The past year has seen an interesting development in the arena of exotic and ultra-luxurious cars – the emergence of smaller-engined versions of cars that were previously available only with super-high-output 12-cylinder options. First was the facelifted Ferrari FF, now called the GTC4 Lusso, which in addition to the all-wheel-drive V12 version became available as an “entry level” model with rear-wheel-drive, powered by a turbocharged V8 engine taken from the 488 GTB and California T. Then Bentley released the oft-rumored Bentayga powered by, the sacrilege, a V8 turbodiesel seemingly taken straight out of the Audi SQ7. Are they a sign of things to come, smart decisions by the brands from a marketing perspective, or foolish endeavors to chase short-term profits at the expense of the brands’ long-term allure?
The case “for”
It’s not hard to make a case for why the GTC4 Lusso T and Bentayga Diesel make sense for their Ferrari and Bentley, since they are bound to bring in additional customers thanks to their lower price. However, there is more than that. In some ways, the introduction of these cars makes the top-end versions more desirable to the super-rich clientele without the need to make those models ever more powerful or extreme. The final argument in favor is that the “base” models are actually very good cars, with great reviews all around, which thanks to their less extreme character actually make for better cars, objectively speaking. By offering two versions of the same car, Ferrari and Bentley may simply be offering two different prepositions to different parts of the market.
The case “against”
The easiest case to make against the “base” versions of the GTC4 Lusso and Bentayga is purely emotional – a turbocharged V8 engine will never have the charm of a high-revving naturally-aspirated Ferrari V12 engine, while a diesel engine will be viewed by many as unbecoming of a Bentley. While it’s too early to assess the impact they have had on the models’ sales figures, it is also possible that the new versions will not bring in that many new sales, instead cannibalizing their more powerful, higher-margin siblings (carmakers generally make higher profits on high-end versions of their models). Then there is the threat that the “base” versions reduce the allure of the Ferrari and Bentley brands in the long term, though this risk is still much lower than if they introduce the often-rumored new Dino and baby Bentayga.
Personally, I think both Ferrari and Bentley have shrewdly estimated the demand in the market for more affordable versions of the GTC4 Lusso and Bentayga, and are likely to benefit hugely from the new models in the long term. It helps that personally I don’t find anything objectionable with a diesel Bentley (they have always been about effortless, high-torque progress), while in many ways a turbocharged engine suits the character of a large, family-oriented Ferrari than a V12 that needs to revved like crazy to give its best. And it seems that we may just have to get used to this trend – Aston Martin will soon introduce a “base” version of the DB11, powered by a V8 borrowed from AMG, while Rolls-Royce may at some point baulk and start offering its Ghost line of cars with a V8, rather than exclusively the V12.
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