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Exclusive: Bentley’s SUV in the metal

We’ve seen the concept, we’ve seen sandy teasers, we’ve seen a flickery lightshow. And now here’s your first look at the upcoming Bentley SUV in the metal for the first time, albeit hiding under a rather fetching zebra-skin camouflage.

And it looks… big. The nameless SUV is, we’re told, almost exactly the same length as the latest Range Rover - five metres, give or take - but sits on a longer wheelbase. This will not, safe to say, be a car for shrinking violets. Even in zebra camo.

It’s also clear that Bentley bosses have held firm on their promise that the SUV’s styling would be ‘modified completely’ from 2012’s, ahem, controversial EXP 9 F concept.

View the original concept and the test mule side by side, and the most obvious changes are to that substantial front end, where the concept’s ‘vertical’ headlight arrangement - with the main lamps stacked atop some rather jazzy foglights - has been replaced by a more familiar ‘horizontal’ Bentley configuration. An improvement, Top Gear would suggest.

The big, bluff grille and heavily creased bonnet remain, however, behind which will lurk an appropriately large powerplant. We know the SUV - expected to reach production in 2016 - will launch with a choice of Bentley’s tried-and-tested V8 and W12 petrol engines, to be followed by a petrol-electric hybrid.

And we know it’ll be expensive: Bentley bosses have confirmed to Top Gear that prices will start north of even the most expensive Range Rover, which means a entry ticket of at least £140,000.

Not that such a pricetag will deter potential buyers. Bentley is predicting sales of 3500 SUVs a year, boosting its annual sales to 15,000 cars.

With Maserati’s Kubang on the way, and Rolls-Royce ‘seriously analysing’ (for which read ‘almost definitely about to start developing’) an SUV too, are we witnessing the Era Of The Posh 4x4?

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