Even if Bentley’s 99th year was not its best — the launch of the Continental was delayed in major markets due to production-related problems — the luxury British carmaker is much more sanguine about its 100th year, and saw fit to celebrate by giving itself a truly momentous gift. The EXP 100 GT, unveiled on Bentley’s birthday in July, is not just a car but a physical embodiment of the brand’s future, setting the benchmark for sustainable luxury mobility that is autonomous, electric and absolutely beautiful.
An all-electric platform is an unlikely route a company like Bentley would take, but Chris Craft — Bentley’s board member for sales and marketing — explains it perfectly: “For us, celebrating our centenary is a huge thing. The world is changing so fast, so we thought it was enormously important to start our second century with a vision of the future. We can say what we see the future to be like, but as a car company, there’s no better way to express our vision than to actually develop a tangible vehicle like this. And while this is purely a concept car, the elements of design within it and its approach to craftsmanship and technology will be seen in our future vehicles.”
The EXP 100 GT was launched in Bentley’s historic home of Crewe, England, by chairman and CEO Adrian Hallmark and director of design Stefan Sielaff after touring its factory with a global coterie of journalists — a subtle reminder of Bentley’s unwavering standards when it comes to manufacturing and artisanal craftsmanship. This concept car was developed on-site in Crewe, where the team could continually look to the living principles that define the brand’s DNA.
Indeed, as utterly modern as the new car is, its design is still very Bentley — and this was exactly the intention. The famous R-Type Continental haunch at the rear, the round headlights that overlap the grille in a nod to the famous Bentley Blower and a long graceful body hint at notable models of yesteryear, but the lightweight aluminium and carbon fibre body, that is 5.8m long and almost 2.4m wide is most emphatically a statement on futuristic luxury.
“The EXP 100 GT is very clearly a Bentley in terms of current design, but it also represents our future in design,” Craft adds. “There are technologies in it that we absolutely see as part of our future and the development of our craftsmanship. As you know, this is a huge part of what we have delivered over the years — skilled artisans doing amazing things with wood and leather, and here, we take it to a new level by bringing in new, sustainable materials. For example, some of the leather we are using is actually a textile that is a by-product of winemaking. This is part of the future of our craftsmanship.”
Designed from the inside out and taking advantage of an all-electric platform, the EXP 100 GT attempts to re-imagine the Grand Tourer for the world of 2035. This is a reality of shared luxury where passenger and driver can equally enjoy their extraordinary journeys. The car’s presence and impressive exterior are reminiscent of Bentley’s many historic Grand Tourers, but take these luxury hallmarks into the future. The result is a vision commensurate with Bentley’s status as the world’s most sought-after luxury brand.
The carefully sculpted cabin is luxuriously tactile, and creates a harmonious environment designed for its passengers’ well-being. This is seamlessly integrated with the unique artificial intelligence, known as the Bentley Personal Assistant, which helps the car’s occupants enhance and curate their Grand Tour experiences.
Sustainable innovation is also at the heart of the Bentley EXP 100 GT adventure. The car is engineered for greater awareness of the world with a collection of materials, including 5,000-year-old copper-infused riverwood; compass exterior paint made from recycled rice husks; 100% organic leather-like textile from winemaking; British-farmed wool carpets and embroidered cotton interior surfaces that ensure sustainable future luxury, adding to the enhanced reality of the grand touring car of the future.
The futuristic EXP 100 GT challenges convention in a unique way, suggesting that the old-fashioned notion of luxury is just that — an outdated way of viewing something rare and desirable. The danger is in alienating Bentley’s existing customer base, who may not like this heady, electric, autonomous two-door car and instead prefer a petrol-powered car where they have full control in the driver’s seat. Craft addresses this valid question with diplomatic elegance.
“Part of Bentley’s future is absolutely to embrace and engage with new customers as well as looking after our existing ones. Luxury in the past meant authenticity with a real story, rarity, beautiful design that people can engage with emotionally and phenomenal quality. That will stand for luxury in the future as well, but as you move forward, luxury is not simply about owning beautiful things but about
being experiential. A big part of it is about sustainability in all aspects, as more and more buyers become value-driven and will choose brands that they have an affinity with.”
An extraordinary step towards a carbon-free future, the EXP 100 GT does not miss out on providing a superlative driving experience. Next Generation Traction Drive will enable maximum control via torque vectoring with 50% increased power and 35% less mass for more effective cornering. The battery system will power four motors that offer a 0-100kph time of less than 2.5 seconds, a top speed of 300kph and a maximum torque of 1,500Nm — it is a shame we could not put this to the test ourselves.
Range is always a concern with electric cars, but Bentley has this sorted with a futuristic battery technology offering five times the conventional energy density capable of charging the car up to 80% capacity in 15 minutes. As its weight is a remarkably trim 1,900kg, a range of 700km is possible. That is equivalent to driving from KL to Kuantan on a single charge, which is pretty impressive.
You might never see the EXP 100 GT on our highways, but this manual of the future for Bentley will dictate the direction of its other models so it is not a bad idea to see for yourself what it can do. To that end, the Bentley 100 AR augmented- reality experience (at present only available on Apple devices) enables a leisurely exploration of the new Bentley EXP 100 GT. And at selected Bentley retailers around the world — including KL come October — you can even interact with a virtual, full-scale version of the car.
While it is true that no one can accurately predict the future, we do think Bentley is pretty much on the ball in its approach to imagining the car of tomorrow.
This article first appeared on Sept 23, 2019 in The Edge Malaysia.