Bentley’s EXP 9 F Concept Ups the SUV Ante

Bentley jumped into the SUV game with the new EXP 9 F concept prototype.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

Bentley is getting into the sports utility vehicle game with the debut of the Bentley EXP 9 F concept vehicle at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK.

Many of the top luxury automakers are already in the SUV game. Mercedes Benz already jumped in with gusto, serving up the GL450, GL450, GLK350 SUV and ML350.

BMW also offers multiple models with their BMW X5, X3 and X1. Lexus serves up the RX, GX and LX series. Porsche offers up the Cayenne. And, of course, Land Rover set the prototype for this genre of vehicle.

So, it was natural enough for elite automaker Bentley kick in the door with what they call a “luxury performance SUV.” The first visions of the EXP 9 F surfaced at the Geneva Auto Show.

If you Bentley were to assign just one official word to the EXP 9 F, it would have to be stately. It wears the classic Bentley grill and looks as though it’s floating above the road surface like some sort of bling’d out land speeder.

Essentially, Bentley opted to build the concept SUV on the all-wheel drive design of their Continental line of luxury performance cars.

During the big Goodwood rollout, Dirk van Braeckel, Director of Design for Bentley described the thinking behind the EXP 9 F.  It came out as a little bit of corporate speak, but it got the message across:

“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 tradition.”

One look at the SUV confirms that they pulled that off. The smooth, round lines are reminiscent of a Land Rover Discovery, but the Bentley upped the ante on materials and construction. It doesn’t hurt that Bentley promises this will be the fastest mass production SUV ever built.

The EXP 9 F packs Bentley 6.0 liter, twin-turbocharged W12 engine, putting out a terrifying 600 horsepower harnessed by an 8-speed transmission. No doubt Bentley’s designers poured hours into the concept SUV’s handling and suspension (as those specs are still top secret). With so much power ladled into a big, upright vehicle, balance and stability are essential if this vehicle is going to put all of that power down on the road in the corners without rolling more often than a Russian gymnast.

Bentley reports that they’re also futzing around with a 500 horsepower, 4.0 liter V8 and (sigh) a V6 plug-in hybrid.

There's the rub. As promising a concept vehicle as this Bentley seems to be, it’s still a concept. There’s no guarantee it will see production. The concept’s appearance at Goodwood is part of Bentley’s process of gauging customer and public reaction to the idea of a Bentley SUV. After watching how the one-off EXP 9 F was received in Switzerland and the UK, Bentley will bring their SUV to the Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach, Calif in August.