Called the EXP 10 Speed 6, the concept is said to be experimental in its design and has been revealed to gauge exactly what customers want from a Bentley sports car, as well as to get feedback on possible styling influences for all future models.
“It is one vision for Bentley’s future,” said company chairman Wolfgang Dürheimer. “It has the potential to be the pinnacle luxury two-seat sports car.”
Dürheimer said the sports car, due in the next three years, would be positioned alongside the Continental GT, suggesting a starting price of about £120,000.
“This is not just a new sports car concept but the potential Bentley sports car — a bold vision for a brand with a bold future,” he said. “It offers thrilling, driver-orientated performance, complete with trademark modern Bentley luxury and effortlessness.”
Although there is no official confirmation, the production car would most likely use the MSB flexible architecture of Bentley’s Volkswagen Group parent. The MSB architecture is designed for cars of all formats positioned above the Audi range in the VW Group.
Bentley has revealed that the concept is powered by a hybrid powertrain but hasn’t given any details. Production versions are likely to be powered by a reconfigured version of the 500bhp Audi-sourced twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 used in other Bentleys. However, higher-powered, different-engined versions would be likely to ensure that the car could match or eclipse the 200mph top speed of some of its saloon siblings. In Geneva, Bentley confirmed: “Performance goals, including top speed, are set to challenge competitors and define a new segment benchmark.”
Manufacturers are increasingly aware that new models that stretch their core offering need to be grounded in history to appeal to buyers, who want cars to have an authenticity about them. Rolls-Royce, for instance, is highlighting its history in off-road adventures in the build-up to the launch of its 4x4.
Overall, the design of the EXP 10 Speed 6 is influenced by the aerodynamic shapes of aircraft fuselage and wings, says Bentley. The short front overhang, long bonnet, low grille and wide rear are designed to convey the car’s performance potential.
Notably, the EXP 10 Speed 6 is also being used to test the reaction to themes that reassess many traditional Bentley elements. The styling includes a new interpretation of the classic Bentley front grille and headlight arrangement.
The concept also showcases new production techniques, such as 3D metal printing, apparent in areas such as the grille mesh, exhausts, door handles and side vents.
The front grille mesh, for instance, is manufactured with varying depths for a more three-dimensional look than the current traditional mesh, which is made from a flat plane of latticework. Likewise, the headlight glass is textured to imitate the look of the quilted leather inside the car. In part, the concept is testing customer reaction to the idea of using machined parts as well as handcrafted ones.
Similar techniques are showcased inside the car, most strikingly on the wooden section on the doors. These feature a quilted pattern that is milled directly onto the cherry wood section, with each diamond shape finished with a copper centre.
A 12in curved touchscreen also highlights a potential future integration of technology in Bentleys, as well as a proposed new dashboard layout.
Underlining that a Bentley sports car is still likely to have GT capabilities, there is space behind the seats for a bespoke four-piece luggage set.
Bentley’s Crewe facility has recently been upgraded and enlarged, and Dürheimer is said to be planning substantial growth at the firm. He has previously talked about launching a saloon between the Continental Flying Spur and Mulsanne, and there have been suggestions of a more compact SUV than the full-sized Bentayga, which is due to go on sale next year.
Bentley sold a little more than 10,000 cars in 2013, and Dürheimer has indicated a desire to raise that to 20,000 sales per year by 2020.