2016 Bentley Continental GT SpeedEnlarge Photo
The Tesla Model S may have upended the luxury-car establishment, but it's the Silicon Valley automaker's Model X crossover that most traditional luxury brands now seem to be targeting.
Audi, Jaguar, and Mercedes-Benz will each launch a new all-electric SUV within the next two years.
And those pricey electric cars may soon be joined be a somewhat unexpected rival.
DON'T MISS: Audi e-tron vs Jaguar I-Pace vs Mercedes EQ: electric luxury SUVs compared (Dec 2016)
British luxury brand Bentley is one of the most hallowed in the business, but it's a relative newcomer to the SUV segment.
Bentley launched its first SUV, the Bentayga, just last year—but its executives have already mentioned a possible second model that would slot below that massive vehicle in the lineup.
This smaller SUV could be all-electric, Bentley engineering boss Rolf Frech told Automotive News (subscription required) during the launch of the Continental Supersports performance coupe in Portugal.
2017 Bentley BentaygaEnlarge Photo
Bentley worries about the smaller SUV stealing sales from the highly profitable Bentayga, and the thought is that an all-electric powertrain would differentiate the two models enough to prevent that.
The Audi e-tron electric SUV from Bentley's VW Group sibling brand will start production next year, but it remains unclear whether the Bentley will borrow anything substantial from the German model.
The Bentayga shares a basic platform with the Audi Q7, so some intermingling of components between future electric models seems not only possible but relatively likely.
ALSO SEE: Bentley To Be Fourth VW Group Brand To Offer Electric Car (Feb 2016)
Last year, Frech said Bentley was considering an electric car that would take the form of a sleek sedan or coupe—possibly inspired by the well-received EXP 10 Speed 6 that first appeared at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show.
With parent Volkswagen cutting development budgets as it grapples with its diesel-emissions scandal, Bentley may not have the resources to develop both a production version of the Speed 6 and a new SUV.
An all-electric model of some kind would help Bentley address tightening global emissions standards, and the SUV seems more likely than a coupe or sedan because of that vehicle type's greater sales popularity.
Audi e-tron quattro concept, 2015 Frankfurt Auto ShowEnlarge Photo
Frech said the all-electric model would be considered stage two of Bentley's electrification plans, and would not arrive until 2020 or later.
Stage one will be offering plug-in hybrid powertrains in every Bentley model, starting with the Bentayga.
Following the plug-in Bentayga SUV, plug-in hybrid options will be added to the Continental GT coupe and convertible, as well as the Flying Spur and Mulsanne sedans.
MORE: Bentley Hybrid Concept: Preview Of 2017 SUV Plug-In Hybrid System (Apr 2014)
Initially Bentley will use a powertrain shared with other VW Group brands.
That powertrain will reportedly be based around a V-6 engine, although it will develop at least 500 horsepower.
Bentley may also supplement it with a V-8 plug-in hybrid powertrain, reportedly aimed largely at the U.S. market.