Today is Bentley's 100th birthday, so first of all, happy birthday to all who are connected to the storied brand. Sing the song, have two slices of cake, crack open the bottle, the lot! As part of the celebrations, we went to Crewe to see the new EXP 100 GT, a futuristic concept car previewing Bentley's vision for the ultimate grand tourer of 2035.
Right now, walking around the Mulsanne section of Bentley's 1946 factory in Crewe, England, you can still find stacks of wood logs, and a copy of 1974's Woodworking Machines Regulations, perhaps received a touch late in 1995:
Next door, you'll find this extremely long electric car:
The EXP 100 GT is a battery-electric vehicle with four motors enabling torque vectoring to make the most of the system's peak torque output of 1100 lb-ft. These motors allow for a zero-to-sixty mph run of 2.5 seconds, and a top speed of 186 mph. A horsepower figure hasn't been given yet.
The claimed range is 435 miles, which comes from batteries that Bentley says are five times more energy-dense compared to what's available today. They can be charged to 80 percent full in just 15 minutes, too. All this, active suspension and more in a car that's weighs 4188 lbs—a seemingly unlikely figure given how the current Continental GT is a near 5000-pound affair. Yet according to Bentley, by 2035, it shouldn't be impossible.
Of course the EXP 100 GT is purely a show car, with a wheelbase close to 120 inches, sustainable materials inside and out, a fully illuminated matrix grille, and the type of pivoting doors you've probably seen before from one of the Italian design houses, or the French at one of their Paris Motor Show displays.
So, are we just looking at a fancy birthday cake on wheels? Hardly!
Bentley Head of Exterior Design, John-Paul Gregory, pointed out to us how the design team rarely gets the opportunity to create pure show cars, as their previous concepts were all production-intended. He also believes Bentley's design language will take larger steps forward in the future, building on the success of the Continental and the new Flying Spur.
This 19-foot long, 7.9-foot wide giant painted with pigments made from recycled rice husk ash, is all about the details. The re-imagined Bentley headlights, grille and mascot. The combination of aluminum and copper on the body. How the car plays with light inside and out, with a large glass roof and fiber optics. And then the other features of the cabin, which is comfortable for four, layered with wool and an organic leather-like textile sourced from wine making, bits of "5000-year-old copper-infused riverwood," according to Bentley's press release.
Above those "active aero wheels," the EXP 100 GT is also ready to take a fuel-cell hybrid powertrain, which should give it over 670 emission-free horsepower. Bentley's Engineering Director, Werner Tietz told us that while a Continental could be small enough to become battery-only, larger vehicles will demand fuel-cell technology, something the VW Group is certainly looking into. But he also added that we can't guess what the best propulsion solution will be in 15 years. If there's a major breakthrough in battery technology, fuel cells might run into a dead-end. And the opposite could be true.
What's for sure is that Bentley will take a progressive approach, choosing the best technologies available to ensure its journey never stops, remaining as enjoyable as it has been for the last hundred years.