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It appeared that the British automaker was going straight to redesigning the SUV based on its lukewarm response, but now Bentley’s chief of exterior design, David Hilton, has gone on the record to say that “the response has been incredibly positive” on the EXP 9 F and that potential customers “love the presence of the vehicle and the personality it projects.” Surprising, to say the least.
So does that mean Bentley isn’t redesigning its EXP 9 F Concept before it makes its production debut? Not exactly. The automaker is close to finalizing the design for production and Hilton did admit that the styling will be toned down next time we see it. What will remain however is the quad-circle light design along with the SUV’s general proportions, rectangle taillights, and contrasting oval exhausts.
Hilton even hinted that the rear end look is something we will be seeing on more Bentley models in the near future, perhaps on a newly-redesigned Continental GT. Bentley still has high aspirations for its SUV when it hits the market, estimating that it will move 15,000 of them yearly. If that sounds like a high figure, it should; that’s more than double of what Bentley sold in total last year.
But changes are being made to make Bentley models more attractive in emerging markets such as China, India, and Russia. The British automaker is also working on providing more fuel-efficient powerplant options including the possible plug-in hybrid variant for the upcoming SUV.
As for future models, Hilton stated that there are no plans for a smaller Bentley.
[Source: Motor Authority]
We all know hindsight is 20/20, and we can’t help but wonder if Bentley had the opportunity to do it all over again if they would have chosen a different path.
In an interview with Motor Trend, CEO Wolfgang Durheimer explained that Bentley had a few options when he decided to expand the model range. Besides the SUV that we see here today, Bentley strongly considered another sports car – one that would be smaller and more pure than the Continental GT. Durheimer didn’t elaborate on the other options, but did say that the sports car even has a model sitting outside the office of Dirk van Braeckel, the company’s head of design.
As for how Durheimer feels with the SUV option? “In the end the SUV was a better idea. It sits above all its competition. The sports car would have had the Porsche 911 Turbo as opposition.” We guess Durheimer doesn’t really see the Cayenne as competition to its upcoming SUV model.
Regardless, we are interested to see what Bentley does to change the design of their SUV around to make it more… palatable.
GALLERY: Bentley EXP 9 F Concept
[Source: Motor Trend]
Dubbed the EXP 9 F, the all-wheel drive luxury SUV is being displayed in concept form at the show powered by a 6.0L, twin-turbocharged W12 engine mated to an eight-speed transmission. A 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8 and plug-in hybrid variant is also in development according to Bentley. The British automaker hopes to add the SUV as a third model line alongside the Mulsanne and Continental ranges.
“We are very excited by the potential of a high performance, ultra-luxury Bentley SUV. 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,” said Wolfgang Dürheimer, Chairman and Chief Executive of Bentley Motors.
The EXP 9 F Concept’s styling is unmistakably Bentley with plenty of Mulsanne-styling influences prevalent. The concept sports massive 23-inch wheels while the rear lights of the vehicle have been heavily influenced “by the forms and details of fighter jet engines.”
And as expected, the interior of the EXP 9 F SUV is packed with plenty of luxury and refinement. It will feature a 4 + 1 seating configuration with a rear armrest that can lift up to reveal a cooled compartment for champagne and glasses.
Bentley will be observing the customer and public reaction of the SUV concept at the Geneva Motor Show in hopes to refine the concept further and ultimately make a commitment to production. We’re a little bit on the fence on the SUV’s styling based on these images, but we’ll take a closer look once the cover comes off at the show.