Bentley's first SUV looks set to remain close to the firm's original design sketches, as this latest test mule has been spotted wearing production bodywork.
The SUV, which is said to be targetting a 200mph top speed when it goes on sale in 2016, has only previously been seen disguised under Audi Q7 bodywork. Previous mules have been testing the car's electrical system, running gear and powertrain. The electric system will feature more than 50 ECU 'brains'.
The main feature of the new SUV is its large, prominent front mesh front grille. Oval headlight clusters can also be seen alongside large dual air vents lower down on the front bumper. Those air intakes will be vitally important in keeping the SUV's twin-turbocharged W12 engine cool.
Large light clusters can also be seen at the rear, alongside prominent rear-end styling and large oval-shaped dual exhausts. The design stays relatively true to the original EXP 9 F concept car, which made its debut at the Geneva motor show in 2012.
Also seen for the first time on this test mule is the new car's interior, which features a large digital dashboard similar to that seen on the new Audi TT. As well as the main digital instrument display, a large central infotainment screen should also be offered running bespoke navigation software.
One of the major engineering jobs on the new Bentley will be evaluating aerodynamic performance, engine cooling and tyre longevity at the planned 200mph top speed, which Autocar understands was written into the technical specification last year. The air suspension, for example, will have to be controlled electrically to lower itself automatically as speed increases.
Among the big rivals for the Bentley's 4x4 will be Rolls-Royce's new SUV, which is planned to launch a year later in 2017. Set to cost more than £200,000, the model has been described as "a kind of Mercedes GLK-plus plus" by insiders, and will be aimed at the kind of successful, young entrepreneurs found in the growing Chinese market.
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