The concept, powered by a re-engineered version of the current 6.0-litre petrol W12 engine, is as long and slightly lower than a Range Rover, but much more powerful. A W12 petrol version will be the production flagship, but Bentley will also offer buyers the choice of a V8 diesel engine or a V6-based plug-in hybrid powertrain.
“We are aiming for the very top of the pinnacle with this model,” says Bentley CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer. “We want it to be the most prestigious, fastest and the most expensive SUV money can buy. We will position it well above the Range Rover, Porsche Cayenne Turbo S and Audi Q7, the most expensive European SUVs at present. There are no precedents for this car, but we are absolutely convinced it will work.”
Dürheimer sees great potential for the Bentley EXP 9 F in emerging markets like China and Russia, but points out that Bentley’s biggest market continues to be the USA, home of the full-size SUV.
The EXP 9 F, which will have a proper name Bentley insiders “already know and are investigating”, will probably become the marque’s best-selling model, with initial production around 3500 units rising to 5000 as markets develop. Last year, the Bentley Mulsanne and Continental, sold a total of 7000 units. Any foreseeable production rise can be handled comfortably without any major expansion of Crewe’s relatively modern plant, says Dürheimer. Current production is achieved on a single shift; on two shifts it could hit 15,000 units annually, far more cars than Bentley has ever produced.
The EXP 9 F project is very much the brainchild of Dürheimer, who pushed the Porsche Cayenne SUV through against entrenched opposition from colleagues, dealers and 911 enthusiasts while he was product chief in Zuffenhausen a decade ago. It has since become easily Porsche’s best-selling model.