Bentley celebrates its 100th birthday in grand fashion today, but instead of looking back it's taking a look at what ultra-luxury will mean in the year 2035 – and gettin' kind of weird with it. Much more than just a simple A-to-B shuttle, the autonomous electric EXP 100 GT concept creates experiences to be reveled in, captured, remembered and relived. It combines next-generation artificial intelligence with a 435-mile (700-km) electric drive and rare premium materials like 5,000-year-old copper-infused river wood and organic artificial leather sourced from wineries.
Any old car can get you to and from work, but those who spend six figures on a Bentley expect something more, a rich in-car experience that inspires a little rush every time the driver door unlocks. Bentley doesn't see that changing in the self-driving future and continues to focus on evolving the ultra-premium experience to keep pace with changing technology and preferences. The 19-ft-long (5.8-m) EXP 100 GT uses its futuristic autonomous technology suite to fully engage rather than disengage driver and passengers, creating a richer, more personalized in-car experience than ever before.
Bentley designs its human-focused concept car from the inside out, creating an extravagant interior dressed in superlative sustainables, including naturally felled river wood preserved for thousands of years in peat bogs, lakes and rivers. A 100-percent bio-based synthetic leather derived from wine-making byproducts also features prominently throughout.
Bentley seamlessly intertwines the non-traditional with the traditional, infusing copper mesh into the river wood and concealing edges so that the eco-conscious materials and more classical standards like glass, wood, wool and leather flow naturally together into a three-dimensional collage of contrasting colors and textures.
Another sustainable resource that plays heavily in the EXP 100 GT cabin is natural light. Not only does the glass roof let light cascade through, it uses a series of embedded prisms and optical fibers to redirect that light to specific areas of the cabin, offering a new way for passengers to "bask in sunlight." Artificial ambient lighting picks up for the setting sun, delivering a natural glow, while projection mapping enhances the atmosphere with unique visual effects.
Upon plunging through the EXP 100 GT's massive butterfly doors, the driver and three passengers succumb to the embrace of individual adaptable, biometric seats. These seats monitor passenger position and driving conditions, automatically adjusting and reconfiguring for optimized comfort and support. The seats also work with other biometric sensors to track things like blood pressure and eye and head movements.
Where the EXP 100 GT really takes a step into the future in terms of enriching the onboard experience is via the Bentley Personal Assistant AI, represented by an illuminated hand-cut crystal sourced from Cumbria, England, and relying on a series of hand-gesture sensors as an interface. The system offers a series of five drive modes, starting with an "enhance" mode that floods the cabin with light, air, smells and sounds from the immediate outdoor environment, delivering a more convertible-like grand touring experience. "Cocoon" mode is much the opposite, cutting off the outdoor environment in favor of privacy by darkening the glass and pumping in purified air.
"Capture" mode hits the record button, grabbing both inside and outside footage and splicing it into a personalized grand touring movie. "Relive" mode lets passengers play that personalized footage back, and "customize" mode rounds things off by allowing occupants to handpick their own mix of features from the four other modes.
Other indulgences within the high-tech luxury bubble Bentley calls the EXP 100 GT cabin include a front entertainment display for live video and other media, OLED information screens on the doors, a customized fragrance of sandalwood and moss developed in collaboration with olfactive branding firm 12.29, and a console holding a purified water decanter and crystal glasses – because heaven forbid a Bentley passenger's lips touch anything less than pure crystal. There's even a delivery system to fetch things from the front storage trunk and an AI-powered luxury service system that connects to outside service providers.
If and when EXP 100 GT passengers are able pry themselves out of their ultra-cozy pampered cocoon, they'll remember what a gorgeous car they've been in. Bentley designers do a nice job blending classic Bentley, futuristic luxury and powerful grand touring cues into a dramatic piece of machinery. Like classics of old, the car is unapologetically huge and bold, a confident mesh smirk filling its face clean out to the hot-glowing round eyes. Sharply cut air intakes and precisely pinched hood creases lend to the air of power and confidence.
Directly inspired by the R-Type Continental of the 1950s, the bulging rear haunches give the EXP the profile of a voracious predator about to leap savagely atop its prey, a look helped along by the forward-rushing character lines. At the rear, Bentley gives a geometry lesson with a stretched hexagon standing atop a large trapezoidal vent. A 3D OLED screen assists the thin wraparound taillights in conveying information through light.
Light plays a critical role outside, as it does in. As the owner approaches, the car lights up, starting with the matrix grille, flowing up through the Flying B figurine, then onward over the hood and inside the car. The car essentially comes to life like a loyal puppy greeting its master.
Rather than simply selecting one of the gorgeous colors in its existing palette, Bentley drenches its 100-year concept in a custom-developed "compass" shade. The paint uses a special pigment made from rice husk ash, a harmful byproduct of the rice industry, to open up a range of autumnal colors. Exterior aluminum and copper accents tie the design with Bentley heritage, representing the alloy used by W.O. Bentley in the WWI-era BR1 Aero engine piston.
The EXP 100 GT's punchy powertrain pulls over 1,100 lb-ft (1,491 Nm) of torque out of four electric motors, promising potent acceleration and precise handling via advanced torque vectoring. Bentley puts 0-62 mph (100 km/h) at under 2.5 seconds and top speed at 186 mph (300 km/h). It imagines future battery technology offering five times the average energy density of today's automotive-grade packs, extrapolating a range of up to 435 mi (700 km) for the 4,200-lb (1,900-kg) EXP 100. The Bentley Personal Assistant takes care of charging autonomously, presumably driving the car to the nearest charge station between drop-offs and pick-ups.
EXP 100 GT drivers can choose to take the wheel or let it retract away in autonomous mode. Not only does the car drive itself, the Personal Assistant creates specialized tours. For instance, it can ramp up drive performance on winding mountain roads, or dial things way down on more casual city commutes. It can also provide information about points of interest and "available luxury experiences" along the way.
Adaptable components help in creating each tailored driving experience. The active aero wheels adjust between all-out performance and max efficiency, and the Pirelli tires on those wheels auto-adjust contact patch size to meet current driving conditions.
July 10 marks Bentley's official 100th birthday, but the folks in Crewe will continue the centenary celebration throughout the remainder of 2019. Hopefully they'll make an actual physical concept car out of the renderings and roll it out at one of the remaining events.
Update: Bentley did in fact reveal a full-blown concept car and we've added some photos to the gallery.
The video clip below is definitely a bit slow and drawn-out, but it does nicely illustrate a few of the EXP 100 GT's features, including the exterior lighting.
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