The EXP 9F’s styling drew some harsh criticism, so Bentley had to visually re-think the Bentayga. It was back to the drawing board for the British car manufacturer, but was it the right choice?
Whether you like it or not, the EXP 9F had charm and panache. Its style and proportions were reminiscent of the primitive, classic Range Rover, making it quintessentially British.
It even displayed a double-hinged tailgate, just like the Rovers, but it didn’t received much positive feedback from the public. In fact, the results determined Bentley to re-think its SUV recipe, spawning a much more refined, chiseled, corner-rounded body. Literally.
Unlike the EXP 9F’s straight, well defined volumes, the Bentayga received an elongated, polished shape. Don’t get me wrong, it retains the same basic silhouette, but its style cues – elongated towards the rear of the car – makes it seem longer and narrower than the concept.
Even the side wings – on which the Continental GT-esque headlights are mounted - are sinuously flowing to the back of the Bentayga. But that’s because its entire front fascia is “borrowed” from the striking, sports-oriented GT, unlike the EXP 9F which clearly took inspiration from the Mulsanne.
A commendable initiative on the production SUV is the apparent lack of bumpers, which are existent, but actually form only the base of the front and back end of the vehicle; a unique approach found mostly on new Bentleys. Anyway, the grills evolved from the rounded DRL bedizen variants found of the EXP 9F.
Although both automobiles have muscular proportions, highlighted best by the widen hips located on the rear quarter panels, the Bentayga is far less meaty than the concept. It’s just like comparing the nouveau riche style of the Continental GT with the hard-to-digest luxury mastodon that is the Mulsanne.
Still, the “hips” are united by a subtle rear, integrated spoiler, located a tad higher on the Bentayga, thus reducing the rear window dimensions. Speaking of windows, the EXP 9F larger third side window isn’t spoiled by a Hofmeister kink, increasing the greenhouse of the entire vehicle. The stoplights kept their basic form on the Bentayga, but moved to the car extremities, on to the quarter panels.
The interior is Bentley’s work of art, but the only thing Bentayga carried over from the concept version is the steering wheel. Just like at the exterior of the SUV, Bentley choose to play it safe, coming with a more sensible approach. Instead of an interrupted simple dash line, the British car manufacturer went for a layout that reminds us – again – of the Bentley Continental, with a divided dashboard.
The infotainment screen along with the climate controls were integrated into the entire module, while retaining the rounded air vents. An interesting aspect on the EXP 9F concept was the individual arm-rest (found on classic high-end British luxury automobiles), which unfortunately didn’t make it into production; neither did the full-digital instrument panel, highlighted with beautiful sculpted metal accents. Well, at least the mechanical clock is present to highlight your mood.
So, the Brits went the easy way, making the Bentayga a safe bet. Can we blame them?
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