Although it may be too late for it to join ball for sport-utility vehicles, Bentley still wants to test the market's acceptance of its own spore-ute by showing off the EXP 9 F all-wheel drive luxury SUV concept at the Geneva Motor Show.
"We are very excited by the potential of a high performance, ultra-luxury Bentley SUV," said Wolfgang Dürheimer, chairman and chief executive of Bentley Motors. "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."
The exterior of the EXP 9 F is unmistakably Bentley with the brand's signature cues like the matrix grille, round headlamps and the strong character line and haunch along each flank. Bentley designers were also inspired by the 'visible engineering' of the famous Blower Bentleys as exemplified by the vehicle's daytime running lamp apertures that also act as the charge cooler air intakes for the twin-turbo W12 engine.
The turbine theme continues with the 23-inch alloy wheels as its multiple spokes are reminiscent of the shape of fan blades. The centrally mounted wheel nut also serves as a visual reference both to Bentley's Le Mans racers of the 1920s with center lock and to the single nut found on the modern-day Speed 8's high-tech racing alloys.
Inside, traditional handcrafted elements such as wood and leather are combined with polished metals like aluminum, bronze and gunmetal to create a sense of luxury yet the way they are used sets a fresh and contemporary interior ambience for the EXP 9 F. 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 load space. Analogue bezels and dials, meanwhile, are paired with TFT 'virtual' instrumentation.
Seating for the EXP 9 F is 4+1. Its rear armrest may be lifted to reveal a 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 jacket.
At the rear, the lower section of the two-piece tailgate may be used as a viewing bench or picnic table. Bespoke picnic hampers are stowed neatly on either side of the load space when not in use, but are located on rails for easy access, while an awning extends over the tailgate to protect those seated there, with two umbrellas fitting on either side of the rear luggage area.
Although the EXP 9 F concept is powered by Bentley's 6.0-liter, twin-turbocharged W12 engine with an eight-speed transmission, it could also be propelled by the company's recently-launched 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 or a hybrid drivetrain that "could meet the performance requirements of a pinnacle luxury SUV."
Bentley itself added that 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."