Luxury, thy name is Bentley. The British automotive brand has been handcrafting high-class rides in England since 1919, and while the silhouettes have certainly evolved over the last century, driving--or being driven in--any one of their models around town is still the ultimate status symbol (though it somehow seems more fitting to see one, parked and gleaming, on a long curving driveway in front of an over-the-top mansion, MTV-Cribs-style). EXP 9 F, the most recent concept car to enter Bentley’s fleet, is a thoroughly modern incarnation--the company’s first foray into Sport Utility Vehicles. Ladies and gents, sirs and madams, wealthy soccer moms and dads, behold: It’s a Bentley SUV.
Behind the iconic “matrix” grill is a vehicle that does not skimp on indulgent details: one-piece wood veneer dash, silk wool floor mats, steering wheel carved to feel like a shotgun stock, 23-inch alloy wheels, panoramic glass roof panel. All-wheel drive complements a 6.0 liter, turbo-charged W12 engine, meaning it’s got the power to go off-road. It’s doubtful anyone with enough cash to purchase one of these would actually take it anywhere remotely “sporting,” but most SUVs on the road today likely spend their time shuttling around cities in stop-and-go traffic, not traversing the wilds. Those relegated to the back seat can console themselves by watching the “infotainment” screens facing them on the front-seat headrests, while controlling both the multimedia and rear climate levels with a dedicated touch screen.
Is the EXP 9 F nice? Yes. Is it necessary? Probably not. It’s a fairly blatant attempt by Bentley to grab some of the relevance back from Porsche and Ferrari, who have had success with an SUV and a four-door, squarely aimed at more family-oriented buyers. And for all its unabashed opulence, it looks almost … average. Like you’d have to see the winged “B” emblem adorning the hood to believe it really and truly was a Bentley.