2012 Geneva Motor Show: Bentley EXP 9 F SUV Concept breaks cover

Article by Christian A., on March 5, 2012

Bentley revealed the new EXP 9 F Concept, its first SUV, at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show. First of all, we have to admit that the concept looks weird… if the rear end resembles the 2012 Range Rover Vogue, the front end is inspired by the Mulsanne flagship sedan.

We admit that Bentley designers tried to design a classic SUV but the front end looks unusual and we hope that the concept will not have the same faith as the Aston Martin Lagonda SUV Concept. As expected, the Bentley EXP 9 F is powered by the W12 6.0-liter engine delivering around 600 hp and 800 Nm of torque but the British manufacturer considers using the company’s recently-launched 4.0 litre, twin-turbocharged V8 or a hybrid drivetrain. Both engines will be mated to an 8-speed transmission.

As you can see from the photos, the designers were inspired by the famous Blower Bentleys. As a result, 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 same turbine theme is found on the 23-inch alloy wheels. 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.

The interior resembles the Bentley quality and features handcrafted elements such as wood, leather and polished metals such as aluminium, bronze and gunmetal.

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 outdoors. Moreover, the flowing roof design with a panoramic glass panel is inspired by the roll cages of rally cars, expressing both strength and lightness. Regarding the the two-piece tailgate, this can be used as a viewing bench or picnic table. Bespoke picnic hampers are stowed neatly to either side of the loadspace when not in use, but are located on rails for easy access.

Through the lens of the design team, the EXP 9 F was considered as a dream project as it gave them the chance to make a new Bentley. Because it would result in a new Bentley, it also meant that the team responsible for the style would be able to use a design approach that would be more progressive. As such the exterior shows the trademarked character lines combined with the muscular and clean surfaces result in a dynamic statement. Even with all of this, it remains to be a true Bentley as it shows both power and luxury.

For the design team, the EXP 9 F was not only about function as it also exhibits the visible engineering Blower Bentleys are known for. Thus the daytime running lamps have openings that also function as the cooler air intakes for the vehicle’s twin-turbo W12 engine. Each of the openings comes with a rifled finish on the inner surface and a mesh-covered turbine fan design.

This turbine theme can be seen as well on the alloy 23-inch wheels and with the way it has been designed, it complements the sculptured coachwork. The multiple spokes bring to mind how the fan blades of a turbine are shaped. In addition with a wheel nut mounted in the center, it becomes reminiscent of the Le Mans models of the brand in the 1920s, especially those with a center-lock spinner. This also provides for a reference on the single nut on many of the more contemporary advanced racing alloys of the Speed 8.

The EXP 9 F also has a number of cues that prove it is a Bentley like the round lamps and matrix grille. There is also the strong power-line found on each side though for the EXP 9 F, this has been reinterpreted. At the rear section, the use of diving lines on its tailgate ensures that utilitarian overtones are avoided and instead deliver a more unique sporting profile.

In addition, having a two-part split and wide tailgate allows for better versatility especially when grand touring. Further, the twin exhaust tailpipes that have the rifled inner surfaces ensure that it complements the already strong design language. The elliptical shapes of the tailpipes reflect the light clusters in the rear. Indeed, the hewn form solid design theme plus the application of innovative detailing help highlight this high-luxury SUV’s strong character.

According to Director of Design Dirk van Braeckel, when designing this new SUV for Bentley, the design team knew what it wanted to do. Director van Braeckel revealed that the EXP 9 F needed to set new standards for this segment and thus had to be the best example when it comes to sport utility.

He added that while it would have a new and different purpose and package, it had to show a style that mirrored the sporting qualities of the brand. These are then combined with the flowing and sculptured surfaces, which are in line with the tradition of the brand, van Braeckel said further.

Press Release

Bentley EXP 9 F SUV Concept

Bentley is offering a vision of the future with a dramatic new Sport Utility Vehicle concept, EXP 9 F, at the 2012 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.

"We are very excited by the potential of a high performance, ultra-luxury Bentley SUV. 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." Wolfgang Dürheimer, Chairman and Chief Executive, Bentley Motors.

BOLD, DYNAMIC, SPORTY DESIGN

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 tradition."

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 clusters.

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.

INTERIOR - A FUSION OF LUXURY WITH UTILITY

Bentley is renowned for its fusion of extremes - technology and craftsmanship, luxury and performance - and the interior of EXP 9 F expresses the resolution of apparent opposites in its use of materials, techniques and technology, as Dirk van Braeckel explains:

"The challenge for the interior design team was to create a cabin which provides a blend of luxury and utility. The result is a light and airy environment with a commanding view of the road and a versatile layout which showcases Bentley's craft and design language in an innovative and contemporary way."

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 outdoors.

The upright dashboard design features a full-width, one-piece wood veneer with a subtly negative surface and instruments with a configurable display. Traditional Bentley 'bulls eye' vents have a 'rifled' gunmetal inner surface for a more contemporary and functional appearance. The centre console is a blend of functionality and supreme ergonomics with dynamic, architectural layers which help to create a central spine to the cabin. The frame of the console is also a structural component with integrated, sculpted grab handles.

The flowing roof design with a panoramic glass panel is inspired by the roll cages of rally cars, expressing both strength and lightness.

Rear seat passengers can chose between business mode, with generous legroom complete with fold-down keyboard and full internet connectivity via an iPad or tablet or a more reclined position with powered footrest, drinks table and an infotainment screen for movies. When the rear seats are not in use, they can be powered forward to create a larger loadspace for sports equipment or luggage.

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 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 to either side of the loadspace when not in use, but are located on rails for easy access. An awning extends over the tailgate to protect those seated there; two umbrellas fit either side of the rear luggage area for when the rain clouds sweep in.

COMMANDING DRIVING POSITION AND CONTROL ARCHITECTURE

As befits a Bentley, the EXP 9 F design concept features a near-infinite choice of driver information and entertainment options. However the design and electrical engineering teams sought to avoid creating a cluttered or confusing driver and passenger environment, presenting only the information that each user needs, when they need it.

As a result, EXP 9 F places key driver information such as 3D navigation in a central TFT panel directly in the driver's line of sight, where it is flanked by two analogue reverse-read dials. Meanwhile controls that are shared between driver and front seat passenger, such as cabin temperature, air vents and entertainment are presented in the central touchscreen and console. The TFT screen deploys from the full-width metal trim to provide a fully integrated extension to the glass surface of the centre console

Three different driving modes - Comfort, Sport and Off-Road - are selectable according to the road environment and type of journey. Thus the driver information TFT panel would be able to switch between satellite navigation on the motorway to a 'sump cam' when negotiating a bumpy track.

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.

EVALUATION, REFINEMENT AND FUTURE PLANNING

When the first generation Continental GT was unveiled in 2003 it represented the renaissance of Bentley as a global luxury icon, subsequent launches such as Mulsanne, Continental Flying Spur saloon and the new Continental GT have seen the Bentley brand growing from strength to strength.

EXP 9 F represents the chance to take Bentley values of design, craftsmanship and engineering excellence into what would be - literally - new terrain for the brand. Bentley's experience with the all-wheel drive Continental range makes the concept of a Bentley SUV a natural progression for the company.

Customer and public reaction will be analysed following the unveiling of EXP 9 F at Geneva 2012, with the aim of refining the concept further. Above all, Bentley will be listening carefully to the reaction of customers and potential customers throughout the world, prior to making any definitive commitment to production.

"A Bentley Grand Tourer doesn't necessarily have to be a coupé, a convertible or a saloon - it could equally well be an SUV. What's important is that it should be true to Bentley's brand values and in line with the desires and needs of our customers."- Alasdair Stewart, Member of the Board, Sales and Marketing.

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