager to sell them?

Look no further than the stunning success that the slightly less exalted Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, BMW, Audi and Cadillac have had with SUVs. Porsche's Cayenne doubled the brand's market share with women and begat this year's best-selling Macan crossover, while the Escalade kept the lights on at Cadillac while its sedans mostly tanked.

Rolls and Bentley noticed an uncomfortable dynamic developing with their cost-is-conjecture customers who wanted luxury SUVs but had to trade "down" to a Mercedes or even Cadillac to get one. "Many discerning customers have urged us to develop this new car," Rolls acknowledged when plans for its SUV were announced in January.

The Bentayga unveiling at Frankfurt coincided with Jaguar's introduction of its first SUV, the F-PACE, which goes on sale next year and is priced at comparatively populist $40,900, and Audi's concept for an electric SUV to compete with Tesla Motors' Model X, which drops Sept. 29 and has racked up 20,000 preorders from customers.