Is Bentley Getting Cheap With the V-8 Flying Spur and the Rumored Baby Bentley?
Bentley has always ranked among the upper echelon of luxury automakers with cars the epitomize wealth, success, and even perhaps over indulgence in excess. The same still holds true today, though Bentley may be looking into expanding its customer base with its latest introduction of the 2015 Flying Spur fitted with a V-8 where the massive W-12 normally lives and a rumored baby Bentley.
The V-8 Flying Spur is practically unchanged from its W-12 big brother, save for a handful of cosmetic bits that differentiates the two. Both versions will be on sale together, but prices for the V-8 will likely be considerably less. Why then is Bentley offering a less exclusive Flying Spur and pandering to a lesser wealthy crowd? Two reasons stick out: making the CAFÉ cut with improved fuel economy and attracting new customers. Granted, the V-8 Flying Spur will be no bargain at roughly $180 - $195,000, but the $20,000 savings over the W-12 does open up the Flying Spur to a few more folks. But will this be good for Bentley’s prestigious image?
Add to that the news that Bentley may be looking at releasing a £100,000 ($166,320) smaller car, and things are starting to get a little odd. Enthusiasts lost their minds when Porsche started releasing other models that fit different niches, though they still remained exclusive on the upper end. Never — save for the Boxster and Cayman — did Porsche cheapen its image, but this baby Bentley is a clear attempt to lower the price of admission to the Bentley brand to attract top-level Mercedes and BMW buyers.
Sure, driving a new S-Class is great, but driving a Bentley is a whole new ballgame that few ever experience.
Click past the jump to see what we think of the cheapening of Bentley.
Automakers fight hard to obtain their brand image whether it be sporty, luxurious or rugged, and will fight even harder to defend that image if it’s a positive one already engrained in public knowledge. Bentley has generally done a good job of personifying itself as über luxury performance and a proper gentleman’s racer. Jeopardizing that seems foolish.
Conversely, both Mercedes and BMW are currently dabbling in the entry-level luxury market with their prospective CLA-Class, 1- and 2-Series with unproven long-term effects. The main concern is cheapening the brands.
Perhaps it makes too much business sense: offer a more fuel-efficient version of a current car in order to meet the new CAFÉ standards while charging less for the smaller, yet more efficient engine. Add to that a smaller, V-8 powered model that acts as the "entry-level" model to compete with S63 AMG and 760Li, and further pads the CAFÉ standard requirements, and seems more common sense than a marketing strategy.
Now let’s be real here; $166,000 and $180,000 for a car is still not cheap. The price drop will help attract new buyers to the brand, expand Bentley’s business, help its corporate fuel economy average, and likely never upset the Bentley faithful. The V-8 Flying Spur has its own unique exterior treatments to separate itself with the W-12, keeping those who laid down the extra $20K in their own exclusive club.