Bentley SUV: 2,000 written pre-orders despite ‘controversy’

Bentley-EXP-9FBentley already has 2,000 written preorders for its new SUV – despite the styling of the EXP-9F concept that CEO Dr Wolfgang Schreiber admits was “controversial”.

The debate around the 2012 show car’s design doesn’t concern him though. “The way it looked wasn’t the major issue – it was (created) to get first impressions from people.

“We asked people, ‘can you imagine an SUV from Bentley?’. We got back a clear ‘yes’… and, in addition, the written confirmations from people saying ‘I will buy that car’, with that styling, and without knowing the price.

Bentley will thus not be showing another concept prior to the new SUV’s market launch in 2016 (and probable reveal later next year). “We have all the information we need.”

It now looks very different…

The SUV’s styling has, however, altered significantly, confirmed Dr. Schreiber during an interview at the Geneva Motor Show. “We have changed the exterior completely – front, side, rear, even the roof.

“The proportions are now more Bentley-like: the car you saw was too boxy, too close to a Range Rover. The Bentley DNA is so strong, we can afford to be self-confident enough to create a real Bentley SUV.”

Over to you for speculation as to what this may mean in reality…

Whatever it means, it has got one important seal of approval – that of the top man in the giant VW Group. “Dr. Winterkorn likes it,” revealed Dr. Schreiber. Anecdotal evidence indicates he is a tough critic who thinks nothing of sending final proposal designs back to the drawing board if he doesn’t like them: his OK is thus a real boost for Bentley’s SUV team.

SUV hybrid… and diesel too?

Development of the new SUV is now underway in earnest, said Dr. Schreiber. “We have already been testing in the south equator, and next week we go to Northern Europe for winter testing. We’re building the first full prototypes and test drives will commence with them in May.

As for what will power it, we can assume the Audi-Bentley V8 will be fitted, and it will also be the first Bentley hybrid (arriving in 2017). This won’t have a token electric-only range either, insisted Dr. Schreiber.

“We will make sure it has a 30-50km range: it won’t just do a kilometre and a half before the engine kicks in. Bentleys are luxury vehicles selling for a premium price: the extra cost of higher-capacity batteries is not an issue at this end of the market.”

Interesting, Bentley hasn’t ruled out diesel either. “Maybe this will be the first diesel Bentley…” teased Dr. Schreiber – before adding that no decision has been made and even the firm itself is still not sure whether it’s the right route or not.

What do you think? Is a Bentley TDI SUV the way to go? Disqus what you’d like to see from the new Range Rover rival below…

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