FUTURE MODELS: Titans take up the fight

WE OFTEN talk about the battle of the executive models, or the battle of the hot hatches. Rarely do we talk about a battle at the very pinnacle of the market, the high end luxury arena. But a battle is under way as the super luxury marques begin to roll out new offerings.

One of the major fights will be in the SUV segment. Traditionally it has been an area where the likes of the Range Rover and Porsche Cayenne fight for supremacy, but soon there will be even more luxury combined with the promise of continent conquering ability.

Rolls-Royce is busy developing its Cullinan SUV, but after we had a prototype drive in it last month, Bentley has finally shown the production version of its Bentayga, which we got see in the metal for the first time in Frankfurt this week.

First let us save you the trouble of Googling that rather odd sounding name. The first half seems obvious enough, including part of the name of company founder WO Bentley, but there is also Taiga, a large transcontinental snow forest in the northern hemisphere. Bentley says that is where it comes from, but then also says that it comes from the Roque Bentayga, a mountain in the Canary Islands. We suspect some marketing speak here, but regardless, the company clearly wants to give the impression that its new SUV can conquer both snow and warmer climes.

According to chairman of Bentley, Wolfgang Durheimer, it will be “the new benchmark of luxury SUVs”. Of course, it will also set the pricing benchmark rather high too, but then while there might be some Audi bits and pieces under the skin and even a few styling cues that might look familiar to Audi and Porsche owners, it is a Bentley.

That also means it has to deliver on performance, and the company says it has developed a new 6l W12 engine delivering 447kW and 900Nm of torque. It has the potential to launch this luxury behemoth to 100km/h in just 4.1 seconds and top out at a rather unthinkable 301km/h.

Most people would never even comprehend the idea of doing 301km/h in a big SUV, but the Bentayga is all about handcrafted luxury. It is also about technology and the company has included such wizards as its Drive Dynamics Mode and Responsive Off-Road setting. It also gets a new dynamic active ride control.

While Bentley is not alone in developing an SUV, Rolls-Royce, which is working on the Cullinan luxury off-road capable model, has also revealed a more down to earth model, the Dawn.

Described by some as a more social Rolls, the Dawn has been designed to appeal to a more youthful market, reflecting the fact that the average age of a Rolls owner is now just 45. It might look as though it is the convertible version of the Wraith, but according to Giles Taylor, the brand’s director of design, both the fastback and the convertible were designed as separate models from the start.

Taylor says the Dawn is a full four-seater with luxury surroundings and retains the sense of occasion that is a typical, and even essential, characteristic of a Rolls-Royce. He says the Dawn will take the company to a more modern, younger market but without risking any of those essential qualities. According to company CEO, Torsten Muller-Otvos, the Dawn is actually “the sexiest Rolls-Royce ever built”.

While it might retain that sense of occasion, it also has a more purposeful look to it, reflecting the driving spirit present in the Wraith. Beneath the bonnet sits a twin-turbo 6.6l V12 that generates 420kW and 780Nm of torque. It might be social but it is powerful, too.

While the super luxury market might be facing challenges, it is clearly facing an interesting and exciting future.

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