Bentley boss: “If we could build an electric Bentley tomorrow, we would”

Bentley CEO interview electric Bentleys coming

Last weekend I joined Bentley at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. This is an important year for the British brand, as it celebrates its 100th anniversary.

Bentley’s presence could be felt across Goodwood. On the hillclimb, legends from the road and the track were giving no-holds-barred performance demonstrations. Elsewhere, a pack of concours Continentals celebrated the R Type, while a centenary display spanned the company’s history on the ‘cricket pitch’.

While all eyes were on Bentley’s illustrious past, however, I sat down with Adrian Hallmark, the new chairman and CEO, to talk about what the future holds. The Gurney enclosure is the perfect spot to enjoy action on the hill, with a view straight down after the second corner past the house. It’s not so great for in-depth conversation, but we weren’t complaining. As lunch was served, we wasted no time…

What comes next?

Bentley CEO interview electric Bentleys coming

It’s a curious period of transition for Bentley. The vice of emissions regulations grips ever tighter and the marque is also dealing with rapidly changing customer demands. It has also just previewed what the Bentley of 2035 might look like, with the stunning EXP 100 GT Concept.

In the immediate term, coupes and saloons aren’t the volume-selling machines they once were, but SUVs continue to find favour. Saloons remain popular in China and the United States, though, and should be served perfectly by the new Flying Spur. The Bentayga answered the SUV question a couple of years back.

The Mulsanne remains a relic of the last decade, albeit a delightful one. Hallmark concedes that its days are numbered: “Mulsanne is a tiny business. It’s China, the US, the Middle East, and mostly long-wheelbase. We sell 500 cars a year globally. I love Mulsanne, but it’s the end of an era. That kind of product, for most people, even if you’ve got a billion in the bank, doesn’t fit with people’s lives anymore.

“Bentley always needs to be at the top of luxury and performance. Whether that means something like Mulsanne, remains to be seen,” he continued, on the notion of a ‘halo’ Bentley. The Mulsanne is on a clock, then, but it should live on until 2023.

Bentley CEO interview electric Bentleys coming

As for the rest of the range, the coming years will see hybridisation across the board, from the new Flying Spur to the rest of the GT line-up. The Bentayga hybrid was first out, with deliveries scheduled to start soon.

Hallmark told us to expect a range of hybrid Continentals in dealers before the end of next year, although he insists they must be an option, not the option.

Will we see an electric Bentley?

Bentley EXP 100 GT revealed

Electric power is a curious question for Bentley. Our two cents is that it would suit something like the Mulsanne beautifully – being refined yet torque-rich. There’s the expense, too. It’s difficult to lump hatchback buyers with the premiums that such technology commands. A six-figure Bentley can more easily absorb the four- or five-figure cost of electric tech.

With the weight and power of current batteries, Hallmark is unsure, but has his finger on the pulse: The problem we have is that batteries available are too weak. Power density, battery management and longevity need to improve. It’s got to be the right size, the right level of performance, with the right range. Parity with a petrol-engined car would be enough: 250-400 miles of range.

Bentley EXP 100 GT profile

“We’re first in the queue to get the right level of battery in our cars, that’s around five years away, with the company that the Group [Volkswagen Group] has invested in, but we’re in no rush. If we could do a credible electric Bentley tomorrow, we would. But we can’t.”

Hallmark says we can expect the first all-electric Bentley on the road nearer to 2025.

Is there demand for an electric Bentley?

As far as customer attitudes to electric power go, it’s a mixed picture. On the one hand, Hallmark tells us, vintage Bentley owners couldn’t be less interested. On the other, younger Bentley buyers like the idea of an electric offering.

“Once a year, we survey buyers in the luxury marketplace. Around 30 percent of those people are Bentley buyers. Ask them if they’re interested in an electric vehicle and 10 percent say ‘yes’. If you ask those interested in a Bentley whether they’re keen on the idea of an electric Bentley, 30 percent say ‘yes’. I don’t want to be the last turkey in the butcher’s shop on Christmas Eve when it comes to customer choice. If we’re the last to get into the electric market, we will lose out.”

Why is there an increased interest in an electric Bentley? Well, the brand is slap bang in the middle-ground between sport and luxury – unlike McLaren, Ferrari, Lamborghini or even Aston Martin, where internal combustion powertrains are more central to their appeal. “Who wants an electric McLaren?” Hallmark jokes.

Bentley CEO interview electric Bentleys coming

“Our brand is not as clearly positioned, because we don’t just build red sports cars with two seats. We build cars people use daily. Do they knock on the door saying ‘Where’s my BEV, where’s my BEV?’ No. But the interest is there.

“We did a clinic with a product concept that went really well. The upper end of what you’d hope for. We asked them: ‘What powertrain do you think it had?’. Most said ’12-cylinder, possibly hybrid, 600-800 horsepower’. ‘OK,’ we said, ‘how would you feel about it being a battery electric vehicle?’ A 30 percent increase in appeal.”

Will Bentley kill off petrol engines?

Bentley CEO interview electric Bentleys coming

Although the desire for an electric Bentley is high, the petrol engine has life in it yet.

“We’re not ashamed of internal combustion. We want to offer both options and let the customer make the choice. We’re proud of the last hundred years, but we’ve got to think of the next hundred.”

“We may never phase out internal combustion if synthetic fuel is cracked. We’ll be one of the last if we do.”

Bentley CEO interview electric Bentleys coming

Hallmark is simultaneously anxious to electrify, then, and keen to keep internal combustion. He told us the only Bentley model that the new WLTP fuel economy test didn’t ‘get’ was the Mulsanne, because its V8 is so under-stressed.

The ultimate luxury is choice, then, and it’s one that Bentley fully intends to keep on the options list.

New Bentley EXP 100 GT is a luxury car for the year 2035

Bentley EXP 100 GT revealed

The Bentley EXP 100 GT is a glimpse into the future and a celebration of the first 100 years of this famous marque.

It “reimagines the Grand Tourer for the world of 2035”, says Bentley, “a world of shared luxury experiences where passenger and driver enjoy equal status in their enjoyment of their extraordinary journeys”.

In other words, a future of autonomy that’s a world away from the company formed by W.O. Bentley on this day in 1919. Quite what Messrs W.O., Woolf Barnato and Tim Birkin would have made of the EXP 100 GT is anyone’s guess.

There are hints of legendary Bentley cars of old – note the R-Type Continental rear haunches and the headlights that tip a tweed cap to the Blower – but this is a vision of the future. A world of electrification, autonomy and sustainable materials.

At 5.8 metres long and 2.4 metres wide, the EXP 100 GT is considerably longer and wider than the Bentayga SUV, while the doors measure two metres wide and rise to almost three metres when open.

‘Literally comes alive’

Bentley EXP 100 GT doors

Referencing the illuminated matrix grille (eat your heart out, BMW X6) and Flying B, Bentley says the EXP 100 GT “literally comes alive”, although a world of living cars is a future we can do without.

Those who were expecting an 8.0-litre or supercharged Bentley to mark the centenary are likely to be disappointed by the all-electric powertrain, but the EXP 100 GT should have no trouble racing trains from the south of France.

The battery system powers four motors that produce 1,106lb ft (1,500Nm) of torque, enough to propel the EXP 100 GT to 60mph in 2.5 seconds, before the 1,900kg electric vision of the future hits a top speed of 186mph.

A range of 435 miles isn’t enough for a Barnato-style race from Cannes to the ferry port in Calais, but the solid state batteries can be recharged to 80 percent capacity in just 15 minutes. Ask the Bentley Personal Assistant nicely, and there will be a cold drink waiting for you at the Conservative Club on St James Street. Probably.

‘Preempts passenger needs’

Bentley EXP 100 GT cabin

Bentley says the Personal Assistant “preempts passenger needs and can even maximise comfort based on its knowledge of its owner” by tracking eye and head movements and blood pressure.

The Personal Assistant is the centre piece of the main console and is visualised using illuminated crystal from Cumbria. This is just one of a number of materials you’re unlikely to find in your local builders merchant.

The copper-infused Riverwood is derived from trees that have been preserved for 5,000 years in peat bogs, lakes and rivers. The door panels feature an embroidery pattern created by Hand and Lock, a company that uses techniques dating back to 1767.

‘Compass’ is the name of the paint, which uses a special pigment made using rice husk ash, a harmful by-product of the rice industry. The EXP 100 GT is here to ensure that less rice husk ash ends up in landfill waste. We wonder if it has a plan for disposable nappies.

Bridge of Weir Leather of Scotland is a familiar name in the world of luxury cars, but Bentley has also used the by-product of wine-making to create a leather-like seating material that is 100 percent bio-based.

Drinking wine? Maybe the Bentley Boys would have been interested in the EXP 100 GT after all.

‘Inspirational and aspirational’

Bentley EXP 100 GT rear

Adrian Hallmark, Bentley chairman and CEO, said: “Today, on our centenary, we demonstrate our vision of the future of our marque, with the Bentley EXP 100 GT – a modern and definitive grand tourer designed to demonstrate that the future of luxury mobility is as inspirational and aspirational as the last 100 years.”

Stefan Sielaff, director of design, added: “The Bentley EXP 100 GT represents the kind of cars we want to make in the future. Like those iconic Bentleys of the past, this car connects with its passengers’ emotions and helps them experience and safeguard the memories of really extraordinary journeys they take.”

Sielaff is making a reference to the Personal Assistant AI, which delivers a “highly personalised experience to the passenger” based on five modes: Enhance, Cocoon, Capture, Re-Live and Customise.

Bentley EXP 100 GT profile

‘Re-Live’ replays highlights of your grand tour, allowing you to remember that exhilarating drive across the Alps… in your autonomous Bentley. ‘Enhance’ harvests light, sound, smell and air quality to deliver a “feeling of open top motoring from under the glass canopy”.

An air purification system in the boot cleans the air before it reaches the cabin, while CO2 levels inside are also monitored. If Sir or Madam wishes, the cabin can be filled with the scent of sandalwood and fresh moss courtesy of fragrance house 12.29.

Woolf, I have a feeling we’re not in Cricklewood anymore.

Needless to say, we’re unlikely to see the EXP 100 GT as a full production model, but some of the innovations should find their way into electrified Bentleys of the future. We suspect the illuminated grille is coming to a Premier League car park near you soon

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100 years of Bentley: the story so far

100 years of Bentley

The Bentley story is a tale of innovation, success, failure, a loss of identity and a phoenix-like rise from the brink of oblivion. There are enough twists and turns to challenge even the best screenwriter, along with a cast of characters worthy of any Hollywood blockbuster. Here, we attempt to distill the history of Bentley into bite-sized chapters, piecing together the first 100 years of this famous brand.

W.O. Bentley

100 years of Bentley

The story begins with Walter Owen (W.O.) Bentley, the son of a wealthy family living in London. Born in 1888, W.O. Bentley developed a fascination for steam engines and spent five years learning about locomotive engineering at the Great Northern Railway in Doncaster. While working for the railway, W.O. bought a 3hp Quadrant motorcycle and entered the 400-mile London to Edinburgh Trial, finishing with a gold medal. Further trials were entered, and it’s through these competitions that W.O. Bentley developed a love of speed.

Bentley and Bentley

100 years of Bentley

In 1912, W.O. Bentley raised £2,000 and went into partnership with one of his brothers to form Bentley & Bentley: the British Empire concessionaires for Doriot, Flandrin & Parant (DFP). Bentley imported cars from this long forgotten French marque to race at Brooklands, with W.O. Bentley using his experience to extract more power from them.

Inspired by a paperweight

100 years of Bentley

On a trip to the DFP offices in 1913, W.O. Bentley chanced upon an aluminium paperweight and wondered if this material could be used to create lightweight pistons. After some experimentation, he settled on a formula of 88 percent aluminium and 12 percent copper, with the new pistons helping him to set a new 89.7mph flying lap record for a flying mile at Brooklands. W.O. Bentley knew that racing was the best form of publicity for a car company, but his dreams of growth were put on hold by the outbreak of war.

W.O. Bentley’s career takes off

100 years of Bentley

W.O. Bentley was pressed into military service as a captain in the Royal Naval Air Service. His aluminium pistons were used to great effect to create a fighter aircraft engine more reliable and powerful than previous versions, with the Bentley Rotary (BR.1) engine helping to make the Sopwith Camel the most successful British fighter aircraft of the war. A second BR.2 unit was developed, with W.O. Bentley’s efforts rewarded with a £1,000 gratuity and a royalty cheque of £8,000. With this working capital, W.O. Bentley was able to form Bentley Motors in 1919.

Bentley Motors

100 years of Bentley

Bentley Motors was founded on 10 July 2019, underpinned by W.O. Bentley’s philosophy that “we were going to make a fast car, a good car, the best in its class”. His brother looked after the DFP side of the business, delivering the regular cash injections required by W.O. during the development of the first Bentley cars. EXP 1 (Experimental No.1) was the first car to bear the Bentley name, with a 3.0-litre four-cylinder engine that put it years ahead of rival vehicles.

Bentley EXP 2

100 years of Bentley

It took Bentley a year to build a chassis light and strong enough for the engine, with work carried out at a factory in Oxgate Lane, Cricklewood. Autocar said: “For the man who wants a true sporting type of light-bodied car for use on a Continental tour, the three-litre Bentley is undoubtedly the car par excellence.” EXP 2 was built in time for the Olympia Motor Show in November 1919, with a long list of clients eager to place hefty deposits. Deep pockets were required: a Bentley chassis cost the equivalent of three houses.

Bentley 3 Litre

100 years of Bentley

The EXP 2 development mule became the Bentley 3 Litre, but not before a huge amount of development work was carried out to improve refinement. The first 3 Litre was handed over to its buyer in 1921, by which time the price had jumped from £750 to £1,100. Meanwhile, EXP 2 won its debut race at Brooklands in 1921, with the production 3 Litre models adding a string of victories to Bentley’s name. The model pictured is a 3 Litre Supersports.

Le Mans 24 Hours

100 years of Bentley

In 1923, John Duff (pictured here at the wheel) asked W.O. Bentley if he could enter a car in the newly formed Le Mans 24 Hours race. W.O. was against the idea, saying: “I think the whole thing is crazy. Cars aren’t designed to stand that sort of strain for 24 hours.” But Duff got his way, with W.O. supplying a car, a driver and a couple of mechanics, and even making a surprise visit to France to watch the race. It was worth it, with works driver Frank Clement finishing fourth and securing a fastest lap.

Success at Le Mans

100 years of Bentley

A year later, Bentley returned to Le Mans with the full backing of the factory, with Captain John Duff and Frank Clement romping home to victory in a Bentley 3 Litre. This was the first of six Le Mans wins, including four consecutive victories from 1927 to 1930. Le Mans was instrumental in the early success of Bentley, with the victories generating a huge amount of exposure for the brand.

Bentley 6.5 Litre and Speed Six

100 years of Bentley

From 1919 to 1940, all Bentleys left the factory as rolling chassis, with the bodies created by coachbuilders such as Mulliner, Park Ward, Vanden Plas and Gurney Nutting. Away from the track, Bentley launched the 6.5-litre as a rival to the Rolls-Royce Phantom, which in turn developed into the Speed Six – the most successful racing Bentley. Meanwhile, the company’s image was enhanced and its profile raised by the so-called Bentley Boys.

Bentley Boys

100 years of Bentley

Having survived the Great War, these rich men were determined to live life to the full and had the feeling of invincibility. Notable Bentley Boys included Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin and Woolf Barnato, the heir to the Kimberley diamond mine fortune who spent the equivalent of a house on parties every week. Both Birkin and Barnato were instrumental in shaping the direction of the company.

Woolf Barnato

100 years of Bentley

The development of the 6.5 Litre in 1926 pushed Bentley to breaking point, to the extent that Woolf Barnato effectively bought the company by injecting £100,000 into the business just to keep it afloat. The cash saved Bentley from bankruptcy and ensured that Barnato could continue to race the cars he knew and loved.

The Blue Train

100 years of Bentley

In March 1930, Barnato was a dinner party on a yacht near Cannes when he bet £200 that his Bentley Speed Six could beat the Blue Train from Cannes to Calais. Nobody took the bet, but Baranto was determined to do the run anyway, so at 5.45pm the next day he left the Carlton Bar and set off for Calais. Not only did Barnato beat the Blue Train to Calais, he even managed to reach the Conservative Club in London before the train arrived in the French port.

Bentley Blower

100 years of Bentley

Arguably the most famous Bentley of all time, it’s a little ironic that the ‘Blower’ was the least successful Cricklewood car in competition. Although W.O. Bentley was against supercharging, Tim Birkin convinced chairman Woolf Barnato to approve the project, with W.O. reluctantly agreeing to the formation of a separate company in Welwyn Garden City. The Blower was quick, but it was also horrendously thirsty and unreliable, serving to hasten the decline of the company. That said, it helped to put Bentley on the map, despite never winning a serious race.

Bentley 8 Litre

100 years of Bentley

Bentley had it best year in 1929, with the company seeing a profit, but it chose the wrong time to develop the largest capacity car in the UK. The 8 Litre was a phenomenal car – it could top 100mph whatever the coachwork – and Rolls-Royce was seriously worried about the competition. But the Wall Street crash of 1929 sent the global economy into meltdown, with the market for the 8 Litre all but disappearing. W.O. said: “I have always wanted to produce a dead silent 100mph car, and now I think that we have done it.” Rather fittingly, just 100 were built.

The end of the W.O. era

100 years of Bentley

This was to be a dark era in the history of Bentley, with the company teetering on the brink of insolvency in 1930 and W.O. nearly sacked in September of that year. The company was kept afloat by Woolf Barnato, until his advisors told him to stop. Everything pointed to a takeover by Napier, but the bosses at Rolls-Royce knew that this would represent a serious threat to their business.

Rolls-Royce takeover

100 years of Bentley

Bentley received a bid of £125,275 from the British Central Equitable Trust on behalf of Rolls-Royce, leaving W.O. shocked and the company’s future hanging in the balance. The Cricklewood factory (pictured) was closed, production ceased and the Bentley brand effectively disappeared for two years. Worse still, Rolls-Royce failed to make use of W.O. Bentley’s considerable talent and he was given a job test driving cars across the continent. Later, he left and moved to Lagonda, dying in 1971 at the age of 82.

The Silent Sports Car

100 years of Bentley

In stark contrast to the stern and formal feel of Rolls-Royce, Bentley had a colourful and sporty image. But the 1930s and 1940s were dark years for Bentley. In 1938, the Glass’s guide failed to list prices for Bentleys because the cost of repairs far outweighed the value of its cars. After the Second World War, the Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars rolling off the production line were virtually identical.

Bentley R-Type Continental

100 years of Bentley

The Mark VI was the first Crewe Bentley and the first to be delivered with a body, but the R-Type Continental was one of the most desirable cars of the 1950s. It resembled the Mark VI, but could hit 100mph in third gear before reaching a top speed of 120mph. At the time, it was the fastest four-seater car in the world. In 1955, Bentley launched the S1, which was essentially a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud with a different grille and badging.

Silver Shadows and minor miracles

100 years of Bentley

The trend continued throughout the 1960s and 1970s, with the T Series little more than a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow with a different grille and badge, not to mention the first Bentley with a monocoque chassis and body. The image so carefully cultivated by W.O., Barnato and Birkin appeared to be lost, although the Bentley Drivers Club did its best to keep the legend alive. By the 1970s, Bentley accounted for just five percent of production at Crewe – it’s a minor miracle that the brand survived.

Vickers and a new era

100 years of Bentley

In 1980, British defence company Vickers bought Rolls-Royce, signalling the start of a new chapter for Bentley. Against all the odds, Bentley rose again, with Rolls-Royce realising that the brand’s sporting heritage could be used to great effect. The turbocharged Mulsanne was the last roll of the dice and became a surprise hit of the 1982 Geneva Motor Show. Here was a car weighing 2,200kg that could hit 60mph in just seven seconds. With a top speed of 135mph, it was the fastest production Bentley in history.

Restoring the balance

100 years of Bentley

The Bentley renaissance continued with the Eight of 1984, which featured a chrome wire-mesh grille to recall racing Bentleys of the past. This, along with the Turbo R, helped Bentley to achieve a 50/50 production share with Rolls-Royce, with Bentley going on to outsell its owner by two-to-one. The 1980s was a good decade for Bentley.

A new identity

100 years of Bentley

The positive vibes continued into the 1990s, with the Continental R of 1991 the first Bentley that didn’t look like a Rolls-Royce since 1965. The rebodied Turbo R was powered by a 6.75-litre V8 good for 150mph and commanded a two-year waiting list. In 1993, the four-door Brooklands replaced the Eight and Mulsanne, with a host of new products arriving in the second half of the decade. The Pininfarina-designed Azure of 1995 was the most powerful four-seat convertible in the world.

Volkswagen and another new era

100 years of Bentley

In 1998, Volkswagen believed it had purchased Rolls-Royce and Bentley from Vickers. But it transpired that Vickers did not own the rights to the Rolls-Royce name, which was subsequently bought by BMW. It meant that BMW acquired Rolls-Royce and moved production to Goodwood, with Bentley left as a consolation prize for Volkswagen. Not that VW was prepared to sulk, with the German giant immediately investing £1 billion to upgrade the Crewe factory.

Bentley State Limousine

100 years of Bentley

The Bentley Arnage of 1998 was the first new car since 1980 but it shared much in common with the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph. The Arnage was used as the basis for the Bentley State Limousine, commissioned through Mulliner to mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. The rear seat position was determined using a model of the same height as the Queen, while a panoramic glasshouse was created to provide greater visibility from the outside.

Bentley Continental GT

100 years of Bentley

The Continental GT of 2003 was the first all-new Bentley since the Volkswagen takeover in 1998. It caused a huge stir when it was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show 2002, so much so that Bentley was inundated with orders ahead of its launch in March 2003. At its core was a 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine, with enough power to propel a Premier League footballer to a top speed approaching 200mph.

Return to Le Mans

100 years of Bentley

In 2003, Bentley made a successful return to Le Mans when Tom Kristensen, Guy Smith and Rinaldo Capello drove the EXP Speed 8 to victory in the famous race. Two laps behind was the sister car driven by Mark Blundell, David Brabham and Johnny Herbert. This one-two followed a third place in 2001 and fourth in 2002.

Bentley Brooklands inspired by Bentley Boys

100 years of Bentley

New production models followed, with Bentley increasing the level of luxury while leveraging as much heritage as possible. The brand returned to the luxury coupe model with the Bentley Brooklands inspired by the Bentley Boys. Limited to just 550 cars, the Bentley Brooklands was powered by the most powerful V8 the company had ever produced – a twin-turbocharged 6.75-litre unit producing 530hp.

Bentley Continental Supersports

100 years of Bentley

Launched in 2009, the Bentley Continental Supersports was a lightened, two-seater version of the standard Continental with a 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine producing 621hp. As a result, it could hit a top speed of 204mph and reach 60mph in just 3.7 seconds. It’s one of a number of performance-led or limited edition Bentleys to arrive over the past decade.

Bentley Mulsanne

100 years of Bentley

Bentley resurrected the Mulsanne for the replacement of the Arnage, unveiling its new luxury flagship at the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Powered by the familiar 6.75-litre V8 engine, the Mulsanne felt less like a car and more like a gentlemen’s club on wheels. As the first bespoke big Bentley since the 8 Litre of 1930, it was a landmark car for the brand.

Bentley Bentayga

100 years of Bentley

If the Mulsanne felt like a suitable nod to the brand’s history, the Bentayga felt more like a break from tradition. Based on the same platform as the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, the Bentayga is Bentley’s first SUV and was a development of the aesthetically challenged EXP 9 F concept of 2012. A Bentayga Hybrid has joined the range, with Bentley aiming to offer an electrified version of every car in its range by 2023.

Bentley Continental GT3-R

100 years of Bentley

We’re not going to run through every new Bentley model of the past decade or the company’s recent involvement in motorsport, but we must mention the Continental GT3-R. Launched in 2014 at Pebble Beach, this was the company’s most extreme model, with everything tuned for hardcore driving. Just 300 were built, with each one finished in Glacier White.

Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 concept

100 years of Bentley

We’ll finish with a couple of concepts, starting with the sublime EXP 10 Speed 6. Unveiled at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, the name was a nod to Bentley’s heritage, but the design language was a nod to the future. It was “a bold vision for a brand with a bold future”, said Bentley CEO Wolfgang Durheimer.

Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6e concept

100 years of Bentley

The EXP 10 Speed 6 led to the creation of the EXP 12 Speed 6e – the clearest indication yet that the company is destined for an electrified future. Launched at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, Bentley said it “would be built with the capacity to drive from London to Paris or Milan on a single charge”, which brings to mind images of Woolf Barnato and the Bentley Boys. A fitting conclusion to this brief history of the Bentley brand.

Special Bentleys trimmed by Savile Row Huntsman tailors

Bentley Bentayga Huntsman tailor

Bentley has teamed up with renowned Savile Row tailor Huntsman to create two special bespoke Bentayga SUVs. 

The ‘Businessman’ and ‘Sportsman’ Bentaygas use Huntsman fabrics for a bespoke cabin feel that reflects each persona. Take the plunge, and you’ll get a bespoke Huntsman jacket, tailored to your specification.

Bentley Bentayga Huntsman tailor

Inside the Bentaygas you’ll find distinctive interior patterns based on Huntsman tweeds, including the exclusive ‘Peck 62’ – a pattern exclusively used for Huntsman’s centenary in 1962. Fitting that this should be used in collaboration with Bentley in its 100th year.

In the back of the ‘Businessman’ Bentayga you’ll find a dictinctive Mulliner chessboard in the rear seat rest as well as a Huntsman-trimmed drawer that houses the pieces. The chessboard is a nod to the memorable floor in the Jack Barclay Bentley showroom in London.

Bentley Bentayga Huntsman tailor

Overall the ‘Businessman’ is a more urban design, with the exterior being presented in deep black and satin anthracite. On the inside, carbon fibre trim contrasts with tweed trimmings in the door cards.

The ‘Sportsman’ is a more traditional country-geared design. There’s more tweed in combination with imperial blue leather and liquid amber veneer inserts. The outside is a deep candy red.

Bentley Bentayga Huntsman tailor

These special editions are suited and booted. Both would look right at home parked outside Huntsman Savile Row or in the countryside.

“Bentley is delighted to bring together two brands which have such an impeccable heritage in the heart of London – Jack Barclay and Huntsman,” said Stefan Sielaff, director of design and Mulliner, Bentley Motors.

Bentley Bentayga Huntsman tailor

“The personalisaiton work we do at Mulliner is about bringing a vision to life – like creating a perfect tailored suit – so adding an element of bespoke Huntsman material to the Bentayga’s lavish and beautiful interior is a perfect fit.”

Bentley goes for Pikes Peak record with new Continental GT

Bentley Continental GT to take on Pikes Peak

Bentley is taking on the legendary Pikes Peak hillclimb with a specially prepared Continental GT. The company is aiming for the outright production car record, following the Bentayga’s SUV record last year.

The car will be mostly standard when it makes its run, save for a safety cage and race livery. Its ‘100’ race number pays tribute to the marque’s centenary celebrations and is emblazoned on the grille in the style of the vintage 1930s racers.

You won’t miss this particular Conti, either, with its lurid green paint scheme. It largely mimics the Bentayga that took to Pikes Peak in 2018. The car will make its run on June 30.

Bentley Continental GT to take on Pikes Peak

“We have taken much learning from our successful visit to Pikes Peak last year with the Bentley Bentayga and applied it to our preparations this time around,” said Bentley’s director of motorsport, Brian Gush.

“We are proud to demonstrate the Continental GT’s breadth of abilities in competition on a global stage.”

Bentley Continental GT to take on Pikes Peak

The car has ‘undergone extensive testing’ in preparation for its record run, and it’s going to need it. While the Bentayga took the SUV record with a time of 10:49.9, the Continental has to beat a production car record time of 10:26.9, set by the ‘991’ Porsche 911 Turbo S five years ago. 

Giving the Bentley its best chance at victory will be the man behind the wheel. That’s seasoned Pikes Peak veteran and former ‘King of the Mountain’, Rhys Millan.

Bentley Continental GT to take on Pikes Peak

“In the Pikes Peak environment it [Continental GT] really checks every box as the most competitive vehicle you could arm yourself [with],” said Millan.

“This is one run, one day of the year. You have to be calm, be focused and process everything that you have to.”

James Bond’s BENTLEYS on display in London

Bond's Bentley heading to Jack Barclay Bentley

A pair of vintage Bentleys famous for their connection with James Bond will be displayed at the Jack Barclay dealership in London between 11 and 16 June. The cars are part of a free Bond exhibition.

Bond is famous for his penchant for Aston Martins, especially the classic DB5, on the big screen. In creator Ian Fleming’s mind, however, 007 was always a Bentley boy.

That’s why a 4.5-litre Blower and a Mark VI, featured in early stories as Bond’s first cars, will be on display at the long-standing Bentley proprietor on Berkeley Square.

Bond's Bentley heading to Jack Barclay Bentley

Bond had the ‘Blower’ throughout the first book, Casino Royale, but crashed it during a chase in the second book, Moonraker. He swiftly replaces it with a Mk VI. 

Fleming’s reasons for putting Bond in a Bentley are numerous. For one, he liked 007 to ‘use dashing, interesting things’. Also, Fleming himself was a close friend of Amherst Villiers, one of the team behind the original 4.5 ‘Blower’.

Naturally, the car on display in London will be in much better condition than the car 007 drove in print. Bond’s cars don’t tend to stay in good nick for long…

Bond's Bentley heading to Jack Barclay Bentley

Along with the Blower and the Mk VI, there will be other exhibits, including a Fleming-signed first edition of the very first Bond story, Casino Royale, along with a corrected typescript of The Man with the Golden Gun. This representation of the last piece of work Fleming did on Bond is worth a cool £175,000

Bond’s history with the marque is second only to Jack Barclay’s own, going back 90 years. Barclay himself drove a 4.5-litre to victory in the 1929 Brooklands 500 race.

‘Hitler bomber’ Bentley found in garage after 30 years

Hitler Bomber Bentley

A 1936 Bentley 4.5-Litre Vanden Plas Tourer previously owned by former RAF pilot Charles Blackman has sold at auction for £454,250 at the H&H Classics sale at Duxford.

It last sold for £260 in 1952 and has spent the last 30 years locked up at Mr Blackman’s home in Stockport. But the Bentley was unearthed following the death of the former pilot and sold as part of his estate.

Despite being in a ‘barn-find’ condition, the Bentley fetched more than double the pre-auction estimate of between £150,000 and £200,000, helped in no small part by the fact that it’s one of only six W.O. Bentley 4.5-Litre cars assembled by the service department using new old stock parts in 1936.

Mr Blackman served in the RAF 500 Squadron and took part in the bombing of Hitler’s mountain retreat in Bavaria in April 1945. In the same month, he made emergency food drops on the German/Dutch border where people were facing famine.

RAF 550 Squadron

RAF 550 Squadron, with Flight Sargent Blackman pictured centre

He bought the Bentley in 1952 and drove it for 36 years before age caught up with him and the car was taken off the road. It remained in his garage ever since.

Damian Jones, head of sales at H&H Classics said: “This is the ultimate Bentley ‘barn-find’ in the marque’s centenary year. It is a really wonderful discovery for all fans of the marque made even more special in the make’s 100th birthday year.

“It sold last time for just £260 so this time we believed it would do a thousand times better and it did not disappoint.”

1936 Bentley 4.5-Litre Vanden Plas Tourer

He added: “This Bentley is so unusual because it was assembled in the mid 1930s using a chassis and mechanical parts which dated from no later than 1931.”

“Only the body was freshly made when the car was assembled and sold as a new car in 1936. The W.O. Bentleys made from 1919 to 1931 are far more valuable than the Derby Bentleys which followed from 1933 to 1940. The car was accepted as a W.O. Bentley because its chassis and mechanicals were all made during the W.O. era.”

2019 Bentley Continental GTC review: need for tweed

Bentley Continental GTCBentley has started its centenary year with a bang. First, it revealed the world’s fastest SUV – the 190mph Bentayga Speed – then it teased details of racing-inspired special edition, due to debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

The biggest story of 2019 so far, though, is the new £175,890 Continental GTC. A drop-top version of Bentley’s benchmark GT, it has a 635hp W12 (V8 and hybrid versions will follow) and top speed in excess of 200mph. With the roof up, ideally.

A grand tourer deserves a grand tour, so we tested the GTC’s mile-munching mettle on a 276-mile drive from Marbella to Seville, taking the scenic route via some of Europe’s best roads. Here’s what we learned.

The tweed roof is brilliantly British

Bentley Continental GTC

Let’s start with the insulated fabric hood, which disappears in 19 near-silent seconds, at speeds up to 30mph. Rear-seat space isn’t compromised, nor does the retracted roof encroach on luggage space. Boot volume is just 235 litres, however, versus 358 litres in the GT.

You can choose from seven roof colours, but ‘contemporary tweed’ is easily the coolest option. It’s an understated beige and brown check, as opposed to something you’d find on a hipster suit, but its bespoke Britishness sums up Bentley perfectly.

In profile, the GTC sacrifices the coupe’s flowing fastback for a three-box, saloon-style silhouette. Nonetheless, its roof is elegantly executed, tapering gently aft of the doors. When folded, it lies flush below the rear deck.

The design is all about the details

Bentley Continental GTC

In terms of overall styling, this second-generation car has played it safe. The original 2003 Continental GT reinvented Bentley under Volkswagen Group ownership, so one can’t blame Bentley for not reinventing the Continental GT.

But while the shape is familiar, many details are different. The LED matrix headlights, for example, resemble cut crystal, while the fulsome haunches kick upwards into a subtle spoiler. With overhangs that are shorter at the front and longer at the rear, the whole car looks leaner and more purposeful.

There are some unconventional colours, too. Orange Flame is the obvious choice for extroverts, while Banarto evokes classic British Racing Green – and looks fantastic with the chrome-deleting black pack. Our pick of the paints, though, is Dove Grey, a primer-like shade not dissimilar to Porsche’s Crayon.

Interiors are what Bentley does best

Bentley Continental GTC

Inevitably, the best view of the Continental GTC is from the driver’s seat. Its interior is utterly exquisite, a cosseting cocoon of five-star luxury. Not even Rolls-Royce does it better.

We’re told there are 310,675 stitches in every Continental GTC cabin, although we declined count them. The quilted leather seats are heated and ventilated, and have a built-in ‘neckwarmer’ (à la Mercedes-Benz Airscarf) for top-down driving. Usefully, the central armrest is also heated, just in case your left elbow catches cold.

Beautiful polished wood covers the dashboard and doors, or Sir can specify the new Côtes de Genève textured aluminium, inspired by Swiss watches. Reassuringly, there’s also plenty of Bentley’s trademark knurling: a machined metal finish that makes handles, stalks and switches feel deliciously tactile.

Elegance isn’t simply a veneer…

Bentley Continental GTC

Equally impressive is how the GTC’s cabin combines the fundamentally opposing forces of tradition and tech. The convenience and infotainment features you’d expect are brilliantly integrated beneath a (literal) veneer of olde worlde charm.

The main talking point is the Toblerone-shaped rotating display, which shows plain veneer when parked, then flips to a 12.3-inch touchscreen when the start button is pressed. If you fancy what design director Stefan Sielaff calls a “digital detox”, the third side comprises three analogue gauges: outside temperature, compass and chronometer.

The main instruments are a configurable TFT display, similar to Audi’s Virtual Cockpit. Audiophiles will adore the 18-speaker Naim hi-fi fitted to our test car (an indulgent £6,500 option, a 10-speaker system is standard). Apple Carplay connectivity is included, but there’s no Android Auto.

Its speed could worry a supercar

Bentley Continental GTC

Beneath that prominent prow lies the same 6.0-litre turbocharged W12 fitted to the Bentayga Speed. Billed by Bentley as ‘the most advanced 12-cylinder engine in the world’, it drives all four wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

The stats are truly startling – as is the shove between your shoulder blades. With 635hp, this 2,414kg cabriolet blasts to 60mph in 3.7 seconds, topping out at 207mph. Many six-figure supercars are scarcely any swifter.

To save fuel, the engine seamlessly deactivates six of its cylinders under light loads. Quoted economy is 22.8mpg, although we managed 18.9mpg on a variety of roads.

On the road, it feels utterly effortless

Bentley Continental GTC

That variety included the famous mountain route from Marbella to Ronda (sadly now heavily policed, with a 60kph speed limit) and a loop through the rocky hills around Zufre. Here, on Teflon-smooth roads untroubled by tourist traffic, we could finally let the W12 off the leash.

With a thumping 664lb ft of torque from a toe-tickle above tickover, the Bentley makes light work of steep inclines and dawdling Seats. The dual-clutch ’box doesn’t have the treacle smoothness of the old torque converter, but it’s infinitely quicker and more intuitive. The manual shift paddles almost seem redundant.

Few cars, then, make so little fuss about going fast. Yet unlike some super saloons, the GTC isn’t all speed and no sensation. On writhing roads carved into the hillsides, it was also riotous fun.

The suspension makes more torque than the engine

Bentley Continental GTC

Key to this surprising agility is iron-fisted body control, courtesy of Bentley Dynamic Ride. The 48-volt system uses computer-controlled anti-roll bars to keep the car flat when cornering. Its electric motor alone generates up to 959lb ft of torque – around 50 percent more than the engine.

Well-weighted steering, a benign chassis and huge 10-piston front brakes (at 420mm, the largest iron discs of any production car) mean the GTC can hustled with confidence. Ironically, we preferred the waftier, looser-limbed Comfort mode to the slightly brittle Sport on twisty Tarmac.

And comfort is a grand tourer’s raison d’être, after all. Riding on huge 21-inch wheels (22s are optional), the car seems to crush the road surface into submission. If anything can solve the UK’s pothole crisis, it’s the Continental GTC.

It’s quieter than old Continental GT coupe

Bentley Continental GTC

Quietness is also an essential ingredient of long-distance comfort and, here again, the Bentley doesn’t disappoint. With the roof up, it’s even more hushed than the previous-generation coupe. Folding hard-tops – who needs ’em?

With the roof open (which is how we drove at least 90 percent of the route), you can have a conversation at 70mph without raising your voice. Keep the side windows raised and there’s very little turbulence inside the cabin, too.

We’re less convinced by the noise of the engine. It’s very obviously turbocharged, with an intake whoosh and the unmistakable hiss of a dump valve. In Sport mode, the exhaust also braaaps abruptly like a Volkswagen Golf R. Past experience suggests the forthcoming V8 will sound more characterful and cultured.

Forget Clarkson: this is the ultimate grand tour

Bentley Continental GTC

Minor quibbles and hefty price tag aside (our car was £210,925 including options), the Continental GTC is difficult to fault. It fulfils its brief of being the ‘definitive grand tourer’ admirably. After a full day on Spanish roads, we emerged fresher than a Seville orange.

Among rivals, both the Aston Martin DB11 Volante and Ferrari Portofino provide a similar sense of occasion, but neither matches the Bentley for comfort. The BMW 8 Series, meanwhile, simply doesn’t feel special enough.

The old fashioned idea of a grand tour has largely been lost, but given the choice of crossing Europe by budget flight or Bentley, the GTC wins hands-down. Roof down and W12 up front, it’s a fine way to fly.

Verdict: 5 stars

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The 635hp Bentley Bentayga Speed is the world’s fastest SUV

Bentley Bentayga Speed world's fastest SUV

It’s no small thing these days to say you produce the world’s fastest SUV. But Bentley is making that claim for its new 190mph Bentayga Speed.

The new model is due to debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

Monster stats

Bentley Bentayga Speed world's fastest SUV

‘Speed’ has, for more than a decade, denoted a decent performance upgrade for your chosen Bentley.

The badge saw the Continental GT first surpass 600hp. Now, Bentley’s SUV has been given the Speed treatment, its 6.0-litre W12 upgraded to 635hp and 664lb ft of torque.

Bentley Bentayga Speed world's fastest SUV

What kind of performance does that translate into? Well, it means this luxury SUV will hit 62mph in 3.9 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 190mph.

Fitting that the Speed should take the crown as the fastest SUV in the world. That being said, we’re not sure it is…

Remember Lister got its mitts on the Jaguar F-Pace to create the LFP? It claims the 666hp fettled F-Pace will top 200mph. At present, we’re more inclined to take Bentley’s word, but we’re up for a drag race if Lister is game.Bentley Bentayga Speed world's fastest SUV

To help it stop, the Bentayga Speed comes with new carbon ceramic discs that can deliver 6,000Nm of braking torque.

They also save 20kg over standard iron items. Not hugely significant, it must be said, in a car that tops two tonnes…

Looks that kill

The big Bentley was never much to look at, was it? Fortunately, the Speed gets some spicier exterior addenda to reflect its added potency.

A bigger rear spoiler is evident, alongside a smattering of Speed badges,  smoked lights and the massive 10-spoke 22-inch wheels.

Bentley Bentayga Speed world's fastest SUV

Inside, the Speed gets more sporty look, with lashings of Alcantara and carbon fibre.

The total horsepower of Premier League parking lots is about to take a leap.

Bentley Advanced Connectivity offers 5G internet speeds in your car

What does the car of the future look like? Is it electric? Almost certainly. Is it autonomous? Probably. Is it connected? Absolutely. But better-connected cars are what Bentley customers want right now. And what Bentley customers want, they often get.

That’s where Bentley Advanced Connectivity comes in. We could all find ourselves passengers in our own cars at some point, but a good portion of Bentley owners have been ‘back-seat drivers’ throughout the marque’s 99-year history. That makes Bentley the perfect carmaker to begin carving out a connected future.

“It’s normal that Bentley is looking at these kinds of things because of who our customers are and what they need,” said Hamid Qureshi, connected car product manager at Bentley.

What is Bentley Advanced Connectivity?

Bentley Mulsanne Speed

Bentley Advanced Connectivity is super-strength wi-fi that turns a Mulsanne into a “luxury automotive office and entertainment space”. That means your 4K video or very important Skype business call will stay smooth on the move. 

“Our customers, in particular, have a need,” continued Hamid, “whereby they’re often being driven somewhere, and the back of our cars is used as an office or entertainment space. That means data-intensive work, content streaming or otherwise.

“Whenever we’re in a fast moving object like a plane, train – or a Bentley – it’s difficult to keep connected. Wi-fi loss, signal loss… we all have different experiences of this. We wanted to provide a solution here and now.”

How does it work?

Bentley has partnered with Californian satellite communications company Viasatt to develop an in-car router. Interestingly, it takes advantage of improvements made in global connectivity via one of Viasatt’s secret military applications. 

The installation itself is a three-SIM router mounted in the car with two wi-fi antennas and eight – yes, eight – LTE antennas. Six are active and two are dormant – future-proofing for heightened internet speeds to come.

That router can connect to any super-fast wi-fi hotspot on the planet, be it at your home, office or yacht. Yes, Hamid cited a yacht as a possible connectivity, er, anchor.

You can expect speeds up to 50mbps when sat still. That’s more or less equivalent to the upcoming 5G signal strength.

The future of connected tech

For reasons that sound a lot like “we’re not showing you our hand”, Hamid ducked questions about the pie-in-the-sky autonomous concepts we’ve seen of late from the likes of Volvo and Renault. His only comment was that if it makes sense for the industry to be investigating something, Bentley probably is as well.

Bentley Advanced Connectivity is the functional gestation of that kind of future. Advancing and improving the experience of the passenger, not just in a traditional ‘luxury’ sense, but also in technological terms.

“We’re very much keen to frame it around the customer, understand his or her needs and wants. We want to centre it around the customer’s lifestyle.

“We within Bentley know that the industry and the infrastructure is gearing up. It’s not ready. It’s good to look at the technology but we need to know what our customers need now.”

A Bentley thus-equipped will offer industry-leading wi-fi strength anywhere on Earth. It’s not a film-set fantasy from Blade Runner or Minority Report, but rather what we all want here and now. It’s also something we’ll likely see in our conventional cars at some point. Not before Bentley customers get it first, though…

Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but Bentley Advanced Connectivity will be available from next year.

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