Back in 2020, Bentley found itself in something of a quandary. Its wonderful Mulsanne flagship was old and even if that has not stopped Bentleys of yore soldiering on well into their autumn years, this one had a problem. Which was that the venerable pushrod V8 under its bonnet was older still, starting life in the S2 of 1959. And it was no longer going to be able to meet future emissions requirements.
Now, there are those at Bentley who’ll tell you it could have been re-engineered for the nth time and kept going, but even they concede the cost of doing so could never be justified by the number of cars likely to be sold. So why not just replace it with another already compliant engine? Because why would you with just long product cycles, when the replacement is likely to be rendered obsolete in just a few years, and the engineering costs of adapting the car to take an engine for which it was never designed so high? Bentley will replace the Mulsanne in time, because it is hardly likely to cede the high margin, super luxury territory to its old rival Rolls-Royce forever, but when it does come, it will be all electric. And Bentley’s not ready for that yet.
So it needed something else. Not a direct replacement because, as discussed, no such thing exists, but something in which owners might equally choose to travel in the back or front. Something that’s going to cost a fraction of a genuinely new car programme and which sits in the most popular part of the market so while cheaper than the Mulsanne, they’ll sell in numbers the Mulsanne could have scarcely imagined. The decision, then, to stretch the Bentayga, was probably not long in the debating.
Of course it might have been even simpler, more affordable and certainly closer to the Mulsanne concept to have elongated the gorgeous Flying Spur saloon into limousine proportions instead. And it was discussed at Bentley, but the numbers could not be denied: the Bentayga is Bentley’s best-selling car, accounting for over 40 per cent of sales, the Flying Spur the slowest. Moreover the Bentayga’s category is growing strongly, the Spur’s steadily contracting.
One more thing: Bentley is confident that once established in the marketplace almost half of all Bentaygas sold will be this EWB (Extended WheelBase) model despite the £24,400 premium Bentley will charge for it. In the light of that, the case for its creation is irrefutable.