The huge Bentley EXP 100 GT is an all-electric limo that’s been designed to showcase the British brand’s future tech
This is the Bentley EXP 100 GT, a spectacular birthday present from the British brand to itself to mark its centenary – but also a look ahead to techniques and technologies that could be introduced over the next 15 years.
The EXP 100 GT is an ultra-luxurious, pure-electric grand tourer that’s designed to show how Bentley’s approach to ‘enjoying travel’ would still be relevant in 2035. At 5.8 metres in length, the car is considerably longer than the current Mulsanne. But the concept’s roofline is no higher than that of the current Continental GT.
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The show car’s proportions reflect the fact that it is conceived as an electric vehicle. It has a shorter bonnet than is the norm on combustion-engined Bentleys, and the window line sits further forwards as a result. The cabin area is dominated by the vast, two metre-long scissor doors, which open upwards and incorporate a section of the roof to make it easier to get in and out of the vehicle.
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The side profile’s defining point probably comes after the door, where there’s a rakish rear screen and then a gloriously long tail. Bentley’s head of exterior design, JP Gregory, told us that are were subtle references to classic models. “The car takes a bit of concept license,” he said, “but there’s a little of the Type R Continental of the fifties. As a group, we took the decision to create a car that showed what makes us who we are, but also reflects on what type of brand we want to be in the future.”
There are significant developments in Bentley’s design approach at the front – where the double headlights have been replaced by single items. Again, though, the overall look is one that does make a subtle reference to earlier models. “If you look head on at the front,” Morgan said, “then the way the two headlights merge into the frame of the grille is not unlike how it used to look on Bentleys from the 1930s, with their two big Lucas lamps.”
The grille is a closed item, thanks to the electric powertrain, and Bentley has used this to experiment with lighting that could play a role if, as intended, the car were able to run in autonomous modes. The rear, meanwhile, eschews all of Bentley’s current ‘double-B’ tail-light design for a slimmer yet more complex motif.
Bentley EXP 100 GT: interior of the future
The car’s cabin is designed to operate in three different layouts. By default the EXP 100 GT is a two-seater with autonomous capability, so the steering wheel is housed out of sight in the bulkhead and the two main seats are sited far back in the cabin, allowing both occupants to lounge in comfort.
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Should the driver want to take the wheel, their seat will move forward to within arm’s reach of the steering wheel as it glides out of its storage area – and this will free space for a fold-down seat to be used behind. A further, fourth seat can be accessed by moving the front passenger seat forwards.
Inside, Bentley’s team of material specialists has used the EXP 100 GT to showcase potential future developments in trim. There’s a new, more natural leather developed in conjunction with Bridge of Weir, and organic ‘vegan leather’ derived from grape skins that would otherwise be discarded after wine production in Italy.
The door panels feature a type of embroidered cotton produced by Gainsborough Silk, a company with more than a century of experience in fabric production – and further stitchwork from Hand and Lock, the London-based firm that has produced royal and military dress uniforms since 1767. The cabin also features crystal produced in Cumbria and carpets made from British-farmed wool.
One of the most spectacular finishes in the cabin is called Fenland Oak – 5,000-year-old wood salvaged from long-covered river beds in Cambridgeshire, then treated with copper before more than a dozen sandings. It features in the oversized centre console, and designers have also blended it intricately with metal and fabric in the doors and the D-pillars.
The cabin features a cartridge system – stored in the space previously used by the combustion engine – which allows a selection of items to be pre-installed by the vehicle’s owners (or, more likely, their personal assistants). They then slide through the bulkhead into the centre console when required. Bentley says these units could include everything from food and drink to work equipment or technology tools such as VR headsets.
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The EXP 100 GT’s air purification/filtration and heating/ventilation system is based at the rear of the cabin – and vents will rise out of the panel below the tailgate glass to cool or warm the cabin. Bentley’s interior design director, Brett Boydell, told us, “We said to Stefan Sielaff (Bentley’s overall design director] that this car would have the cleanest cabin air of any vehicle in history. And he said, ‘Really? But how will I know? I want to see it.’ So we’ve made a feature of the heating and ventilation system; it’ll move up and down as required.”
The car tries to blend some of Bentley’s traditional techniques with cutting-edge materials and, crucially, technology – particularly in the area of lighting. The car has more than 100,000 LEDs and Bentley’s UX boss, David Leary, told Auto Express that integrating these features required a different approach during the EXP 100 GT’s 18-month development. “Often with a concept, the design team creates it and then hands it over to sales and marketing,” he said. “That simply wasn’t possible here because we wanted every department to have input – not just design and engineering, but also those with digital craftsmanship.”
Bentley EXP 100 GT: personal assistant
Bentley envisages the car having a ‘personal assistant’ – represented by a crystal ornament in the dashboard – that can not only provide information, but also help customers to recreate key moments of their ownership experience. Leary told us, “There are ways in which the car could play with your sense to bring back memories you’ve ‘recorded’. It’s electric, so there’s no engine noise to compete with; you could have birdsong recorded during a country drive piped in when you’re in a city environment. Or lights, images or movies played to you.”
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The concept isn’t based on an existing VW Group platform but Bentley has outlined some theoretical technical specs. It claims the EXP 100 GT will be made from a mixture of aluminium and carbon-fibre, and use solid-state batteries, helping to keep the car’s weight at less than two tonnes while delivering a range of 435 miles. Fast charging could replenish 80 per cent of charge within 15 minutes.
Bentley also claims the car would have four electric motors for maximum torque of 1,500Nm – enough for a 0-60mph time of less than 2.5 seconds and a top speed of 186mph.
There are no immediate plans to put the EXP 100 GT into production. But Bentley sources suggest that existing customer feedback to some of the exterior styling ideas could result in them being adopted, at least in part, before the theoretical 2035 production date of the concept. And some of the interior treatments could conceivably be rolled out to Bentley’s clients long before that time frame, via its Mulliner bespoke vehicles division.
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