Bentley insiders have confirmed the EXP 9 F ‘Falcon’ SUV’s front-end styling “might need revisiting” after it polarised opinion at the Geneva show.
The Falcon’s styling met with a mixed reception at Geneva, although, significantly, few showgoers questioned whether an SUV was right for Bentley.
This design — born in the era of current CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer — departs from a previous SUV proposal that was circulated internally at Bentley five or six years ago, one insider told Autocar.
There will be a major opportunity to tweak the styling as the design moves to production. The concept is two metres wide and needs to be narrowed to a more practical, real-world size.
But the most important critics will be potential customers — both existing Bentley owners and conquests — who will clinic the design immediately after the show.
Bentley is also considering developing its own V8-based plug-in hybrid to power the production car.The new powertrain would borrow from the Volkswagen Group’s MLB longitudinal engine platform and promises strong headline figures for CO2 emissions and fuel economy.
Much of the hybrid technology has already been developed for the Porsche Cayenne and VW Touareg and mated to a V6 supercharged petrol engine. But the V6 is seen as lacking the power and image required for the imposing Falcon.
“That’s one of the benefits to Bentley of being in the group: we can borrow technology as we want,” said one insider.
Inside, the Falcon has been designed to maximise visibility for the driver. The dashboard is set low and the seating position relatively high — 50mm higher than in a Cayenne — to give a Range Rover-like view over the expansive bonnet.
The small-diameter steering wheel, borrowed from the Continental GT, was chosen to lend a sporty feel. There’s air suspension, but no low-ratio gearbox. A controller in the cabin allows the selection of off-road settings tailored for sand, rocks, mud and snow, which use pre-selected programmes for the traction control and air suspension. Insiders reckon that electronic aids can give enough off-road performance without resorting to a low-ratio ’box.