Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader
While most people celebrate their hundredth birthday with a message from the Queen and a little lie-down, Bentley has been hard at it all year, devising its car of the future. Called the EXP 100 GT, the jaw-dropping two-seat, electric, autonomous grand tourer was unveiled today to Marie Claire at their Crewe HQ.
It’s electric, of course, with four motors giving it huge acceleration – 0-62mph in under 2.5 seconds, which is F1-car fast. Bentley also says owners will be able to charge the batteries to 80 per cent in just 15 minutes, which is more or less half the current charging time.
But really it’s all about the extraordinary sustainable materials used, and the technology this car has – in the next 10-20 years, it will be what’s inside cars that counts.
Approach the car and the glass grill and headlight surrounds glow and pulsate to welcome you. The paintwork on this car is called Compass: it uses a deep, soft grey pigment made from rice husk ash – rice husks end up in landfill in huge amounts as an otherwise harmful by-product of the rice industry, apparently.
Open the huge gullwing door to this car and a spacious, calm oasis of luxury is revealed. The two thin, cream seats seem to be covered in leather but actually the textile is a by-product of the wine industry. The carpets are made with British farmed wool, and there are cotton-clad surfaces, embroidered by Hand and Lock, the 18th-century British company that sews royal and military dress uniforms.
Perhaps the most extraordinary material is the burnished warm wood that surrounds the seats – it comes from 5,000-year-old riverwood – wood that has fallen naturally over time and sunk to the bottom of peat bogs, from where a company called the Fenland Black Oak Project recovers it for future generations. Bentley is working with the project, and has infused its own reclaimed wood with copper for a more lustrous look.
Naturally there is a high degree of artificial intelligence in the car – biometric analysis detects via gesture and touch whether the occupants are tired, stressed or energised, and adapts the lighting, temperature, air purification and seats within the car accordingly. The AI system is called the Bentley Personal Assistant and can also suggest journeys you might like to take, or point out places of interest as you pass. One activates it via a huge cut-crystal, illuminated interface in the car made from crystal sourced and hand blown in Cumbria.
This, then, is the new face of British automotive luxury, using rare, high-quality materials found in the UK from sustainable sources. It’s a fitting way to celebrate Bentley’s extraordinary heritage, while looking firmly forwards to the next 100 years.