10th July 1929 was the day Walter Owen ‘W. O.” Bentley founded the company that still bears his name. Bentley has always been renowned for the single-minded purity of design and purpose of their Coupes, so it came as no surprise that the 100th Anniversary concept car that reimagines the Bentley Grand Touring car in 2035 is a Coupe.
Dubbed the EXP 100 GT, this bold and elegant design is both forward and backward looking at the same time. It is forward looking in its state-of-the-art aluminium and carbon-fibre body construction with zero emissions power coming from electric motor at each wheel, SAE Level 4 semi-autonomous driving ability, and an extra spacious cabin accessed through huge doors that pivot outwards and upwards.
At the same time the concept is backward looking in its styling references to glorious Bentley Coupes of the past. “The inspiration for the long tail comes from the 1960s R-Type Continental,” explained Director of Design, Stefan Sielaff.
“Up front the ‘light show’ is a 21st Century re-interpretation of the round headlamps overlapping the grille on the supercharged ‘Blower’ Bentley models of the early 1930s,” he says. “Indeed, the very concept of long distance touring for two in a large and luxurious Coupe hails from that era.”
Although cars of all types have been progressively getting bigger, the EXP 100 GT is a huge car. Measuring 5.8 metres from stem to stern, its 2.4 metre width makes even a Lamborghini Aventador seem modest. Yet thanks to its exquisite proportions and 26-inch diameter wheels that fill the big round arches to their brims this gargantuan Bentley is well proportioned and does not look particularly massive in isolation.
Even the paint colour is unique to this car. Known as Compass, this hue is created from a special Colourstream pigment that shows off a captivating spectrum of autumnal colours. With a nod to ecologically friendly processes the pigment in this paint has been created synthetically using recycled rice husks ash.
These static effects are what we would expect of a current production car. The EXP 100 GT goes a step further and leverages its electrified credentials with some unique features. As the owner approaches the car comes ‘alive’, the dynamic exterior lighting illuminating its matrix grille, the flying B bonnet mascot and the line that runs along the bonnet centre spine and into the cabin.
The two metre long doors are a major talking point. Pivoting outwards and upwards their tips end up three metres in the air for a real sense of drama. The huge openings make access to the spacious cabin incredibly convenient, and reveal the minimalist cabin architecture that results from the autonomous driving technology.
Meanwhile the trim exemplifies the novel use of some revolutionary new sustainable materials that are part and parcel of Bentley’s vision of the future. Romulus Rost, Head of Interior Design explained that the aim was to create a harmonious and luxuriously tactile environment that would contribute to the well-being of the passengers.
“We used sustainable materials like 5,000 year old Copper Infused Riverwood, a 100% organic leather-like textile that is a by-product of wine making, British Farmed Wool carpets and embroidered cotton interior surfaces. An organic compound, the Aniline preparation of 2% pigment spray for the Super Natural leather from Bridge of Weir in Scotland is the lightest ever. Finally, the dashboard touch points are made from Cumbrian crystal.”
Even the glass cabin roof uses cutting edge technologies with prisms embedded in the glass to harvest light from the environment and transfer it to the cabin using fibre optics.
Coming back to the well being of passengers, the Bentley Personal Assistant pre-empts passenger needs and can even maximise comfort based on its knowledge of the owner. Biometrics place throughout the cabin are able to track eye and head movement and even blood pressure.
Bentley’s vision for the near future is dedicated to electric mobility. As CEO Adrian Hallmark explained this begins with a commitment to offering hybrid variants across the whole Bentley range by 2023, followed by their first all-electric model in 2025. This electrification process has already begun with the recent roll out of the Bentayga Plug-In Hybrid.
Projecting the plan forward to 2035, the zero emissions, semi-autonomous driving the EXP 100 GT concept comes with a technical specification based on what the engineers think will be possible with electric powertrains in a handful of years.
By that time batteries will offer five times the current energy density, weigh less, and offer a range of 700km on a full charge. At the same time charging to 80% will take just 15 minutes. That leap in efficiency means that a production EXP 100 GT could weigh around 1,900kg, about 300kg less than today’s Continental GT.
Driven by a motor at each wheel, the system creates a staggering 1,500Nm of torque, able to thrust the car to 100km/h in just 2.5 seconds and on to 300km/h. Handling is looked after by the Next Generation Traction Drive that offers torque vectoring for optimum control.
In its Anniversary year, taking the Pikes Peak class records with the Bentagya and the Continental GT are the icing on a very rich 100th Anniversary cake for Bentley. Now the EXP 100 GT is a snapshot of their future, a heady cocktail of extreme luxury mixed with extreme technology, always aiming to be the best.