Bentley SUV to get new look

23 Apr, 2012 4:33pm Steve Fowler

Mixed reaction to Bentley EXP 9 F concept prompts a design rethink

Bentley's first ever SUV could get a completely new look before it goes on sale in 2015, according to Dirk van Braeckel, Bentley's design director.

According to van Braeckel, a show car's design will always evolve between concept and production,, but he did admit that the company would be looking at a number of alternative designs to the EXP 9 F.

Speaking exclusively to Auto Express, van Braeckel said: "The interior has been 100% well received, but there has been some discussion about the exterior, particularly at the front end. It's accepted that we've produced a typical Bentley, but it is a strong expression of our brand."

"As a designer, it's important that character comes first, we wanted to produce a car that stands out from the crowd. I'm very proud of the EXP 9 F, which we produced very quickly, but it is my job to push the envelope."

In spite of the EXP 9 F's Marmite looks, van Braeckel told us that one customer had already told Bentley that he wanted to buy a car exactly like the concept, but in right hand drive. "We could do that for a customer," said van Braeckel. "It's no secret that we have produced one-off cars for customers like the Sultan of Brunai, but building an EXP 9 F could cost in the region of £4million."

Van Braeckel also admitted that Bentley could produce smaller cars, including the small sports car that had been designed before current Bentley chief Wolfgang Durheimer turned up at the company last year. "He saw the 1/10-scale model of the small coupe on my desk and instantly fell in love with it," said Van Braeckel.

He also refused to rule out other small cars in Bentley's future, telling us: "As a designer, I look into the future and I've been looking at all types of cars."

"Bentley doesn't have to be big. What's important is what we offer in terms of design language and quality."

Auto Express also managed to raise a laugh from Van Braeckel when we showed him a picture of Chinese car maker Geely's Englon SC7, a car that bears a strong resemblance to Bentley's EXP 9 F, but scaled down. "If you're designing something good, people might copy it," he said.