Without doubt the biggest surprise – no shock – to come out of this week’s Geneva auto show, was the unveiling of Bentley’s absolutely hideous new SUV.
Normally I’m Bentley’s biggest fan. Give me a midnight blue Continental GTC convertible, or black-on-black Mulsanne and I’d wax lyrical all day long about the car’s utter beauty. But I’m sorry, this should have been left on the drawing room floor.
The Bentley EXP 9 F – even the name sounds cartoonish – is supposedly a concept to get customer reaction to a tall-riding Bentley 4×4 that could be in showrooms by 2015.
I have no problem at all with a Bentley SUV. Done right, it has the potential to be Bentley’s best-selling model, just as the Cayenne 4×4 became Porsche’s top seller. And a Bentley SUV is vital if the British marque really wants to expand into fast-growing luxury markets like China and India.
It’s just that the EXP 9 F is so amateurish in its design. Give the average 5-year-old a couple of Bentley brochures, a pair of scissors and an Elmer’s glue stick, and this is what you’d get. We have bits from the front end of the Mulsanne, the swept-up rear fenders off the new Continental and a set of 23-inch wheels courtesy of Pimp My Ride. It’s just dreadful.
We laugh at some of the awful copy-cat Rolls-Royce Phantom designs that come out of China; this is the Bentley version.
And, for a concept, even the choice of powerplant is uninspiring. Instead of offering a nod to sustainability with a clever hybrid using Bentley’s new V8 and electric motors, they stuck with the ol’ faithful 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12.
Hopefully the reaction to the car will be so overwhelmingly negative that the Bentley execs do exactly what Aston Martin did when their equally depressing Lagonda SUV concept was mocked at the 2009 Geneva Show – head back to the drawing board.