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Bentley's SUV is fit for a queen

The Bentley EXP 9 F concept has the brand's trademark matrix grille and round headlights as well as wheels that hark back to 1920s Bentley Le Mans racecars.

Like many in the automotive world, I thought a Bentley SUV would surely be big, brash and ugly and not something the Queen of England's favorite car brand should consider building. But do you know what? I think it looks good.

When Bentley CEO Wolfgang Duerheimer unveiled a concept for the SUV on Monday in Geneva, he said the car embodied "British understatement."

Internet bloggers were quick to condemn the concept as an ugly monstrosity that will mainly appeal to show-off criminal gangsters.

Some elements don't appeal, such as the big round fog lamps below the headlights. The big Bentley grille may be too in-your-face for some people. But if you see the car live, I think the grille is in proportion with the rest of the vehicle. It gives the car the feeling of power and muscularity that a Bentley should have.

The concept has a 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W-12 engine, but Bentley says it could also be powered with a 4.0-liter V-8 or a hybrid drivetrain.

Bentley needs a third model line to reduce its dependence on the Continental range, which makes up most of its sales, so the brand is likely to build this concept.

The new rich in China and Russia demand such a car. And other luxury brands are also targeting the niche. Lamborghini will unveil an SUV study at the Beijing auto show in April and Maserati showed the Kubang SUV concept at the Frankfurt show in September. They want to emulate the success of the Porsche Cayenne.

Compared with the Kubang, and what Lamborghini is likely to offer, I think a Bentley SUV can be described as understated. And I wouldn't be surprised to see Her Majesty driving it on her annual summer vacation in the Scottish Highlands.

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