Geneva Motor Show: Bentley breaks into new territory with SUV

Matt Joy

By 9:15am on the first day of the Geneva Motor Show the unofficial prize for the most controversial car of the day had already been given out.

Pictures of the Bentley EXP 9F had been released late the previous night but that didn’t stop a huge crowd turning out to see it in the flesh.

With the existing range being made up of saloons and coupes it makes a lot of sense for Bentley to expand into other segments; particularly as its own research shows that current owners often have several cars including an SUV alongside their Bentleys and it is a potentially lucrative market.

But there’s no doubting the EXP 9F is something of a controversial car.

Bentley purists might scoff at the idea of an SUV wearing the famous winged ‘B’ on its nose, and the exterior design might be seen as ostentatious to excess.

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The Bentley nose is imposing even on the smaller Continental GT and the prospect of a near three-ton SUV wearing the same unmistakable look could be a step too far.

Yet the lure of sales from the oil-rich Arab countries and the lucrative US market means that the EXP 9F is highly likely to reach production.

UK buyers with more sensitive tastes might prefer something more conservative but in those vast countries a car with this much prestige, on-road presence and the ability to cross vast distances in huge comfort will be a sure-fire winner.

The fuel consumption of the W12 will be much less of an issue too, but for Europe the prospect of V8 petrol and diesel options will give a much-needed greener side to the EXP 9F.

Although senior Bentley personnel have said that the green light for production has yet to be given, it seems unlikely that a potential money-spinner like this will be denied a chance.

Bentley’s current range is still just made up of essentially two models so this diversification is a sensible business approach.

And with a likely sticker price well in excess of £140,000 it could be another step up for this iconic British brand.