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by Tim Beissmann

Ford Australia’s legal team will block any attempts by Bentley to call its upcoming SUV the Falcon in our market if the British luxury marque selects the iconic nameplate for its controversial new model.

US publication Automobile Magazine reports the ‘Bentley Falcon’ moniker has been given the green light by the company’s product strategy team, and is set to adorn the production version of the brand’s first four-wheel drive.

The luxury SUV will draw inspiration from the Bentley EXP 9 F concept – the ‘F’ stands for ‘Falcon’ – that was unveiled earlier this year at the Geneva motor show.

But Ford says the Falcon name is off limits in Australia.

Ford Australia public affairs director Sinead Phipps relayed the advice of the company’s legal team, which said Bentley would not be permitted to sell the vehicle under the Falcon name down under.

“Name registration is in the ‘motor vehicle’ category, so even though it’s an SUV [and the Falcon is a passenger car] that wouldn’t make any difference here,” Phipps said.

The Ford Falcon is Australia’s longest surviving automotive nameplate, having launched in our market in 1960.

For its part, Bentley has made no official announcement about potential names for its future 4WD at this stage.

There have been similar cases in Australia in recent years where car makers have been forced to change model names because of clashes with other existing vehicles.

Fiat was forced to rename its Bravo small car ‘Ritmo’ in our market because the original name jarred with Mazda’s ute, while Chinese manufacturer Chery elected to call its city car the J1, as its usual A1 badge was already taken by Audi.

Although clumsy, the Bentley EXP 9 F’s name pays tribute to the impressive bird of prey, which was a major source of inspiration for the concept’s designers.

“Falcons are the fastest moving creatures on earth, recorded at speeds of over 300km/h,” Bentley says.

“Powerful, refined and agile, a falcon is the epitome of high performance.”

The Bentley EXP 9 F concept seen at Geneva boasted a 447kW/800Nm 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 petrol engine teamed with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Bentley says it is also considering other powertrain options for the production version of the EXP 9 F, including the 373kW/660Nm 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 from the Bentley Continental and a V6-powered plug-in hybrid, with a 30km electric range, CO2 emissions of 130g/km and a 0-100km/h sprint time of less than five seconds.

The Bentley SUV will share its platform with the next-generation Volkswagen Touareg, using the VW Group’s versatile new ‘MQB’ platform, which also underpins the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf Mk7.

The controversial styling of the EXP 9 F concept is also due to be overhauled before the production model reaches showrooms.

Former head of design at Bentley, and the man responsible for the styling of the EXP 9 F concept, Dirk van Braeckel, told CarAdvice in Geneva, the show car was intended to be polarising and admitted the SUV’s design would evolve before the road-going version reached showrooms.

Since then, the luxury British marque has appointed a new design director, former Audi, Lamborghini and Skoda stylist Luc Donckerwolke, whose first priority is set to be finalising the SUV’s design.

Whatever it is eventually named, the Bentley SUV is tipped to wear a $300,000-plus price tag when it launches in the second half of the decade.




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