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Bentley crosses over with EXP 9 F concept at Geneva motor show

By Julian Rendell

By AutoWeek Mar 5, 2012 4:25PM

Bentley introduced the EXP 9 F SUV concept at the Geneva auto show.(photo courtesy of Bentley)




Bentley has revealed the SUV concept that it hopes will become the world’s most luxurious and fastest SUV.


The EXP 9 F is Bentley’s take on an imposing, luxury SUV that could become the third model in the company’s lineup, alongside the Mulsanne limousine and the Continental sports coupe.


“We are very excited by the potential of a high-performance, ultraluxury Bentley SUV,” says Wolfgang Dürheimer, Bentley chairman. “We know that many Bentley customers already own SUVs, admiring their style, luxury, performance and versatility.


“With EXP 9 F, Bentley is making a clear statement of intent that we have both the expertise and desire to meet and exceed their expectations,” he adds. Bentley insists on calling the EXP 9 F a “concept,” although Dürheimer’s encouraging words and the strategy he’s putting in place suggest a production future sometime in 2015-16.


Insiders talk about a management sign-off later this year, with a three-year engineering program to follow.


Recent arrivals at Bentley alongside former Porsche chief Durheimer, including Ralf Frech, who led the engineering of the Porsche Cayenne, suggest a real-world production future for the Bentley SUV.


Revealed at an eve-of-Geneva motor show preview, the EXP 9 F features restrained styling defined by a dominant hood, flat beltline, generous glasshouse and Bentley hallmark matrix grille.


The styling is the work of Bentley design chief Dirk van Braeckel, who describes the EXP 9 F as having “sculptured, flowing surfaces” and a style that “reflects Bentley’s sporting character.”


The proportions look less top-heavy than the Bentley’s nearest rival, the Land Rover Range Rover, while the “Coke bottle” power bulge over the rear haunch adds some drama to the otherwise subtle body surfacing.


An interesting detail are the daytime running light apertures, which double as intakes for the intercooler.


The wheels are an imposing 23 inches in diameter, and the multiple spokes are meant to mirror the design of turbine blades.


Power comes from a 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 borrowed from the Continental/Flying Spur family; hybrid and diesel powertrains are said to be under consideration. The W12 “could” develop 600 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, says Bentley, which would make the EXP 9 F among the most powerful SUVs on the global market.


“Key performance indicators like the top speed and 0-to-60-mph sprint time could set new benchmarks for the SUV sector,” Bentley says.


The four-seat cabin drips in wood and leather, which Bentley says it hopes will position the EXP 9 F at the top of the pile of the world’s luxury SUVs for interior ambience.


For example, the timber dash panel extends the full width of the cabin, punctuated by a watchlike instrument cluster and traditional eye-ball air vents, while the top of the door panels are also trimmed in a deep swath of hand-finished timber.


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