Bentley is offering a vision of the future
with a dramatic new Sport Utility Vehicle concept, EXP 9 F, at the
Geneva International Salon d’Auto. The Company’s designers and engineers
have created a compelling new take on the Grand Touring Bentley - a
vehicle that feels equally at home at an opera gala performance, on the
sand dunes and the overtaking lane of the autobahn.
Unmistakably a Bentley – yet a Bentley
like none before it – the EXP 9 F could herald a third Bentley
model-line alongside the bespoke Mulsanne and the high performance
Continental GT, GTC and Flying Spur.
Today a global luxury brand with a
network of 160 dealers from Shanghai to Beverly Hills, Bentley has an
increasingly diverse customer base spanning every continent. For many
customers, a dramatically styled, Bentley all-wheel drive SUV which
combines a spacious, versatile cabin and commanding driving position,
with Bentley’s hallmark power, performance, advanced technology and hand
crafted luxury, would be a natural choice both on and off-road.
From a designer’s perspective, EXP 9 F
was a dream project, the chance to create a completely new type of
Bentley. From the very beginning, the design team had a clear vision for
the new Bentley SUV, as Dirk van Braeckel, Director of Design, explains:
“EXP 9 F had to represent the
absolute pinnacle of the sport utility sector, setting a new benchmark
for this type of vehicle. The style had to reflect Bentley’s sporting
character despite its radically different package and purpose together
with sculptured, flowing surfaces in keeping with the Bentley
A new class of Bentley allowed the
styling team to adopt a more progressive design approach. The exterior
is a bold, dynamic statement, combining clean, muscular surfaces with
signature character lines, while retaining the qualities of luxury and
power – a pure Bentley.
Key Bentley cues such as the matrix
grille, round lamps and the strong power-line and haunch along each
flank are reinterpreted for EXP 9 F. The ‘hewn from solid’ design
language and innovative detailing, emphasise the robust character of
this high-luxury SUV.
The designers were inspired not only by
the more functional nature of EXP 9 F but by the ‘visible engineering’
of the famous Blower Bentleys. For example, the day-time running lamp
apertures also act as the charge cooler air intakes for the twin-turbo
W12 engine, each with a dramatic, mesh-covered turbine fan design and
‘rifled’ inner surface finish.
The turbine theme continues with the
stunning 23-inch alloy wheels, the design of which complements the
sculptured coachwork. The multiple spokes are reminiscent of the shape
of turbine fan blades while the centrally mounted wheel nut is a visual
reference both to Bentley’s Le Mans racers of the 1920s with centre-lock
spinner and to the single nut found on the modern-day Speed 8’s
high-tech racing alloys.
At the rear, the swooping lines of the
tailgate avoid utilitarian overtones in favour of a distinctly sporting
profile, while the ultra-wide, two-part split tailgate offers a high
level of versatility when grand touring. The bold design language of EXP
9 F is complemented by twin exhaust tailpipes with ‘rifled’ inner
surfaces, their elliptical shapes echoing those of the rear light
The rear lights are inspired by the
forms and details of fighter jet engines, uniquely designed so that they
glow from within, spreading their light outwards.
Traditional handcrafted elements such
as wood, leather and polished metals such as aluminium, bronze and
gunmetal are used to create a sense of British luxury, yet the way they
are used sets a fresh and contemporary interior ambience. Soft-touch
leather contrasts with highly durable surfaces with the concept car
design experimenting with the use of saddle leather for the seat backs,
top roll and loadspace – while analogue bezels and dials are paired with
TFT ‘virtual’ instrumentation.
Even the luxurious silk wool floormats
are reversible – with one side finished in durable, ribbed saddle
leather for use when the driver and passengers are dressed for the great
The EXP 9 F seating is 4+1, with a rear
armrest lifting to reveal a cooled compartment for champagne and
glasses. Seats feature a diamond-quilted ‘shoulder line’ in soft-touch
leather, echoing the traditional appearance of a British field sport
BENTLEY POWER AND PERFORMANCE
Although the EXP 9 F concept is based
around the Bentley 6.0 litre, twin-turbocharged W12 engine with an
8-speed transmission, both the company’s recently-launched 4.0 litre,
twin-turbocharged V8 or a hybrid drivetrain could meet the performance
requirements of a pinnacle luxury SUV.
Whilst EXP 9 F is primarily intended to
investigate new design territory – and all drivetrain options remain
under consideration – any Bentley SUV would offer the thunderous
performance the marque is renowned for. The W12 6.0 litre powertrain,
for example, could develop 600bhp and 800 Nm of torque with key
performance indicators like the top speed and 0-60mph sprint time all
setting new benchmarks for the SUV sector.