Bentley says it didn’t want the new Bentayga to represent two wholly new concepts for the brand at once, which is why its first-ever SUV relies heavily on a set of predetermined exterior designs.
Speaking to CarAdvice this week at the Bentayga's global launch in California, Darren Day, the company’s head of interior design, admitted it was too great a risk to create the brand’s first SUV and a new design language to go with it.
“Reinventing a new breed of car for Bentley, we didn’t want to do something new [SUV] and new [design language], we wanted to try and get this [traditional Bentley look].” Day told CarAdvice.
The original and highly controversial Bentley EXP 9 F SUV concept was designed by then chief of exterior design, Dirk van Braeckel, who was replaced relatively quickly by Luc Donckerwolke after the concept’s unveiling at the 2012 Geneva motor show.
The EXP 9 F garnered a great deal of publicity for its peculiar styling, though its styling was unfairly criticised for being both a Bentley SUV, and for looking so out of the ordinary.
Donckerwolke himself left Bentley mid last year, but his then second-in-charge, Sangyup Lee, is credited with designing the production Bentayga.
It’s evident from the Bentayga’s final design that the negative media and public reaction to the original concept forced Bentley’s hand in creating a more conservative design that will allow customers to first absorb the idea of a Bentley SUV before having to grasp a new design language as well.
The company’s head of engineering, Rolf Berch, who spent more than 20 years with Porsche and was with the company during the original Cayenne SUV project, echoed Day’s words in regards to the Bentayga’s design language.
“That was an experience we had [at Porsche] and I think it’s always mentioned Porsche [is all about SUVs] now with big numbers of Cayennes and Macans, but Porsche is still the 911, and it will be similar to our cars, therefore it was necessary to not make a completely different [looking] car.”
Asked why the design of the concept was changed so significantly for production, Berch said the car had to find a middle ground between keeping existing Bentley customers interested while attracting new ones to the brand.
"We tried to make it accepted for the Bentley customers, so when they see the face they recognise the Bentley face, but on the other side ww also wanted to follow the request from the people that didn't like it."
The other major difference between the concept and the production car is the seating position and ride height.
"It was one direction or one idea, because what you saw there [with the concept] was the more traditional Range Rover way. Upright. When you sit in a Range [Rover], you have a really high command position and you see all the edges of the car.
"Now with our car you also can take a command position but you can't see every edge of the car as a driver. So we requested and what we followed was: 'please make a Bentley out of it'"
Whatever the public may think of the new Bentley Bentayga’s looks, the SUV has all but been sold out for the rest of 2016, with demand far outstripping the global supply of 5,000 units this year.