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Bentley EXP 9F SUV gets nod to be built

Despite the steep price, the SUV is expected to be Bentley’s most popular model.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Bentley CEO Wolfgang Schreiber gave an update on the status of the company’s plans for its first-ever SUV, revealing that senior managers at the Volkswagen Group, Bentley’s parent company, were yet to give final approval for production.

Schreiber also revealed that a significant redesign of 2012’s controversial EXP 9 F concept would be implemented for any production version.

According to a recent report in Germany’s Handelsblatt, first picked up by Automotive News (subscription required), approval for production of the EXP 9 F has been given. Citing company insiders, the report also said the new SUV would retail in Europe for 200,000 euros (approximately $261,000 AUD).

Despite the steep price, the SUV is expected to be Bentley’s most popular model, commanding a sales volume of up to 5,000 vehicles annually. Last year, Bentley’s total sales were just 8,510 units. A spokesman for Bentley said the company is still waiting for approval, though things were looking very positive.

The new SUV is to be based on the Volkswagen Group’s new platform for mid- to large-sized SUVs. The platform will debut in the next-generation Audi Q7 and will eventually spawn new versions of the Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg.

The basic structure of the Bentley SUV will be built alongside the Audi version at a plant in Slovakia before being shipped to Bentley’s headquarters in Crewe, England for final assembly.

As for engines, Bentley’s new twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V-8 will likely be standard, with the twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre W-12 remaining an option. This range-topping engine is expected to be updated soon for improved performance and efficiency.

As previously confirmed by the automaker, a plug-in hybrid option may also feature. Based on the Volkswagen Group’s next-generation hybrid technology, the plug-in hybrid system likely employed in Bentley’s SUV will feature a V-6 engine and offer an electric-only driving range of about 30km and 0-100 acceleration in less than 5 seconds.

There’s still no word on a possible launch date but previous reports have suggested a launch sometime in 2014.