The trend among automakers in recent years appeared to be moving away from the production of large and powerful Sport Utility Vehicles. With energy prices at an all-time high and by all appearances likely to stay high for the foreseeable future, industry watchers had confidently predicted the demise of the SUV.
Don’t tell that to Bentley Motors or its parent, Volkswagen Group, as the long-rumored Sport Utility concept from the UK-based luxury marque was unveiled at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show this past March. While some purists are aghast that the Flying B marque would lower itself to marketing what is basically a luxury truck, the hope is the new concept will be a game-changer for the sport utility category. Company officers are also hoping to penetrate new markets for the nameplate in the Middle East and Asia, particularly in China with its growing class of affluent buyers eager to purchase high-end luxury items.
The EXP 9 F Sport Utility Concept Car
The EXP in the designation stands for “experimental,” while the F stands for “Falcon,” which may well be the name of the production vehicle slated to begin production for the 2015 model year. According to Wolfgang Dürheimer, chairman and CEO of the company, the Falcon will be “the fastest, most luxurious and most expensive sport utility vehicle you can buy,” and by the looks of the car shown at Geneva that looks to be a firm promise.
To deliver on the promise, the Falcon concept is built around a 12-cylinder 6.0-liter twin-turbo W-12 engine that develops 600 horsepower and 590 pounds-feet of torque. This should provide more than enough power channeled through the 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive to outperform it’s closest sport utility competitor, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo’s 4.7 second 0-60 and 173 mph top speed. Alternative options will likely be available on production models, including a newly launched 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, a supercharged V6 and a rumored plug-in hybrid powertrain.
The vehicle possesses all the styling cues of classic Bentleys, from the massive slab side panels to the pronounced haunches over the rear wheel wells, but the look starts at the front end with the signature matrix grill and large round headlights. Another interesting design feature is the openings for the daytime running lights just below each headlight that double as air intakes for the twin turbos, which was inspired by the “visible engineering” of the famous Blower Bentleys of the 1920s.
Of course, the real touch of the luxury marque is evident in the spectacular interior that is swathed in quilted hand-stitched leather, fine wood veneers and polished metal trims. The instrumentation is detailed in bronze and chrome and highlighted by a 3D touchscreen center console that can be adapted to display a variety of data. The rear passenger seats feature fold-down tablet computer workstations and infotainment screens, chilled armrest drink holders and power footrests.
The price for this vehicle is expected to be in the $200,000 range when it enters production, and the company projects to build between 7,000 and 14,000 units per year.