Bentley EXP 100 GT imagines driving in the year 2035
The future of cars is a hot topic these days. As the traditional auto world addresses some fundamental questions of its validity in the next chapter of mobility, the luxury makers are simultaneously gauging their place in this unknown world. The EXP 100 GT does just this. Bentley’s latest conceptual study celebrates the marque’s centenary whilst speculating its future. It forms an engaging dialogue for the company in the age of clean, autonomous driving.
The EXP 100 GT is a Bentley grand tourer for an imaginary world of 2035. It is all-electric, and can be driven or self-drive. ‘It represents the kind of cars we want to make in the future,’ says Bentley’s Stefan Sielaff. The company’s director of design explains that he feels Bentley cars will always want to be driven – his job is to provide the option. ‘With this car, our customers can be autonomously driven, and then when they get out of the city, they can experience the thrill of driving. It is about being given the freedom to decide. That’s true luxury.’
The EPX 100 GT is long, very long. Its feline form is an impressive 5.8 metres in length and 2.4-metre width. The distinctive rear haunch is informed by the evocative 1950s R-Type Continental, and the Bentley Blower racing car has inspired the round headlights overlapping the grille. Then the copper and aluminium elements, we are told, are a nod to the company founder, the engineer W.O Bentley who chose such materials to create the alloy for his World War One BR1 Aero engine piston.
So far, the story follows a classic motor car design theme. It is conceptually and materially where the EPX 100 really makes a distinctive statement. Despite its size, the car is relatively light due to the extensive use of aluminium and carbon fibre for the exterior structure. Copper replaces the traditional chrome for the decorative elements inside and out. Sielaff feels that it makes complete sense to use this sustainable material instead of the much less ecologically friendly chrome. He muses, ‘in the future, I want to leave the copper to breathe as the patina itself will become part of the story.’
The team have also approached lighting in a new way. For this, Bentley worked with light artist Moritz Waldemeyer who approached the project from a non-automotive perspective theatrically, so the illumination starts at the matrix grille and flying B mascot, works its way along the central spine of the car and into the cabin itself. The ‘horseshoe’ section of the boot features a three-dimensional OLED screen, which Sielaff says will be a technical possibility soon, on which lighting blends in with the rear lamps. Waldemeyer’s lighting also helps emphasise the warm greens in the exterior colour, describing it as a hugely technical project given the sheer number of lights he had to manipulate.
The exterior paint, Compass, is made from recycled rice husk ash, an industrial by-product that would normally end up in landfills. The cabin also offers an insight into how the car industry can work with sustainable materials that are new to luxury motoring, including 5,000-year-old copper infused ‘river wood’ (recovered from the bottom of peat bogs), natural leather with a light aniline preparation of only 2 per cent pigment spray, and a textile derived from the surplus grapes and branches left over from winemaking yet still offers the feel of leather. The infotainment interface is made from Cumbria Crystal, the embroidered cotton interior surfaces use the old quilting trapunto method for irregular raised areas, and the wool carpets are sourced from local farms. Sielaff believes there is so much that the world of luxury design can do to champion sustainability. ‘We will focus on finding materials that are sourced locally. I see craftsmanship as a counterbalance to the digital world, and natural materials create more of a warm, lounge feeling.’
The interior focus is on the occupants’ wellbeing, a sanctuary for working and relaxing, so every surface you see, smell and touch is considered, crafted to be soft and tactile. It also smells incredible. Working with perfumery 12.29, Bentley has developed a unique scent for this car – a subtle blend of sandalwood and fresh moss. Interior light is harvested through the glass roof embedded with prisms to collect light and transfer it into the cabin using fibre optics. Air quality is constantly monitored too, with a purification system in the boot cleaning the air before it enters the cabin.
There is an AI personal assistant on-board this Bentley to take care of all your needs, including battery charging. It is controlled through the illuminated crystal centre piece and will respond to hand gestures towards the interface to intuitively interpret your commands. It can also anticipate passenger needs and configure the seating layout to complement the driving or autonomous position. The reactive seat surfaces respond to your position during driving, automatically offering more support when the need is sensed. Biometric sensors, embedded throughout the car, track eye and head movements, even blood pressure, and adjust your position depending on whether you’re driving or using the autonomous mode.
‘The EXP 100 GT is a canvas for what makes the future of luxury,’ says Sielaff. ’The whole subject around sustainability and social responsibility will be a poster for Bentley. Without forgetting our heritage of craft, this concept will push us to generate a more modern design language.’ §