Offering a first look at what appears almost certain to be the start of a new chapter in the marque's illustrious history as well as a third distinct model line, the Bentley EXP 9 F Concept made its debut in Geneva. Putting a new spin on all of the classic Bentley character cues, this ultra-premium would-be SUV is intended to set new benchmarks for performance and luxury while handily surpassing its corporate cousins, the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, in the pure prestige department. Although Bentley execs believe this type of vehicle would find favor with buyers in many parts of the world, the U.S. and China are seen as the two most promising markets.
Slightly larger than a Range Rover, the EXP 9 F Concept intertwines its own boldly muscular exterior line with styling touches from both the Continental and Mulsanne to create a clean, well-proportioned, and unmistakably Bentley look. The clearest family ties are seen in its Mulsanne-like grille and headlamp treatment as well as in the kick line in its rear fender. A rakish D-pillar and huge 23-inch turbine-spoke alloy wheels add interest to the EXP 9 F's profile while its rear quarters are highlighted by taillamps that Bentley claims recall a fighter jet's engine detail along with twin elliptical exhaust outlets and a full-width two-piece liftgate.
Although configured in a "4+1" seating layout, the EXP 9 F Concept's cabin is large enough to accommodate up to seven should demand dictate a third-row option. Its "light-and-airy" design mentality complements appointments that display the traditional Bentley penchant for deftly mixing elegantly hand crafted woods, supple leather and fine metallic accents with state-of-the-art technology. A pair of TFT touchscreen displays - a small one directly in front of the multifunction steering wheel and a large unit positioned in the center console -- can be custom programmed to keep the driver fully informed regarding all key operating parameters while allowing quick, easy shared access by both front seat occupants to various infotainment/climate control functions.
Rear passengers will be pampered in an equally inviting environment. Loads of legroom, fold-down keyboards, and full internet connectivity makes it an ideal office on the go and when work is done, the seats can be reclined and a power footrest extended. They also can be powered to a full forward position to maximize cargo space. Overhead, the EXP 9 F's glass panoramic roof features a design that recalls the look of a roll cage in a rally car while underfoot, its reversible silk-wool floormats can be flipped to reveal a ribbed saddle leather surface that more in keeping with off-road adventure treks.
While chassis specifics were not fully detailed - although a good deal of design commonality with the Q7/Cayenne seems almost certain - Bentley did note that the EXP 9 F's suspension offers driver-selectable Comfort, Sport and Off-Road modes in addition to its full-time all-wheel drive. A number of high-performance powertrains also are being considered for a future production model, but this seminal one-off carries a purpose-tuned version of the familiar twin-turbocharged W12 matched with an 8-speed automatic transmission. If this super-lux SUV does get the green light, expect to see it hit the showrooms by mid decade, albeit wearing a more suitable Bentley name.