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For a Growing Luxury Market, a New, Grand Touring Bentley

July 31, 2002|TERRIL YUE JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DETROIT — The newest addition to the Bentley lineup is a powerful four-seater sports car that the luxury auto maker hopes will radically change the brand's global image.

The Bentley Grand Touring coupe, or the GT coupe as it is being called for now, is scheduled to come to market in Europe next year and arrive in North America in November 2003.

With a 6-liter, 12-cylinder engine pumping out more than 500 horsepower, it will reach speeds of 180 mph and be the most powerful Bentley ever.

The GT coupe will be the first Bentley to bow after Rolls-Royce splits off from the company Jan. 1 to become part of BMW of Germany. The newly named Bentley Motors Inc. will remain under the ownership of BMW rival Volkswagen.

"People in the past might have confused a Bentley with a Rolls-Royce, but once the GT coupe comes out on the market, people will see Bentley in its own right as a pure performance car," said John Crawford of Rolls-Royce & Bentley Motor Cars Inc.

"Rolls-Royce is a car you're driven in," Crawford said. "Bentley is a car you drive."

Bentley, Rolls-Royce, DaimlerChrysler and Bugatti all are preparing to introduce super-expensive, super-luxury cars for which they say there is a growing market around the world.

"Even with our current product, there are around 7 million people in our target group who have the financial means to be able to afford one of our cars," said Adrian Hallmark, Bentley's board member for marketing.

The GT coupe is expected to be priced at $140,000 to $150,000.

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