Have you feared the transition to mobility will bring with it boring and utilitarian self-driving pods? Well, fear no more because Bentley is here to assuage those fears and show you how the British marque envisions bespoke mobility will look in 2035.
- Bentley EXP 100 GT, at 19 feet long and almost eight feet wide, shows the future of electric and autonomous mobility for the world’s wealthiest commuters.
- Powered by a pure-electric powertrain with four electric motors capable of putting down 1106 lb-ft of torque, EXP 100 GT can do 0-62 mph in less than 2.5 seconds.
- Artificial intelligence, called Bentley Personal Assistant, works to connect with occupants on an emotional level and enhance their driving experience.
To celebrate its centenary, Bentley created the EXP 100 GT. It’s a concept that embodies “sustainable innovation.” That means that this Bentley is all electric, has autonomous driving capabilities, and environmentally friendly creature comforts. Perhaps most importantly for our purposes, it demonstrates that mobility machines don’t need to become compact car-sized city buses with drab hard plastic interiors capable of being hosed out. No, at least for the world’s wealthiest residents, mobility will bring with it more opulence than ever before.
First off, this thing is absolutely massive. Despite being a coupe, the EXP 100 GT is 19 feet long and almost eight feet wide. Its doors alone are six and half feet wide. And when they’re open, they lift toward the heavens reaching nearly 12 feet from floor to tip.
Thankfully, the car’s purpose-designed all-electric platform and power train evenly match the car’s proportions. Four electric motors churn out a combined 1,500 Newton meters (1106 lb-ft) of torque. That means this 4,188-pound grand tourer can rush from 0 to 62 miles per hour in less than 2.5 seconds on the way to its 186-mile-per-hour top speed. And thanks to its onboard battery pack, which has five times the energy density of most EVs today, it can do 435 miles on a single charge. What’s more, it can receive an 80% recharge in just 15 minutes time.
Up front, the matrix grille — that routes cooling air to the battery packs — blends into the headlights, the overlapping design of which is an homage to the Bentley Blower. In the rear, the haunch mimics that of the R-Type Continental — but with a modern touch. Between the tail lights is a 3D OLED screen that blends the light signatures of the rear lamps.
The exterior paint literally sets the tone for the EXP 100 GT’s eco-minded nature; its paint, which is called “Compass” is made from the recycled husks of rice plants. The gargantuan coupe’s real environmentally friendly party piece is the interior. The wood trim is 5,000-year-old copper-infused river wood harvested from bogs. Instead of leather, designers opted to cover seating and touchpoint surfaces with a 100% organic, leather-like textile from wine making. And the thick, plush carpets are woven from wool from English farms.
Fortress of Solitude
This is pretty much where the old-world wiles end and the 21st century technological story begins. Well, except one final piece: the illuminated Cumbrian crystal in the center console. More than a debatably gaudy homage to Superman’s ‘fortress of solitude,’ the luminous crystal is the instrument over which occupants control the EXP 100 GT’s artificial intelligence system, called the Bentley Personal Assistant.
The BPA monitors the wellbeing of occupants through biometrics, including head and eye movement and even blood pressure. Depending on the exterior conditions, interior mode, occupant mood, and route, the BPA can make suggestions for the journey — from route ideas to points of interest to luxury experiences along the way — all in the aims of redefining the car as a space for extraordinary and emotional human experiences.
Remember, there’s nothing that frightens carmakers more than if their vehicles become appliances. So clearly the Bentley folks are keen to ensure their customers become literally emotionally connected to the coupe through both the tactile experience and also through the AI.
The EXP 100 GT features five modes: Enhance; Cocoon; Capture (not as ominous as it sounds, I swear); Re-Live; and Customize.
Enhance imitates a drop-top convertible experience by replicating the exterior temperature, sound, and conditions but inside the enclosed coupe. Cocoon does almost the opposite; it closes off the car from the outside word. Air purification is at its max and the window glass is made opaque. The air purification system is located in the trunk and constantly monitors CO2 level in the cabin. The vents that push air from the purifier into the cabin undulate in order to mimic the movement of a living and breathing creature. It also spritzes a unique fragrance into the air that was specially developed for the EXP 100 GT.
Capture mode, well, captures the driving experience — both inside and out. Bentley doesn’t expressly say it, but I imagine this would be a mode for when the human driver is enjoying an extra exquisite bit of road and is taking lots of pleasure in a manual driving experience. This is one they might want to capture and relive later … with, you guessed it, Re-Live mode.
Lastly, Customize allows the user to dial in his or her own unique settings, picking and choosing from the other modes.
Then there’s sort of the sixth and final mode: autonomous driving mode. Though, those other modes can be activated in either manual or automated driving mode. During autonomous drive, the biometric seats can be configured to face one another. And the interior augmented reality screens can used to watch films or live video feeds.
Bentley Personal Assistant does more than try to enhance the emotional connection between occupant and car; it can handle the vehicle charging duties as well. Though, Bentley doesn’t divulge exactly how. As for controlling and utilizing BPA with hand gestures the user makes over the Cumbrian crystal, Bentley explains it this way: “An example of gesture control can be demonstrated by a child looking out of the Bentley EXP 100 GT cabin at clouds, then pulling down the content inside the vehicle through a gesture that explains what they are seeing to them.”
I still don’t quite understand what that means. Suffice it to say, the gesture controls will be more than swiping left or right on a screen; it will be a lot more immersive than that.
Mobility For The One Percent
The further automakers delve into the future of mobility, the more comfortable I feel about it. And I don’t just mean because of biometric seating. No, instead I am heartened by the design potential. As I mentioned in the introduction, I feared that self-driving cars would be plastic-y penalty boxes, like a subway car for two to four people. Thankfully, European brands are showing us that there is still room for personality and style when cars can drive themselves.
Concepts from French automakers Renault and Citroen have specifically buoyed my spirits with cars like the Ami One, 19_19, and EZ-ULTIMO. Bentley has had a similar effect on me with the EXP 100 GT. Granted, I’ll never be wealthy enough (I assume) to ever own a car like it. But I find it reassuring that at least someone out there is worrying about keeping the majesty of automobiles alive in the era of mobility.