Bentley has long prided itself on making luxury cars that are a thrill to drive, but to celebrate its 100th birthday it has revealed an electric grand tourer that could pilot itself.
In a vision of the future, the iconic British car maker unveiled the experimental EXP 100 GT today, with astonishing driver and passenger doors that are two metres wide and pivot outwards and upwards like Bentley’s flying wing logo.
The concept looks ahead 16 years to the year 2035, when the intelligent zero-emissions car will have an on-board digital personal assistant to care for the occupants’ health and well-being, as well as do their driving if they wish.
Ray Massey meets Bentley’s experimental EXP 100 GT concept, which was unveiled today to celebrate its 100th birthday
With a predicted range of range of 435 miles, a top speed of 186mph and acceleration from 0 to 60mph in under 2.5 seconds, Bentley describes the electric-powered coupe as a ‘fully-autonomous car that can be driven when one wishes to enjoy the thrill of driving.’
It will also drive you and look after your wellbeing if asked.
The car will check your blood pressure and even arrange the air conditioning and natural light to help prevent car-sickness, says Bentley.
The smart luxury sports cruiser is to be the highlight of its centenary celebrations, as Bentley seeks to kickstart its next 100 years, with an aim to give future owners ‘the thrill of driving or being driven autonomously’.
The new grand tourer prototype car was unveiled today, on July 10, the exact day on which founder, engineer Walter Owen ‘W.O’ Bentley, created the firm that bears his name to this day.
It carries the letters EXP for experimental – a name which has adorned some of the earliest pioneering Bentleys.
The smart luxury sports cruiser is to be the highlight of Bentley’s centenary celebrations – and provide a vision of what its cars could look like in 2035
The unveiling ceremony took place at the firm’s factory in Crewe, which employs 4,000 people and is to be the culmination of a series of celebrations taking place throughout the year.
The firm, owned by motoring giant Volkswagen Group since 1998, said the new car was ‘a physical embodiment of the future Bentley brand’ and ‘an inspiring blend of performance, technology and craftsmanship’ drawing on its century of experience.
Bentley chairman and CEO Adrian Hallmark, said: ‘Today, on our Centenary, we demonstrate our vision of the future of our marque, with the Bentley EXP 100 GT – a modern and definitive grand tourer designed to demonstrate that the future of luxury mobility is as inspirational and aspirational as the last 100 years.’
Driver and passenger doors are two metres wide and pivot outwards and upwards like Bentley’s flying wing logo
Bentley said its founder, W.O, created a company with a simple objective in 1919, which was to build: ‘a fast car, a good car, the best in its class’.
A spokesman said: ‘This guiding principle has driven Bentley ever since.’
The EXP 100 GT theoretically represents a future vision of Bentley’s current Continental GT, a new generation of which was launched to widespread acclaim last year.
As with any Bentley, the interior is luxurious: Dashboard touch-points are made from Cumbrian crystal, while carpets are made of British farmed wool
The Continental GT was launched by the firm in 2003 and has been a huge sales success, with almost 66,000 sold between its arrival and refresh last year.
The current car comes with the choice of a 6.0 litre W12 engine or a new ‘more economical’ 4.0 litre V8 engine and combines high levels of luxury with serious power and pace.
Bosses have already announced that Bentley’s future will be electric – pledging an electrified hybrid option for every car in its range by 2023, with its first pure electric car by 2025.
Intricately stitched cotton interior surfaces and door panels have been created by London-based embroidery company Hand and Lock, while the seats are an organic, leather-like material created from the bi-product of wine making
For Bentley buyers, time is money and the aim is for the EXP 100 GT to recharge to 80 per cent capacity in 15 minutes.
The firm says the EXP 100 GT’s exterior is made from lightweight aluminium and carbon fibre and projects the spirit of many historic Bentley grand tourers into the future.
The sleek and muscular exterior points to Bentley’s future design direction, including a nod to the legendary R-Type Continental haunch at the rear, and round headlights overlapping the grille that emulate the famous supercharged Bentley ‘Blower’ of the 1920s and 30s.
The firm says the EXP 100 GT’s exterior is made from lightweight aluminium and carbon fibre, with weight saving going towards offsetting the heft of a battery
Today’s Bentley Continental GT is powered by a W12 or V8 petrol engine – the EXP 100 GT is a vision of a similar car but electric 16 years in the future
Inside, the car is designed to be as luxurious as you would expect a Bentley to be.
Touches include 5,000-year-old ‘copper infused’ Riverwood from fallen trees preserved in peat-bogs, lakes and rivers.
An organic leather-like textile for the seats is created from the bi-product of wine making, dashboard touch-points are made from Cumbrian crystal, carpets are made of British farmed wool, and intricately stitched cotton interior surfaces and door panels have been created by London-based embroidery company Hand and Lock, which employs traditional techniques dating back to 1767 and used on Royal and Military Dress uniforms.
Bridge of Weir Leather of Scotland has used locally sourced hides to create a soft, natural leather.
The Bentley features a glass roof that leads into the scissor doors and a new autumnal exterior paint called Compass is made from recycled rice husks that reduces what goes to landfill
A new autumnal exterior paint called Compass is made from recycled rice husks that reduces what goes to landfill.
Decorative features crafted from copper and aluminium evoke founder and engineer W.O Bentley’s choice of materials to create the alloy for his BR1 Aero engine piston that played a major role in aviation during World War 1.
It has dynamic exterior lighting which ‘comes to life’ when the owner approaches the car by illuminating the matrix grille and Flying B bonnet mascot and runs along the bonnet central spine of the car and into the cabin itself.
At the rear, a horseshoe section of the boot includes a 3D digital screen on which lighting effects can blend in with the rear lamps.
Bentley’s plans for the near future, as well as 100 years
Bentley chief executive Adrian Hallmark has set out a five point plan to secure its future in its second century – as well as an action plan in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Having steadied the ship after a ‘perfect storm’ last year, he has rationalised product line-up and factory production.
He is now going for growth, looking to make 2019 a record year of more than 11,000 vehicles but to aim for 15,000 a year.
Keeping the next generation cars compliant with tough new EU7 emissions levels from January 23 will be a major challenge.
But the drive towards electrification has begun with a new plug-in hybrid Bentayga 4X4 and the aim is to the choice on every car by 2023, with a pure electric car two years later.
‘When we do it, it will be a world beater,’ he says.