There once was a time when Bentley was synonymous with British opulence and luxury. That notion still holds true to this day, but Bentley, like everybody else it seems, has evolved into something more than that. These days, the flying “B” has expanded its reach in the automotive landscape with two recent concept offerings showcasing the future of the company as a creator of sporty and aggressive electric sports cars. We first saw how that looked with the debut of the EXP 10 Speed 6 Concept at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show and a year later, the Crewe-based, British automaker returned to Geneva to bring the coupe’s convertible counterpart, the EXP 12 Speed 6e Concept.
Part electric car, part luxury car, and part sports car, the EXP 12 Speed 6e Concept can probably be best described as the love child of all these segments, created and developed to showcase part of Bentley’s future in the event it decides to go down this road. The company has said that it plans to do just that and is convinced that an all-electric sports car like the EXP 12 Speed 6e Concept can be built without comprising the company’s long-standing tradition of class and luxury. Sounds like the company’s reaching, but remember, we’ve been down this road before.
After all, this is the same company that people scoffed at when it said that it wanted to build an SUV and yet, here we are in 2017, and the Bentayga is making a pretty good case for itself as one of the best luxury SUVs on the market today. That’s not to say that Bentley is going to follow a similar blueprint with the development of the EXP 12 Speed 6e Concept, but the bigger point here is that Bentley has successfully gotten out of its comfort zone, so there’s no reason for it not to dive into more unchartered waters.
Whether it’s the EXP 10 Speed 6 Concept or the EXP 12 Speed 6e Concept, the days of brushing off Bentley’s ability to spread its wings are long gone. At this point, if it says that it’s committed to building an electric car and it has a concept car that it can use to base a future electric car from, taking the company’s word for it would be a far better option than dismissing it again entirely. We don’t know what the EXP 12 Speed 6e Concept is going to amount to, but the fact that it made its debut in Geneva earlier this month speaks to the possibilities of seeing it in production form down the road.
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s still a little jarring to see a car look as sporty and aggressive as the EXP 12 Speed 6e Concept and see that it’s got Bentley’s iconic badge all over it. It’s still going to take some getting used to, but I will say that it’s something that’s worth looking forward to. The design of the EXP 12 Speed 6e Concept isn’t all that different from its coupe counterpart. The front profiles of both concepts are almost identical to one another, right down to the sloping, aggressive hood with the two scoops, the front bumper mesh grille, and the rectangular mesh grille and the number “6” embossed on it. That said, the convertible’s front grille has a smoked finish to it with copper highlights to help identify the electric nature of the vehicle.
Other than the wing mirrors that are actually cameras rather than reflective glass, the side profile of the EXP 12 Speed 6e Concept is also similar to its coupe counterpart to the point that both cars feature the inverted boomerang body line that highlights their muscular appearance. It’s the same story in the back where the modest design style underscores Bentley’s intent in keeping the styling of the car look as close to its roots as possible.
All told, the exterior design of the concept is a good example of Bentley’s attempt in marrying sporty and modern styling nods with its own classy tradition. Purists may not appreciate it, but rest assured, Bentley created something with potential here. All that’s left is to see how far the company takes it as far as actually building one for the road.
The interior of the Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6e Concept is similar to the EXP 10 Speed 6 Concept from two years ago. It is a bit surprising to see Bentley retain the cabin’s design given that it had two years to work on any significant changes and modifications. Fortunately, the interior is already a masterclass in luxury design so there’s not a lot to do there that could count as an improvement. The curved glass center console is still there where it features a high-definition OLED screen that users can access to control pretty much all of the concept’s onboard functions like entertainment, climate control, and navigation.
There’s also a lot of leather involved in the cabin of the EXP 12 Speed 6e Concept as most of you can expect by now. In fact, Bentley’s approach to dressing up big portions of the interior with red leather creates a neat balance with other elements of the cabin, including the copper elements around the gear selector, door veneer panels, and the Bentley Dynamic Drive dial.
One rather important feature of the EXP 12 Speed 6e Concept’s interior styling is the steering wheel, which comes with its own handmade, cut-glass sections where controls for media, communications, navigation, and the car’s overall setup are all found. Two buttons located at the top of the steering wheel provide an instant performance boost and limited the overall speed of the car.
If Bentley does end up making something out of the EXP 12 Speed 6e Concept, it would be interesting to see how much of the interior’s design is translated to the production model. I think that it’s already fine as it is, but we all know never to hitch our hopes on something as ever-evolving as a concept vehicle, let alone one that’s probably still a few years away from happening at the soonest.
This is where the Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 Concept and the Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6e Concept travel different roads, in large part because the latter is packaged as a full-blown electric car compared to former, which was presented with a V-6 plug-in hybrid engine back in 2015. Sadly, Bentley has made no mention on what kind of electric powertrain it’s going to carry, opting only to say that its vision of an electric future involves creating an electric system for “customers to benefit from high-speed inductive charging and provide a range sufficient for grand touring requirements.”
Bentley has made no mention on what kind of electric powertrain it’s going to carry.
It’s a vague statement no doubt, but the British automaker did add that it hopes to have an electric powertrain in place in the future that would allow its customers to drive from London to Paris or vice versa on a single charge. Hardly a coincidence then that the distance between the two megacities is 300 miles, right? If I were to sift through all the electric powertrains under the Volkswagen brand that Bentley could use, I’d point to the two electric motors that are powered by a large, T-shaped, 49-kWh battery that Audi is using on the R8 e-tron. That set-up helps produce 455 horsepower and a whopping 679 pound-feet of torque, figures that would certainly be right around what I think Bentley could put on its own (future) electric performance car. Should that be the case, it’s reasonable to assume the car needs less than four seconds to hit 60 mph from an idle position before peaking at an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph, or at least 170 mph if there’s no speed limiter involved.
Remember though that there’s nothing in the way of concrete information that points to that future. It’s simply a “what-could-be” proposition on my part. For now, though, my best guess on the kind of electric powertrain it’s going to carry is only as good as somebody else’s. Hopefully, Bentley provides some answers in the near future.
While it would be cool to have some concrete and specific opinions about the Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6e Concept, the fact that it’s missing arguably its most important feature – the electric powertrain – means that I’ve no choice but to give it an incomplete grade. Or at the very least, something akin to “let’s see what happens.” The truth is, though, I’m a big fan of how it’s presented, just as when I saw the EXP 10 Speed 6 Concept two years ago. It may not look like a classic Bentley, but the concept’s design perfectly captures what Bentley should be all about today. It still has a reputation to cultivate and protect as a luxury automaker above all else, but I do appreciate the effort in extending its horizons past where it’s accustomed to being by adding touches of outright sportiness and aggressiveness to the design of the concept.
Only by doing this can Bentley really gauge where the public is as far as interest in this new direction is concerned. It’s not an accident that the company’s very own CEO, Wolfgang Durheimer, described the concept as the company’s way of “defining electric motoring in the luxury sector, with the appropriate technology, high quality materials and refinement levels you’d expect from a true Bentley,” before adding that it is “interested to receive feedback on [the] concept.”
Bentley Motors is today sharing its ambition to define the electric luxury segment with the EXP 12 Speed 6e concept at the 2017 Geneva International Motor Show.
Wolfgang Dürheimer, chairman and chief executive of Bentley Motors, said:
“The EXP 12 Speed 6e is a concept to show that Bentley is defining electric motoring in the luxury sector, with the appropriate technology, high quality materials and refinement levels you’d expect from a true Bentley. This concept enables us to engage with luxury customers and gather feedback on our approach.
“Bentley is committed to offering an electric model in its future portfolio and we are interested to receive feedback on this concept,” Dürheimer concluded.
An all-electric Bentley will not compromise the quality, refinement and high performance levels expected of the luxury brand. These renowned Bentley characteristics such as immediate, effortless surge of torque and grand touring range will be combined with new high performance technology such as rapid inductive charging and state-of-the-art on board concierge-style services for an effortless ownership experience.
Bentley’s vision is for customers to benefit from high-speed inductive charging and provide a range sufficient for grand touring requirements. An electric Bentley would, for example, be able to drive between London and Paris or Milan and Monaco on a single charge and the on board experience will be enhanced for both driver and passenger thanks to the integration of state-of-the-art technology.
A fusion of cutting-edge technology and beautiful materials is evident right throughout EXP 12 Speed 6e’s luxuriously appointed cabin, ensuring that the brand’s use of technology is not cold or emotionless. The entire central console, for example, is hewn from a solid piece of elegantly curved glass encompassing a high-definition OLED screen. All of the car’s principle onboard controls are accessible from here, including navigation, entertainment and climate control.
Handmade, cut-glass sections on the steering wheel contain the controls for media, communications, navigation and car set-up. There are also two buttons featured at the top of the cut-away steering wheel, one offering an instant performance boost and the other the ability to limit speed, in urban areas for example.
The passenger, meanwhile, has their own control panel on the front fascia with access to social media, email and entertainment.
Exquisite copper elements around the gear selector, Bentley Dynamic Drive dial and in the door veneer panels are integrated into the cabin to highlight the electric performance potential of the concept’s advanced new powertrain.
The car’s intelligent infotainment system is the central brain to access many real world services using connected-car Apps.
On the outside, the iconic Bentley mesh grille features a complex 3D geometry and smoked finish with copper highlights that identify the Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6e as a fully electric vehicle. When the car is running the ‘6e’ logo illuminates in a striking, vibrant white.
The exterior design is an expression of muscular, athletic surfaces inspired by contemporary architecture, the natural world and the aerodynamic shapes of aircraft fuselages.
It represents a natural evolution of Bentley’s design DNA and signifies future design direction, taking the famous powerline and haunch to new levels of drama and tension. When combined with muscular proportions and an athletic stance through the use of a short front overhang, long bonnet, low grille and wide rear, the exterior styling hints at the high-performance potential of the car.
The twin bonnet scoops act as highly effective heat sinks that supply additional cooling to the battery and powertrain.
The wing mirrors – which are cameras rather than traditional reflective glass – are exceptionally sleek and were inspired by the sculptural form of stealth aircraft fuselages.
When rapid inductive charging is not available, EXP 12 Speed 6e can be connected to a mains AC power supply via the auxiliary charging point, subtly concealed behind the rear number plate.
Bentley believes that the concept will open discussions with luxury car buyers of the future – millennials, members of Generation C and the rising affluent in developing economies – to understand the desired expectations from a future electric luxury car ownership experience.
The luxury brand’s electric car strategy includes the introduction of PHEV models across the Bentley model range over the next few years, starting with the Bentayga in 2018.