Bentley to unveil plug-in hybrid SUV concept in Geneva

The legendary Ettore Bugatti once famously (and derisively) referred to Bentley cars as "the world's fastest lorries" – the British term for heavy trucks. Fast-forward a few decades and Ettore's proclamation is edging toward the truth, as the British brand is rumored to be launching its first-ever SUV – at least in conceptual form – at next week's Geneva Motor Show.

The model – which would expand the Bentley range from two models to three – is earmarked by Bentley/Bugatti Chief Exec Wolfgang Dürheimer (pictured at left with his predecessor, Dr. Franz-Josef Paefgen) to account for some 3,500 to 5,000 units annually, or a total of about 25,000 units in the vehicle's lifecycle. But the SUV from Crewe isn't just about expanding sales figures, it's also about innovation, as the model is rumored to incorporate what would not only be the company's first hybrid propulsion system, but a plug-in one at that, relegating the engine (which you can bet will still be Bentley big) to also-ran status.

We're eagerly anticipating the results when we get to the Geneva Palexpo, but while the show car is expected to be a concept still several years away from production, one thing's for sure: Bentley won't be alone in jumping from high-end cars to SUVs. It's a path forged by its sister company Porsche (where Dürheimer long served as a senior executive) with the Cayenne, set to be followed by sister marque Lamborghini with a concept car at the Beijing Auto Show in April (not to mention its original SUV, the LM002), and currently being pursued by rival Maserati with the Kubang now being groomed for production.

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