Bentley is part of the luxury elite, with almost a century of history wrought in leather and wood, but that doesn't mean it isn't looking to the future. Having tabled the idea of a two-seat sports car with the Speed 6 EXP 10 Coupe in 2015, the company has dropped the top and slotted a forward-looking electric powertrain under the bonnet. Batteries have never looked so good.
Some performance car brands are built on the back of screaming, naturally aspirated power, but that hasn't ever been the case with Bentley. Since the Volkswagen Group took over the brand in the early 2000s, its cars have been defined by their torque and the effortless speed that allows for. With this in mind, electric motors and Bentley make a perfect fit because of the smooth, effortless torque on tap from standstill.
Torque is one thing, but a good Bentley also needs to be a capable grand tourer. Given the fact that range isn't a traditional strength of electric vehicles, making the EXP 12 Speed 6e a capable long-legged cruiser is a much bigger challenge. The company says one of its electric cars would need to be able to drive between London and Paris, or Milan and Monaco on a single charge, which would require at least 450 or 500 km (280 or 311 mi) of range. Range and performance figures haven't been released, but the EXP 12 does support inductive fast charging in concept form.
In the absence of any concrete performance figures, we're going to treat the Speed 6e for what it really is: a piece of rolling sculpture. The exterior is absolutely stunning, taking all the styling cues we loved on the Coupe back in 2015 and adding a dash of extra drop-top drama to the mix. The 6 on the grille is hidden from certain angles, and the headlamps are finished with a gorgeous diamond pattern on their bezel.
The real highlight is the interior, though. Once again it takes the basic design from the 2015 concept and adds a bit more sparkle, this time with an expensive-looking plum leather re-trim. The center console is hewn from a single piece of glass, giving passengers access to all the navigation, infotainment and climate control functions you'd usually control with a combination of knobs and buttons.
Unlike some modern interior designs (we're looking at you, Audi TT) the cabin of the latest Bentley concept doesn't neglect passengers – who are treated to their own control panel with social media, email and entertainment access. We wouldn't bother playing with it though, as simply staring at the beautiful copper trim around the gearshift, dials and doors would be entertainment enough.
At the moment, the EXP 12 Speed 6e is just a concept. We had our fingers crossed for a production version of the 2015 coupe and haven't been treated to that yet, so hopes of the latest version making it to the market look slim. Then again, Bentley does say it was built to "gauge public and customer feedback to shape [its] future luxury strategy." Maybe, given enough interest, that strategy could include an electric two-seat roadster?
Check out the video below for a closer look at the EXP 12 Speed 6e.