The sound you are hearing are the monocles of the world dropping into ten-year-old brandy. That's right, Bentley revealed its first SUV, and the old money crowd is aghast.
The Bentley EXP 9 F Concept was revealed at the Geneva Motor Show. As the vulgarly un-Bentley-like name would suggest, this is just a concept...for now.
Bentley has been flirting with getting into the SUV/crossover game for some time. Rumors have been swirling around since the SUV craze started that the luxury car company wanted to give its customers an alternative to the Range Rover in their fleet.
For better or worse, this is not just Bentley copying Range Rover's playbook. For example, not all Bentley owners ride in the front seat, so the EXP 9 F has a wheelbase eight inches longer than a Range Rover. This is good to accommodate more rear legroom, but it is not necessarily going to help this one traverse any mountains. Of course, no one is really going off-road in this machine. That would mean risking grinding mud into the wool carpets or soft leather trim.
Outside, increasing the Bentley style proportions to cover this much real estate does produce a little more "look at me!" kind of styling then the traditional Bentley customer may prefer. Then again, features like the 23-inch turbine-inspired wheels may just mean less customization needed for some recording artists and pro athletes.
Powering this Godiva Godzilla is the 6.0-liter twin turbo W-12 engine found in the Bentley Continental GT Speed. It makes 600 hp and 590 lb-ft. of torque. Since this is a concept, Bentley was quick to announce that the Continental's other engine, the lighter 500 hp 4.0-liter twin turbo V-8, or maybe even a hybrid powertrain could also be possible suitors.
Bentley has not given this project the green light yet. It says this car is here for evaluation. "A Bentley Grand Tourer doesn't necessarily have to be a coupe, a convertible or a saloon (sedan) - it could equally well be an SUV. What's important is that it should be true to Bentley's brand values and in line with the desires and needs of our customers," said Alasdair Stewart, Member of the Bentley Board under Sales and Marketing.
For those who believe that Bentley has already made up their mind about this SUV, and that concept cars are not still used evaluation anymore, just look at Aston Martin. They brought their Lagonda SUV concept to the Geneva Motor Show three years ago, and the public was so horrified that it hasn't been heard from since.
But Bentley may be a bit of a different case than the small batch Aston Martins. VW likes to modify its platforms for many uses, and Bentley is the classy end of the VW Group. So, Bentley may be able to produce a SUV without adding too much to their development costs. That could also mean the EXP 9 F would likely share some architecture with the much more pedestrian and faster Porsche Cayenne line.
Bentley still has to solve its historical and logistical problems before a SUV hits the streets wearing a flying "B", but the EXP 9 F is a clear indication of where they want to go.