While critical opinions may differ as to the stylistic merits of its line, the automotive world paid witness to a brand new Bentley SUV as the 2012 Geneva Auto Show. The Bentley EXP 9 F was unveiled Monday in Switzerland, and according to Bentley CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer, the new SUV embodies “British understatement.” Fans of the British luxury automaker have been waiting for it to join the premium SUV field for some time.
From the opera to the dunes, via the autobahn
The Bentley EXP 9 F is billed as an SUV that “feels equally at home at an opera gala performance, on the sand dunes and the overtaking lane of the autobahn,” notes the Houston Chronicle. It will serve an increasingly diverse customer base that is looking to forge ahead of the usual pack of Bentley subjects: the Mulsanne, Continental GT, GTC and Flying Spur.
Stylistically, the EXP 9 F borrows a number of standard Bentley cues, including the matrix grille, round headlights and strong, powerful lines that are carried along each flank. Bentley design engineers call the look “hewn from solid,” according to Automotive News a phrase intended to underscore a robust character entirely appropriate to a sport utility vehicle. Being a luxury vehicle, this Bentley SUV also features wood, leather and polished metal interior, the latter in varieties of aluminum, bronze and gunmetal. By contrast, the soft saddle leather used in the seat backs, top roll and load space speak of elegance.
A falcon under the hood
Part of the Bentley experience is power, and the EXP 9 F reportedly does not disappoint. Currently, all drivetrain options are under consideration. It is believed that a W-12, 6.0-liter powertrain will be available, producing 600 horsepower that would send a resting EXP 9 F rocketing to 60 mph in record time among SUVs. That may be the reason that the “F” in Bentley EXP 9 F is intended to stand for “falcon.” A 4.0-liter V-8 and hybrid drivetrain are also possible.
The demand for luxury SUVs
The newly rich in China and Russia reportedly have a great deal of interest in the luxury SUV market, of which the Bentley EXP 9 F would undoubtedly qualify. Automotive media indicate that Lamborghini plans to release its own luxury SUV at the Beijing Auto Show in April 2012. Maserati already wowed the world with its Kubang SUV at last September’s Frankfurt Auto Show. All of them are chasing the success of the Porsche Cayenne. Autoweek believes that the Bentley SUV could be a dark horse in the luxury SUV race.
Production schedule not yet set
The Bentley EXP 9 F shown at the 2012 Geneva Auto Show was a concept. After production details are finalized, the automotive press predicts that the Bentley SUV could arrive at U.S. dealerships by 2015 or 2016.
“While we have not made any final decisions to produce the EXP 9 , we are clearly on our way in R&D,” Dürheimer said.