How your Bentley car will look in 15 years' time

How your Bentley car will look in 15 years' time


Blue-blooded British brand Bentley turns 100 this year, and it’s celebrating its centenary by giving itself a gift: the most extraordinary, extravagant concept car it has ever made.

The Bentley EXP100GT is a vision of how a Bentley might look in 2035, and it makes its public debut this weekend at the elite Pebble Beach car show in California.

It’s powered by FOUR electric motors, one for each wheel, which together produce 1,340 horsepower – about 1.5 times as much as a Formula 1 car. 

Long on luxury: The 20ft Bentley EXP100GT revealed at the firm's Crewe HQ

Long on luxury: The 20ft Bentley EXP100GT revealed at the firm’s Crewe HQ

Together they rocket this two-ton luxury super-coupé to the national speed limit in just 2.5 seconds.

Although it’s a two-door, at nearly 20ft long it’s the same length as Bentley’s longest limo, and has as much space inside. 

The doors alone are 6ft long and swivel out and up for maximum kerbside theatre. Once open, the tips of the doors stand 18ft high – so don’t go parking yours in the local multi-storey car park.

Not that owners and their lucky passengers will have much to think about once aboard. They won’t even have to share the cabin with a chauffeur, as the EXP100 can drive autonomously.

And instead of Parker, future Bentleys will give you Jeeves – the Bentley Personal Assistant, an in-car butler powered by artificial intelligence. 

Like the best butlers, it anticipates its master’s needs, changing the car’s lighting, sound, seating configuration and driving mode based on the owner’s previous preferences, or in response to a gesture or even a change in blood pressure.

Futuristic: The concept car will be unveiled to the public at the Pebble Beach car show in California

Futuristic: The concept car will be unveiled to the public at the Pebble Beach car show in California

It can dim the lights, darken the glass and erect a screen at the front for movies, alter the contours of your seat to support you as you shift position, and even deliver items into the cabin from storage under the bonnet.

In a bid to win over today’s environmentally aware twentysomethings who might be able to afford a Bentley by 2035, the EXP100 majors on sustainability in its fabulously luxurious cockpit. 

It uses a leather-like material made from a by-product of wine-making, and the pigment in the paint is made from recycled rice husks.

If the tech aboard the EXP100 seems far-fetched, it all draws on systems currently being developed by Bentley or its parent company, the Volkswagen Group. 

The first electrified Bentley – a hybrid version of the Bentayga SUV – is just about to go on sale.

Powered by an electric motor and the smallest engine ever fitted to a Bentley, it gets around the restrictions that many global cities are likely to impose on cars with conventional engines: a real threat to Bentley, whose cars are often used as luxurious, chauffeur-driven city-centre transport for the super-wealthy.

Concept: How the interior of the car is expected to look

Concept: How the interior of the car is expected to look

Bentley boss Adrian Hallmark has committed to offering a hybrid version of every Bentley model by 2025. He also wants to build a fully electric Bentley by then.

With more than 4,000 staff employed at its Crewe HQ and sales up tenfold over the past 15 years to more than 10,000 each year, Bentley is in good health and will almost certainly be around in 2035 to build the EXP100. But over the course of its first century, its future wasn’t always so assured.

The marque was founded in 1919 by engineer W. O. Bentley. Then aged just 31, he’d already been awarded an MBE and £8,000 in recognition of his wartime work on aero engines, money which he used to found his company.

His cars were adopted by the Bentley Boys, a London-based group of playboys, racers, war heroes and adventurers led by Woolf ‘Babe’ Barnato, whose family made its vast fortune in South African gold and diamond mining. 

Their exploits – most famously winning the Le Mans 24-hour race five times between 1924 and 1930 – forged Bentley’s sporting reputation, which remains to this day.

‘I don’t think many companies can have built up during such a short period a comparable font of legend and myth, story and anecdote,’ W. O. said. 

‘The company’s activities attracted the public’s fancy and added a touch of colour, of vicarious glamour and excitement to drab lives.’

That glamour and excitement couldn’t save Bentley from the Great Depression. It folded and was bought by Rolls-Royce in 1931, remaining in Rolls’ ownership until 1998. By the 1980s they were just rebadged Rolls-Royces and accounted for just five per cent of combined sales.

The marque almost died, but in 1998 Volkswagen bought it and began its transformation. 

The Continental GT it launched in 2003 was the most important car in Bentley’s history. 

Its combination of huge power and speed, a hand-made cabin, practical two-door, four-seat coupé body and an easy-to-drive automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive proved hugely popular.

It stayed in production for 14 years and more than 70,000 were sold, making Bentley a viable independent car-maker again. The new generation of Continental was launched in 2017 to huge acclaim.

Hallmark has warned of the risk a No Deal Brexit poses to Bentley, which relies heavily on exports, especially to the US and China. Brexit may force parent company Volkswagen to shift some Bentley production to factories in Europe.

But as it begins its second century, there’s little doubt that this most British of brands will still be here to build the EXP100 – or something very like it – in 2035.

Key cars in a 100-year history

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1930 Bentley Blower 

Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin was a former fighter ace and a Bentley Boy. In 1929 he commissioned a series of powerful supercharged ‘Blower’ Bentleys which smashed speed records and helped establish Bentley’s sporting reputation.

2002 Bentley State Limousine

Bentley staged a Palace coup in 2002, usurping its former stablemate and now rival Rolls-Royce as the official State Limousine.

Two bespoke Bentleys were presented to the Queen for her Golden Jubilee, and remain in service. Bentley’s sales have surged in China, and dealers there report that the Royal association has been central to its appeal.

2019 Bentley Bentayga hybrid

Launched in 2015, the Bentayga was Bentley’s first SUV and was hugely controversial with traditionalists. But with the world abandoning saloons for SUVs, it has become Bentley’s biggest-selling model.

The new £130,500 model will introduce another first for Bentley with the arrival of its first hybrid powertrain, which mates a 3.0-litre V6 engine to an electric motor.

 

  

 

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