Bentley is celebrating its 100th birthday, but instead of looking back on the past, the venerable British automaker is looking ahead to the future — specifically the year 2035. Bentley’s birthday gift to itself, the all-electric EXP 100 GT concept, is supposed to represent what luxury cars will look like at that point, which is also exactly 10 years after Bentley plans to launch its first production electric car.
It may have been built to represent the future, but the Bentley EXP 100 GT looks like it belongs on the cover of a Steampunk novel. The round headlights and massive grille give it an antique look, as does the smattering of copper trim. The use of copper trim, along with aluminum, is a reference to founder W.O. Bentley’s BR.1 aircraft engine from World War I, according to Bentley. The main structure and body of the car are made from a mix of aluminum and carbon fiber. The EXP 100 GT also features “active aero wheels” that can adjust to emphasize efficiency or performance, as well as “intelligent tires” that can automatically adapt their tread patterns to different road conditions, according to Bentley, although it’s unclear how those features are supposed to work.
The car itself is massive. At 5.8 meters long (19.0 feet) and 2.4 meters (7.8 feet) wide, the two-door EXP 100 GT is longer and wider than a Chevrolet Suburban, and positively dwarfs the current Bentley Continental GT coupe. The doors pivot outwards and upwards, something one would normally expect to see on a supercar, not a stately luxury coupe. They stand almost 3.0 meters (9.8 feet) tall when fully opened. Tesla and other automakers use the space normally occupied by an engine as a second trunk, but Bentley would never do anything so pedestrian. That space houses a water decanter and crystal glasses for the driver and front passenger.
Under the skin, the EXP 100 GT sports four electric motors churning out a combined 1,106 pound-feet of torque (Bentley didn’t quote a horsepower figure). The massive coupe will do zero to 60 mph in less than 2.5 seconds, and reach a top speed of 186 mph, according to Bentley. In the year 2035, batteries will also offer five times the energy density of current lithium-ion batteries, Bentley believes. That ability to cram more electricity into a given volume will give the EXP 100 GT a range of 435 miles per charge, with the capability to recharge to 80 percent in just 15 minutes, according to Bentley. The EXP 100 GT was also designed to be “optionally autonomous,” allowing the driver to choose when to take the wheel, and when to let the computers do the work.
Bentley wanted its emphasis on sustainability to extend beyond the EXP 100 GT’s electric powertrain. The concept car’s paint is made from recycled rice husks, while the wood trim comes from 5,000-year-old, naturally fallen trees preserved in peat bogs, lakes, and rivers. Bentley also used byproducts from winemaking to create an organic leather alternative.
The interior isn’t just nice to look at. The seats use biometric sensors to automatically find the most comfortable position, and the car is capable of tracking occupants’ eye movement and blood pressure to detect signs of discomfort. A digital assistant uses this data to automatically make changes to cabin settings, like a virtual butler. It can even set the onboard air purification system to let in specific smells from the outside.
The Bentley EXP 100 GT concept isn’t intended for production, and some of its more outlandish features will likely remain the stuff of automaker press releases. But Bentley is moving toward electrification. Starting with the Bentayga SUV, Bentley plans to add a hybrid powertrain to every model by 2023. The first all-electric Bentley production car will follow in 2025.
Updated on July 10, 2019: Added photos and details of the Bentley EXP 100 GT concept.