Peter Anderson | Mar 21, 2012

Bentley CEO Wolfgang Durheimer has told US website Motor Trend that the carmaker's EXP 9 F concept was given the green light after it was deemed "a better idea" than the alternative: a new sports car.

After the concept was revealed at this month's Geneva Motor Show to a less than rapturous response, Bentley went straight to work redesigning the SUV.

Would the sports car have been the better idea, after all?

Several projects were considered, Durheimer says. The two that got furthest were the big SUV, and the unnamed sports car.

Durheimer, a former Porsche R&D chief and the man responsible for the high-riding Cayenne, defended the decision to go with the off-roader concept.

"The sports car would have had the Porsche 911 Turbo as competition," Durheimer told the website.

This doesn't necessarily mean the Bentley sportster would have been the same size as a 911. After all, rival Rolls-Royce's idea of small is the Ghost.

The sports car was intended to slot beneath the Continental GT in the Bentley range. At no less than 4.8 metres long, the big coupe leaves plenty of room for Bentley's engineers to redefine "small".

For the British master of premium cars, the EXP 9 F is an unusual misstep. Under Volkswagen's stewardship, the brand not only survived its separation from Rolls-Royce, but it managed to forge its own path.

The Continental has been wildly successful and changed the view of what a Bentley is, going from cuddly-British and returning to its high-performance heritage.

The EXP 9 F will most likely make its way into production in a heavily revised form, while it is believed the sports car has been shelved for the time-being.

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