Range Rover, roll over.
At the Geneva Auto Show, Bentley has unveiled a concept of what may be the most lavish production SUV ever built.
The EXP 9 F, especially from its tapered rear, may look like a custom Range Rover Sport with 23-inch chrome rims. But the engine, a 600-horsepower W-12 as seen in the two-door Continental GT Speed, is unlike any Range in a Wellesley strip mall. The center stack is a thin metal enclosure with a glass touchscreen -- there are actual iPads in the back seat with fold-down keyboards -- and the rest of the leather-swathed interior includes room for champagne flutes and a silver picnic set neatly folded in the cargo area.
Bentley will fit an 8-speed automatic transmission from its Mulsanne, but we don't know if the EXP 9 F is riding on a unique chassis or is simply a taller version of the Continental (a coupe that already weighs more than most SUVs). Bentley says it may also offer a hybrid powertrain or the newly introduced 4.0-liter V-8 to customers, who should likely place enough orders for the British automaker to build it next year.
But while the soft leathers and deep pools of polished wood look amazing, how much more luxurious can this Bentley SUV be from the Range Rover, the Rolls-Royce of SUVs that’s been making sumptuous trucks longer than anyone?
Last year, Range Rover introduced a limited-edition Autobiography model with similar specs to the Bentley concept: buttery-smooth semi-aniline leather covering every surface, including the roof and cargo walls; exotic woods; custom drink coolers and swiveling tray; two iPads; and a rear cargo floor made of solid teak. The engine? A supercharged V-8 with “just” 510 horsepower. All for $170,000. The Bentley will no doubt cost the same, if not more, and likely won’t be tuned to tackle the insane off-road challenges the Range Rover can.
But competition does improve the breed, and the bloodline of thirsty, exuberant, enormous trucks doesn’t look to die, even in the face of $5 gasoline.
About Boston Overdrive
|Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
|Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
|John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
|Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
|Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
|George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee