On a gorgeous summer’s day in July, luxury British carmaker Bentley unveiled its centenary birthday present to itself — the all-electric EXP 100 GT, which explores how a grand touring car might look like in 2035. The sun shone like a blessing — not an over-dramatisation, considering England’s unpredictable weather — on the company’s historic Pyms Lane facility in the small railway town of Crewe, as CEO Adrian Hallmark proudly introduced the star of its celebrations.
“It is born from our DNA and inspired by our customers and it delivers a physical and digital vision of the future,” Hallmark said at the event. “It is a car that enables the most extraordinary journeys.”
As modern as the new vehicle is, it is very much tied to founder Walter Owen Bentley’s objectives when he established the marque in 1919 — to build “a fast car, a good car, the best in its class”. From modest beginnings in North London, Bentley has gone from strength to strength in a relentless pursuit of both luxury and performance. Earning its place in the racing world, its victories at France’s Le Mans in the 1920s echoed around the world, and reverberated once again in the 21st century. Continually guided by WO’s (as he is fondly remembered) elegantly simple principles, Bentley remains the definitive British luxury car company, crafting the world’s most desirable high-performance grand tourers.
“It’s true that British carmaking has gripped the global imagination and British luxury brands like Bentley have done so in particular,” Hallmark agreed. “And for good reason! British luxury car craftsmanship is second to none and as the Bentley EXP 100 GT shows, the understanding of how to bring luxury car design into the future continues to reside in the UK with Bentley.”
I smiled at his reference to the new EXP 100 GT, which was all Hallmark could talk about — and understandably so.
An electric car may not seem like the direction anyone would have expected a traditional brand like Bentley to pursue, but research indicates that customers are more than ready for it. One imagines that issues such as the 2015 emission scandal have made car owners look more closely at the way mobility affects the planet, inspiring them to ask manufacturers much tougher questions. “I think what we have seen over the past four years is the demand for alternative powertrains, namely electrification, increasing,” said Hallmark. “And we are in a good position to respond to that and accelerate our journey towards electrification, starting this year with the Bentayga Hybrid, followed by every model by 2023.”
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