Bentley joins ultra-luxury fast lane with Mulsanne Speed
* New Mulsanne Speed model to boost Bentley sales - IHS
* Bentley to decide on 5th model line by autumn 2015 - CEO
* Eyes new R&D centre, facilities over next decade - CEO
By Andreas Cremer
PARIS, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Bentley, the venerable British carmaker known for comfort and style, is moving into the fast lane of ultra-luxury cars with a new version of its flagship saloon, aiming to grab a bigger slice of a market tipped to double in size by 2018.
The 95-year-old brand, whose customers include Queen Elizabeth II and the Sultan of Brunei, is using this month's Paris auto show to launch the Mulsanne Speed under the strapline "the world's fastest ultra-luxury driving experience."
At 324,000 euros ($411,000), the model is not only Bentley's most expensive ever, but the eight-cylinder engine with a new combustion system will allow it to reach 100 kilometres per hour in 4.9 seconds and deliver a top speed of 305 kph (190 mph).
The launch is part of a diversification that will also see the Volkswagen-owned business branch into luxury sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) in 2016.
Such expansion is nothing new. Indeed, Bentley chief executive Wolfgang Duerheimer may be trying to replicate the success he had as R&D chief at Volkswagen (VW) luxury stablemate Porsche, where he extended a range of two-seater sports cars to embrace SUVs and coupés. Continuación...