Yesterday we reported on just how poor a reaction the Bentley Exp 9F concept was receiving here in Geneva. But everyone you speak to adds a caveat to their exterior loathing, reporting that “the interior’s rather nice though”. We’d agree – and when the split tailgate opens up, while it’s become a bit of a cliche in the luxury car space, we couldn’t help notice the rather nice picnic set.
The Germans must think the British spend the few days of summer we get on the grey and rainy island in a perpetual picnicking adventure. We can add the set in the 9 F to what Rolls-Royce showed in the Phantom a year and a half ago, and the series of ones that adorned a Mini Clubman concept or two that were shown in 2005/6. All ‘British’ brands, now under the direction of German firms. Now where did I put my Pimms and lemonade?
Perhaps the biggest shock of the Geneva auto show is this Bentley SUV – the Exp 9 F. This is by the far the biggest talking point of the show, but perhaps not in the way that its designers – and the VW group – would have hoped. The interior, in parts, is exquisitely detailed and feels beautifully bespoke.
But it’s the exterior that has made people sit up and take note – or more accurately reported – pull funny faces. We will wait until post show to conduct a full design review to explore further as to why, but for now we will leave you with a few of the choicest quotes that other designers have made when speaking to us about this car: “Like a London taxi cab from the front” doesn’t get things off to a good start. “Like a bad Chinese interpretation of what a Bentley SUV might be” was very cutting. But “makes the Lagonda SUV of 2009 look positively reasonable and well resolved”, is perhaps the one that will hurt most.
Suffice to say that, in recent years, we cannot remember such a negative reaction to a show car. There’s clearly some value and indeed logic to Bentley exploring an SUV direction. But in its current exterior design form, most will be hoping that this isn’t it.
This is an entirely European view, of course. But given the horrors that lurk over on the actual Bentley stand in the form of the new EXP 9F SUV, isn’t the Bentley Touring Superleggera Flying Star what a true practical, versatile Bentley ought to look like?
By Joe Simpson