The new Bentley SUV has been caught on test in Europe - and these new spy photos suggest the Bentley 4x4 won't stray far from the controversial EXP 9 F concept car.
Our scoop pictures reveal a less disguised Bentley 4x4 prototype being put through endurance testing in the Alps, ahead of a showroom launch in 2016.
How is the styling of the Bentley SUV going to change for production?
The Bentley EXP 9 F concept car was always going to divide opinion. Word is that Bentley had to exaggerate certain aspects to get noticed at the busy 2012 Geneva Motor Show - a job wholeheartedly achieved, as you can see in the final four pictures in our photo gallery.
The Bentley SUV snapped here might be a late-stage prototype but it's still disguised, so we can't tell yet exactly how the design has evolved. The front wings wear heavy padding to mask the final shapes and forms, but the overall proportions of the Bentley 4x4 are plain to see.
From these spy photos, we'd wager that conventional Bentley grille and twin headlamps are present and correct - the front view looks much like a Continental GT on stilts. The dominant wireframe grille flanked by double round, LED-strewn lights is a familiar Bentley facial motif.
This car will borrow heavily from the next-generation aluminium architecture bound for future Audi Q7 and VW Touareg off-roaders, which is claimed to chop some 200-300kg from the heft of those leviathans.
The engine room of the Bentley 4x4
This test car is registered with a 6.0-litre petrol engine, suggesting that the concept's W12 powerplant will make it into production.
However, in Europe many buyers will prefer to order one of the lower-CO2 engines. The 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine is a no-brainer, and CAR understands Bentley is studying hybrid and diesel engines, thought to include V8 TDI engines borrowed from elsewhere in the Volkswagen firmament, but tuned up for Bentley purposes.
How many Bentley off-roaders do they expect to sell?
Crewe has confirmed it will build 3500 SUVs a year at its Crewe base in the north-west of England.
The marketing department has been monitoring interest closely since the 2012 Geneva Motor Show launch - and is now confident of strong demand from around the globe, especially in emerging markets such as China and Russia, as well as more established territories such as the US and Europe.
Bentley’s former chairman and chief executive, Dr Wolfgang Schreiber, explained the SUV's positioning when he confirmed the project in 2013: ‘This new fourth model line will leverage the success of the global SUV market. The support of everyone involved with the company has been fundamental to this decision, which will ensure sustainable growth for the company.’
What's all this Newbentley.com advertising?
Welcome to prototype testing, 2014-style. Resigned to the fact that their prototypes are going to be papped while they test on public roads, Bentley has launched a microsite for the new SUV. Precious little information is available on the website (other than an explanation of how car disguises work), but you can register your interest.
The Bentley SUV, codenamed Falcon (hence the EXP 9 F codename) is expected in showrooms in 2016, wearing a starting price around £140,000.