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Bentley misses the point with SUV concept

<i>wheels</i> magazine
Added 00:00 | March 23, 2012
  • Bentley SUV

    Bentley will not build the EXP 9 F SUV.

    Source:Supplied picture
  • Bentley SUV

    Rumour has it that over 100 potential customers have expressed interest in the EXP 9 F...

    Source:Supplied picture
  • Bentley SUV

    ... and that's just in the UAE. So the question is, even though some don't like it, should Bentley bother with a redesign?

    Source:Supplied picture
  • Bentley SUV

    Bentley has gone back to the drawing board in order to come up with a 2015 production SUV.

    Source:Supplied picture

Bentley is wide off the mark with its EXP 9 F SUV concept. But there's hope still, as Crewe goes back to the drawing board in time for a 2015 launch

Despite your eyes probably begging for turpentine right about now, we can, in fact, begin with some good news. Bentley will not build this SUV, at least not the way you see it here. And why do you think that is, seeing as Crewe chose Geneva, the most glitzy of all auto shows, to display it to the world?

You can pat yourself on the back, actually, because you have you to thank, as well as the rest of your petrolhead friends. All the noise, rotten-tomato throwing, and internet flaming that the community has flared up online has not fallen on deaf ears at Crewe.

Bentley has heard your cries, wiped the vegetable stains off its collars, and is about to sit down and get back to work on its upcoming SUV... Hopefully drawing something more appealing and less predictable this time.

If you ask us, it's not that we absolutely can't stand looking at the EXP 9 F. After all, it's just a large rectangle on wheels, and there isn't much that we find repulsive about rectangles — in fact, we believe in equal rights for all geometrical shapes. But that's just the problem; apart from the hastily realised rear fender haunch, and the Mulsanne face simply grafted on the front, this is just way too predictable. It's like one of those Photoshop jobs where a Mulsanne mug has been cut and pasted onto an Audi Q7. Do you really need a Royal College of Art degree for that?

Another case in point is evidence mounting from fan renderings, and even professional designers' renderings, of a Bentley SUV. Their thoughts of what a Bentley SUV should be — some argue that there shouldn't be a Bentley SUV, period, but then again, those people are usually not the ones who make the cut for Bentley focus groups — are much clearer.

A British designer elegantly grafted a Continental GT face onto an Audi Q7, rather than the Mulsanne's confused look, and treated the entire glass house like a coupé's, with a sweeping kink in the C-pillar, and a much less desperate rear wheel arch nod to Bentley's sportscars. Crewe's effort on the other hand, features a slab-sided profile with a thoroughly unimaginative waistline and roofline: again, not ugly, but we suspect they had their Photoshop set to auto-design mode.

Unfortunately our pessimism doesn't end there. There were reports recently that Bentley's CEO, Wolfgang Dürheimer, ordered several new propositions to be drawn, one of which was the SUV, and another that would've competed with the upcoming Porsche 911 Turbo. While we were hoping to see a true entry-level Bentley sportscar (that we haven't seen since, what, the Thirties?) this is what we ended up getting. An Audi Q7 with a much less desirable face.

But there's hope still, because Bentley has taken the criticisms rather well (again, we really don't want to jump on the ‘ugly' bandwagon; just reiterate the complete lack of imagination with the EXP 9 F) and gone back to the drawing board in order to come up with a 2015 production SUV. If they put in a lot of overtime, we might even see something pleasing by the Paris motor show this September. The changes we can expect are a totally new front fascia, smaller headlights, and a more elegant profile treatment.

The 2015 showroom-spec model will be powered, as this design concept, by Bentley's trusty 6.0-litre, twin-turbocharged W12 engine mated to an eight-speed transmission, but the smart money will be on the company's (Audi's) new 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8. The big 12-cylinder develops 600bhp and 800Nm of torque, but pulling a 2.6-tonne (plus) SUV will likely give you four-digit monthly fuel bills. Which is why there's nothing wrong with the more efficient 500bhp and 660Nm V8 engine, which should return double digit mpg figures.

Bentley is even mentioning a hybrid drivetrain, but before they get to any such complexities, there's a more important job on their hands.

Fire up that Photoshop boys, we know you can do Crewe proud.