Bent­ley EXP 12 Speed 6e

Pro­duc­tion EV pos­si­ble

Auto Car (UK) - - THIS WEEK - MARK TISSHAW

Bent­ley will choose ei­ther a sports car in­spired by its EXP 12 Speed 6e con­cept or an ad­di­tional SUV to be­come its fourth model line from 2021 — but which­ever is cho­sen, the new car is likely to be the Bri­tish man­u­fac­turer’s first pure-elec­tric of­fer­ing.

The EXP 12 Speed 6e con­cept un­veiled at the Geneva mo­tor show is a re­vised ver­sion of the EXP 10 Speed 6 coupé con­cept first seen in 2015. The new car fea­tures a con­vert­ible roof, a high-tech new in­te­rior and an elec­tric pow­er­train. After Geneva, the Speed 6e con­cept will be used in cus­tomer clin­ics to can­vass their views on elec­tric cars and what they would ex­pect from one made by Bent­ley.

“The con­cept is a dis­cus­sion on where bat­tery elec­tric ve­hi­cles [BEVS] could go within Bent­ley,” engi­neer­ing boss Rolf Frech told Au­to­car. “Can an EV be a real Bent­ley, a real lux­ury car? EVS have typ­i­cally looked dif­fer­ent and not what cus­tomers ex­pect. For sure, in the fu­ture, we will go with a BEV and [so] we are try­ing to test re­ac­tion to such a car.”

To that end, the EXP 12 Speed 6e is of­fi­cially billed as a ‘tech­nol­ogy demon­stra­tor’, but an all-elec­tric Bent­ley will make pro­duc­tion within the next decade.

Bent­ley boss Wolf­gang Dürheimer said there is no im­mi­nent de­ci­sion on the iden­tity of a fourth Bent­ley model line be­cause the prod­uct plan is al­ready set for the next four years. After that, he said, there will be room to grow, and he is study­ing world­wide seg­ments, in­clud­ing sports cars and other SUVS.

For now, it is im­por­tant for “cus­tomers to de­cide and de­fine elec­tric ve­hi­cle motor­ing in the Bent­ley spirit”,” he said.

If the sports car is cho­sen as

the elec­tric Bent­ley, it will be based on a Porsche-de­vel­oped elec­tric plat­form, have a range of more than 300 miles, use wire­less in­duc­tion charg­ing and be four-wheel drive.

But whether or not that elec­tric car will be a sports car closely matched in size and style to the Speed 6e, or some­thing dif­fer­ent, is yet to be con­firmed. Only a down­sized hy­brid or pure-elec­tric driv­e­train will fit into the body and low nose of the Speed 6e, so such a model could not use Bent­ley’s V8 or W12 in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gines.

The pre­vi­ous EXP 10 Speed 6 coupé con­cept has led di­rectly to the Speed 6e and Frech said there is a “clear pos­si­bil­ity to step into” that mar­ket sec­tor, with a car to ri­val the likes of the As­ton Martin Van­tage and Mclaren 570S. Cus­tomer clin­ics for the 2015 con­cept were pos­i­tive, but the de­ci­sion to go into pro­duc­tion is not as sim­ple as win­ning cus­tomer ap­proval, be­cause a busi­ness case needs to be made.

Frech said the new cus­tomer clin­ics will gauge re­ac­tion not only to the car’s body shape, but also to the elec­tric pow­er­train. “We’re look­ing at the con­cept [of elec­tric cars], re­gard­less of what the body is — sports car, cross­over or SUV.”

Frech ad­mit­ted he is keen to make a sports car, but said that Bent­ley is “go­ing through the proper process with clin­ics, get­ting feed­back on EVS, and also on style. Based on that, we make a busi­ness case and look at a cy­cle plan. Then we get a de­ci­sion [from the board].”

Frech said there is no pres­sure on Bent­ley to grow its an­nual sales vol­ume: “It’s about what’s best for the brand and cus­tomers. We’re not vol­ume driven. We don’t want to di­lute the brand.”

Only a down­sized hy­brid or pure­elec­tric driv­e­train will fit the body and low nose of the Speed 6e

Ben­tayga will be­gin the in­tro­duc­tion of plug-in hy­brids at Bent­ley

Con­cept show­cases a po­ten­tial ri­val to As­ton’s Van­tage line

EXP 12 Speed 6e has a lux­u­ri­ous and high­tech two-seat cabin

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