The Bentley SUV rumor is hardly a new one, so it didn’t come as a surprise to find that it has taken the step into concept form, emerging at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show as the EXP 9 F. EXP are the letters that have been used for experimental Bentley designs for almost a century, while the F, according to Bentley, stands for Falcon.
Given the parts compatibility with Audi for newer Bentley designs, the presence of the Porsche Cayenne/Audi Q7/Volkswagen Touareg platform makes the reality all the more possible, and the next generation of that platform is expected to form the basis of any production model. EXP 9 F is not a finished concept ready for production. Bentley says it is gauging public reaction.
Bentley Design Director Dirk Van Braeckel told AEI how the concept began: “The starting point was that Bentley studies have shown that we want to establish a third product line and that worldwide, the SUV segment would be the most interesting and viable to enter.”
He explained how the concept took shape: “We started with the package, which is built up around the view that we want to take a command seating position. So we want a relatively high seating position, you want to have panoramic views, you want to have good control over the vehicle visually, so you can see the front corners of the car, you can look outside easily, so you feel confident moving around in what is going to be a large vehicle.”
The driving position is around 60 mm (2.4 in) higher than in a Porsche Cayenne, although the car is around 100 mm (3.9 in) lower than a Range Rover Vogue and approximately the same length. “We’ve chosen a long wheelbase because we wanted to have a focus in the rear of the car to provide enough space for this car to potentially be used as a chauffeur-driven limousine in some markets. So all this set up the proportions and volumes for the designers to work with,” continued Van Braeckel.
“We set out from a design point of view that this new car had to be instantly recognizable as a Bentley, so we use typical ‘Bentley Face’ elements, which consists of the radiator shell with the matrix grille and round headlamps which we’ve had for over 90 years.
“It’s all about character, so the car has to have a strong character, a strong appearance, so we chose a vertical orientation of the headlamps, the main headlamp being at the top and the combination of daytime running lamp and an air intake for the charge-coolers vertically below it," he said. "That has a link in our history. For example, an R-type Continental had one round main headlamp and a circular air intake vertically below it. There’s a certain element of provocation in it—it’s a show car.”
A production version would have the option of Bentley’s 6.0-L twin-turbocharged W12 gasoline engine with eight-speed automatic transmission. Bentley would also consider the recently launched 4.0-L V8 with cylinder de-activation, or a hybrid drivetrain.
Other exterior features include the 23-in wheels, comparatively upright front screen and side windows, designed, according to Van Braeckel, to provide space for off-roading. “We’re really on the verge of starting the production project, so there are no decisions made yet,” he continued. “This has really been created to gauge opinion. Starting here in Geneva, the model will be used for customer clinics, going to the USA, China, Russia, and Europe to gather information and feedback for us.”
The interior is key to a Bentley, said Van Braeckel. “You’ll find yourself cocooned in an atmosphere that only Bentley can actually create.” Not surprisingly, this includes soft leather, the detailed woodwork and switchgear. “In this case we pushed into new technologies with the instruments,” he continued. “The instruments you see in the show car are adaptable to your driving mode. If you’re in town, for example, you’re not interested that the car can do 300 km/h, you’re more interested in not exceeding the 30-mph or 50-km/h limit, so the instruments will adapt, making it clearly visible what kind of speed you are doing.” Similarly, the navigation system will adapt to town, open road, or off-road needs.