There’s no doubt Bentley are serious about producing the EXP 9 F – or a variation of it – as Bentley’s first SUV (but perhaps not their first ‘Truck’) simply because the market demands it.
But the EXP 9 F that arrived at Geneva this week really wasn’t what anyone was expecting; it seems to have the nose of the Mulsanne bolted on to a very square body with a big hatch at the back and looks more like a truck than a sporty or luxury SUV.
Bentley has sent us the video below to explain the genesis of the SUV and, although it seems clear the SUV is a project that will happen, the video has the whiff of the heart not quite being in the task. Even the cgi of the Bentley SUV on the move looks like something your teenage son could have cobbled together on his laptop between snacks.
Bentley talk about the SUV being a new chapter for Bentley, setting new benchmarks for a luxury performance SUV. But they also say they want to know what their customers think of it. So we asked them.
We’ve talked to customers and Bentley dealers alike – admittedly only in the UK, which is probably not Bentley’s principle target market for the SUV – and the feedback was much the same across the board.
All those we spoke to thought the Mulsanne-style SUV was a mistake, and that Bentley should have given their SUV the Continental look; less a slab-sided, square-fronted behemoth and more a sleek and sporty SUV, but with Bentley proportions.
They all also felt that simply dropping the now quite ancient W12 under the bonnet was a mistake; it should have been a variation of the new V8 or even some form of hybrid – a powertrain that shrieks ‘tomorrow’, not ‘yesterday’.
Most found the interior pretty much on the mark, but the same comment kept coming through; how are Bentley going to out-do the new Range Rover?
Most of the owners we spoke to – and some of the dealers – have a Range Rover too. And they’re all well aware that the new Range Rover is moving upmarket and right in the firing line of Bentley’s new SUV. And all said that on the evidence of the Bentley SUV Concept, and what we know about the 2013 Range Rover, that the Range Rover would be the route they would go.
But maybe, as we’ve already said, the opinion of Bentley owners in the UK is not what matters to Bentley – it’s all about China.
Bentley SUV Concept at Geneva 2012
(15 photos – click any thumbnail for full gallery)
Bentley SUV Concept EXP 9 F Photo Gallery
(9 photos – click any thumbnail for full gallery)