Cover Image: Bentley

The English marque gave the world a glimpse of how it will be redefining grand touring in the next 100 years with the EXP 100 GT concept car

Bentley officially turned 100 years old in July this year—and that’s one extraordinary century of producing standout luxury grand touring cars and achieving numerous racing successes. The latter began in the 1920s, thanks to the Bentley Boys and Girls, a group of wealthy British motoring enthusiasts who won many races, including Le Mans 24 Hours, in their Bentley motorcars.

To celebrate the milestone, the marque welcomed its partners and select press from the world to its headquarters in Crewe, England, on its big day for a special centenary event and surprise: the unveiling of its ultimate grand touring ride for the next century—the Bentley EXP 100 GT.

The concept car is the result of the marque’s management team asking themselves questions about the future of luxury mobility, grand touring and Bentley itself.

According to Bentley Motors chairman and CEO Adrian Hallmark, these thoughts gave the team an impetus 15 months before the centenary event to develop a revolutionary concept that would reimagine grand touring for the year 2035. The outcome? A truly stunning vision that is all-electric, self-driving, and embraces the rise of sustainability and artificial intelligence.

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Lightweight, sustainable materials used throughout car

Even before you discover its capabilities, the EXP 100 GT captivates with its grandeur and sleek beauty. It measures an incredible 5.8m-long and 2.4m-wide, and features 2m-wide scissor doors that pivot outwards and upwards to a height of nearly 3m. Aluminium and copper—both natural, sustainable materials that were used by founder WO Bentley to produce an alloy for his famous BR1 Aero engine piston found in British aircrafts during World War I—are used throughout the car.

“The idea of grand touring that Bentley has been following for the last 100 years is more than about getting transported from one place to another,” said the marque’s design director Stefan Sielaff in a video created for the centenary event. “It’s an almost romantic idea about having the freedom to sit in the car and enjoy a great experience. With self-driving vehicles especially, you want to feel like you’re in a lounge, so you need space.”

Surprisingly, the car’s behemoth dimensions belie its weight, which is a trim 1,900kg due to the lightweight aluminium and carbon fibre used to construct its body.

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Functional and decorative features

The car also glows, literally. This is due to several factors, including the use of a glossy, eco‑friendly exterior paint made from recycled rice husk ash that reflects autumnal colours. The car’s front also features an illuminated smart matrix grille made from clear acrylic, while the Flying B mascot lights up when the owner approaches, as if the car is a pet that’s happy to see you.

Things are just as brilliant inside in the car. The glass roof is embedded with prisms, whose function goes beyond decorative purposes. They collect natural light from the surrounding environment via fibre optics located on the exterior surface and feed it through light pipes into the low‑light areas within the cabin such as the glove compartment or footwell.

But the star of the cockpit has to be the beaming AI‑driven crystal centre console, which was crafted by renowned British crystalware and glassware producer Cumbria Crystal. Dubbed the Bentley Personal Assistant, it learns passengers’ preferences and adapts the car accordingly. For example, it automatically senses your seating position during a drive and adjusts the seat surface to provide more support where needed.

Futuristic elements

Biometric sensors have also been installed throughout the cabin to monitor everything from environmental conditions and eye and head movements to blood pressure. In fact, the seats, which are also fitted with biometric sensors, can be configured in three different ways, depending on whether the car is in autonomous mode or not. In the latter, for instance, the driver’s seat can swivel to face those in the rear when the steering wheel is retracted.

The Bentley Personal Assistant also operates in five different modes that can be activated using hand gestures made to its front or rear interfaces. Each mode delivers a different passenger experience based on the environment you are travelling through, using a variation of sensors, cameras, AI and augmented reality.

In Enhance mode, for example, the car harvests inputs from the external environment, from sound to smell, and recreates them for its passengers, almost as if they were driving with the top down. 

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The future of luxury travel

The EXP 100 GT marks Bentley’s first foray into the world of fully electric vehicles. For a marque that still uses a 6.0L, W12 petrol engine for its Continental GT, this speaks volumes. In fact, this past June, the marque committed to offering hybrid variants for all of its models by 2023. The announcement came hot on the heels of the debut of its first hybrid model, the plug-in electric Bentayga Hybrid SUV, in 2018.

The fully electric powertrain in the EXP 100 GT promises a thrilling performance. With a battery system that feeds four motors, the car is capable of accelerating from 0 to 100km/h in under 2.5sec. It can also achieve a top speed of 300km/h and an impressive range of 700km. More crucially for time-strapped urbanites, the car’s battery is reportedly able to recharge to 80 per cent capacity in just 15min.  

As Hallmark best put it, “the Bentley EXP 100 GT sends a clear message that we don’t believe that the future of luxury travel is about sitting in soulless white boxes that are autonomous, and driven in a grid system in an Orwellian world. We see the world as colourful, inspirational and exciting, as it is today, and even more so with digital technology allowing new services and experiences to be delivered through a car”.