This year’s Bentley centenary celebrations culminated on July 10th at the home of Bentley in Crewe, with the presentation of the grand tourer of the future, the Bentley EXP 100 GT. Created from the purest Bentley DNA and inspired by their discerning customers, the EXP 100 GT embraces electrification, technology, artificial intelligence and of course, design and comfort.
At first sight your jaw drops to the floor. Designer Stefan Sielaff has outdone himself. This car is not just a feast for the eyes but a creation that makes your heart jump. There is something in it from the classic Bentley tourers of the past and also a firm handshake with what the future holds for the automotive industry.
The Bentley EXP 100 GT is not just about the future of Bentley cars, it is about the conceptual future of mobility, it is about making every journey into a memorable experience, taking private transportation to a whole new level. In an interview with our Editor, Julia Pasaron, Bentley Motors’ CEO, Adrian Hallmark, shared his vision for the future of mobility.
I’ll tell you what we don’t think this future will be. We don’t think it will be about shared and not owned. However, we are extremely excited about the revolution we are experiencing in electrification, autonomous driving, and connectivity.
The EXP 100 GT is testimony to this excitement. A battery electric powertrain, with intelligent power and charge management, will ensure that the Bentley EXP 100 GT is as powerful and exciting as its conventional predecessors. Next Generation Traction Drive will enable maximum control via torque vectoring, applying 50% increased power and 35% less mass for more effective cornering. This car will do 0-100km in 2.5 seconds and will reach a top speed of 300km/hour. The battery will charge up to 80% in 15 minutes and the range is estimated to be 700km.
Others aspects of the future of transportation seem to be less attractive to Hallmark: “It all depends on where your interests are as an individual or as an organisation. The idea of public transport for all users, the notion that there will be no joy or pleasure in mobility, well, we fundamentally disagree with that. Of course we have a vested interest in exactly the opposite of that, no surprises there, so with the EXP 100 GT we are showing with what we think an autonomous, connected, electric, zero emissions car with a sustainable supply chain could look like.”
They say the past is the memory of the future, and in fact, this is firmly in Bentley’s mind. As Hallmark states, “The most dangerous thing for a 100 year old company is the next hundred years. If we don’t reinvent ourselves, someone else will. We have asked ourselves many fundamental questions when designing the EXP 100 GT. ‘Is there a place for wood and leather, for self expression, for investment in ultra high quality, high technology crafted products?’ We believe there is, especially if it has purpose, and a clear sustainable and ethical stance.”
Looking at the EXP 100 GT, it does seem as if Bentley is ready to answer all those questions. Despite its futuristic look, the EXP 100 GT is unmistakeably a Bentley: sleek and muscular exterior, class and style dripping off every single one of its lines, and obviously, the craftsmanship by which Bentley is known the world over. The famous R-Type Continental haunch is replicated at its rear, the round headlights that overlap the grille are a nod to the famous Bentley Blower and a long graceful body hints at famous models of the past. The exterior lighting is quite dramatic, with an illuminated matrix grille and Flying B mascot which come to life as one approaches the car.
However, there is no question that this is a car for the future, hopefully one without space issues, since the Bentley EXP 100 GT is 5.8 metres long and 2.4 metres wide, with 2 metres butterfly doors that rise to 3 metres when fully open.
In terms of materials, the car is made from lightweight aluminium and carbon fibre, enhanced by decorative features crafted from copper and aluminium, which evoke founder W.O Bentley’s choice of materials to create the alloy for his famous BR1 Aero engine piston that played a major role in securing the air theatre in WWI. The new exterior paint colour Compass is created using a special Colourstream pigment that reflects a spectrum of autumnal colours. The pigment is synthetically made using rice husk ash, a harmful bi-product of the rice industry, remanufactured for the EXP 100 GT to reduce landfill waste.
As expected, the cockpit is incredibly luxurious, with the finest natural materials such as wood, leather and glass combined in effortless equilibrium. The interior lighting is an achievement on its own, creating a warm and intimate ambience that makes you feel as if you were in the living room of your own home. Hallmark is a great believer in technology, “Future technology will open even more personalisation possibilities than the world has seen in the last 100 years. To give you an example, we have built 133,000 cars in 100 years, nearly 100,000 of which have been produced in the last 15 years, since the launch of the Continental GT, and I can pretty much guarantee that there are not many doubles, in exactly the same colour, with the same hide options and features. That said, the new level of personalisation will come from digital and through the services we can offer.”
Indeed, this intention is clearly a main feature of the EXP 100 GT. The Bentley Personal Assistant is a centre piece of the main console, designed to deliver highly personalised experiences to its passengers. Intelligent, Adaptable Biometric Seating can be configured in three different ways, depending on whether the owner is driving or using autonomous mode. Biometric sensors monitor temperature, passenger position and environmental conditions. Bentley Personal Assistant pre-empts passenger needs and can even maximise comfort based on its knowledge of its owner. For example, reactive seat surfaces respond to passenger position during driving, automatically offering more support when the need is sensed.
The car records travel journeys and even captures scents from the outside, building a memory of experiences that can be played at any time. A future that understands the power of nostalgia… uhm, dangerously attractive. Of course we don’t know if this car will every happen, but what Hallmark, Sielaff and the rest of the team at Bentley have proved with this concept vehicle is that design and engineering in Britain are alive and kicking, and that the best minds in the industry are aware of the challenges presented to the future of private transportation, and are working on them.
In fact, Bentley are regenerating the total product range of the company, as confirmed by Hallmark: “We are electrifying every one of our nameplates, every one of our models, with plug-in hybrids within the next three years and within five years, we will launch our first solar battery electric vehicle.”
But what happens to all the die-hard petrol engine lovers? Hallmark believes that there is space for them for at least quite some time. “We are not stopping anything we currently do. We will continue our traditional business model. Our traditional customers will help us make our cars even better than they are now, and we’ll keep innovating in the existing world for as long as it exists. What we are doing is communicating a second path that gives the customer choice; and the customer will in the end decide. We just have to make the offer.”