What does a luxury EV look like? This is Bentley’s answer


When you think of Bentley, you think of luxury, power and a traditional design being listened to through the automaker’s 100-year history. But its upcoming range of all-electric vehicles offers the brand a unique challenge: How do you maintain luxury while transitioning to a new motorist lifestyle tied to a network of charging stations and slow recharging cycles?

This will not be easy for any automaker in the UK, which must follow the UK government’s aspiration that every car in the country to go off the assembly line is at least hybrid gas- and electric by 2030 and fully electric. Vehicle (EV). by 2035. Other countries and US states have set similar deadlines – for example, New York and California both have their own plans to ban the sale of gas vehicles in 2035.

Bentley, with production based in Crewe, England, has announced its timeline to move its vehicles to more environmentally friendly models: hybrid versions of its fleet by 2023, its first EV in 2025, and its full range by 2030 Make it electric.

It seems especially challenging to come out of the Covid-19 lockdown, which caused Bentley to lay off a quarter of its workforce last year. As some parts of the world open back up, the automaker invited me to San Diego to drive their current cars and hear about their future autos.

This includes the Bentayga Hybrid, which I was able to compare to the traditional petrol model – and I didn’t feel the difference at all. Drive feel and performance were nearly identical, and I couldn’t really tell when the car switched between electric and gas power. The interior trim, on the other hand, was on the same level of high quality.

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Bentayga Hybrid

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While I didn’t get a chance with the Flying Spur hybrid (it was announced a few days ago), Bentley does go into detail about its hybrid plans. The company, on the other hand, was silent about EVs coming in 2025, sharing vague plans and aspirations, but explaining little,

Despite that secrecy, I learned several things: The company has been passing around design mock-ups internally and largely finalizing the look of the 2025 EV, and they’re focusing on a potential model with consumers. are. The vehicle can’t drive yet, but there are more pressing, near-existent questions to be answered first—namely, how much could the design change and could it still be a Bentley?

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Bentley Electric: A turning point?

Bentley’s 2025 EV is an existential crisis for an automaker that has built a brand on traditional decor, performance and driving experience. EVs, most popularly embodied by Tesla, evoke modern design inside and out, with an interior defined by sleek minimalist exteriors and detailed touchscreens. The difference between old and new is clear: Bentley’s legacy of auto design is both a force and an anchor, a century of recognition that new brands like Tesla don’t see.

In the morning’s presentation, Bentley Head of Exterior Design John Paul Gregory described the luxury carmaker’s most basic design language, letting viewers know they’re looking at a Bentley: by a ‘power line’ from the headlights to the rear. Defined an iconic silhouette door that meets a curved ‘hunch’ line on the rear wheel that jumps far enough to be seen in the rear mirrors, as if a metal lion preparing to leap. But casual observers can thank Bentley for its more telltale indicators – the flat-winged ‘B’ icon on most models’ hoods and trunk, ‘Flying B’ hood ornaments, and the classic-looking silver front grille.

Tradition governs Bentley’s design language, so much so that its hybrid variants – the crossover Bentayga and the recently released sedan Flying Spur – look exactly like their petrol versions. And judging from my test drive time with the Bentayga Hybrid, they drive just like their more traditional gas-powered versions, with similar interior design and fancy trim. Bentley wants its customers to easily transition to hybrid models by 2023, when it starts offering each of its cars in hybrids.

But the 2025 EV won’t just be an electrified alternative version of the current model — it will be an entirely new car, with a completely new design, Gregory said. It will likely borrow a lot from the all-electric 2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT, including its design material. Does this mean they will integrate naturally fallen wood preserved in peat bogs for millennia or ‘leather-like’ seats made from winemaking byproducts, as described car and driver, remains to be seen.

“It will be a lot more modern, a lot more low and high, and it’s all about the integration of technology and how you maintain that prosperity and that craft that you see today,” Gregory said. “It’s leveraging technology to drive the luxury experience. We always do big enough cars that aren’t going to change, but the battery is spread out over an area on the floor, but the proportions may be different and the design may be different. is driven more by aerodynamic expressions than by modern expressions and luxury.

Given the lengthy design process, according to Jeff Kuhlman, Bentley’s chief communications and marketing officer, it’s not surprising to hear that the look of the 2025 EV is largely finished.

“2025 is tomorrow, essentially, in our world. So that design can be done to a great extent,” Cullman told Nerdshala. “The more difficult question is how do you design for 2030. It’s really looking at when our entire lineup is electric. How do you design for that?”

Consumer response will affect those vehicles, leaving much unknown – especially if Bentley decides to move existing names and designs to the new all-electric range. It would seem tempting—the current Continental GT, for example, hearkens back to a vehicle of the same name from Bentley’s legacy in the 1950s. But there are practical possibilities for designing cars without the need to accommodate more engines than legacy ones, and that opens up the design space.

“So now, you see how I balance those lines, how I give you more balanced performance when the weight is shifted with the battery pack sitting across the car,” Kuhlman said. “I expect designs to change. I expect performance to be within consumer expectations – but different, in the sense that it may be quieter, but will still have the torque we demonstrate.”

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EVs as Image Control – and Brand Development

The elephant in the room is that Bentleys are expensive, even by luxury car standards; The company’s most ‘affordable’ model is the Bentayga with a base price of $160,000/£177,000/AU$364,800. But any extra, from the tri-panel screen upgrade to the ‘winged B’ symbol stitched on the seats, costs extra.

When asked about the notion of luxury vehicles, Bentley North American CEO Georges didn’t think of it as introducing a low-cost model, but thinking about how to improve the brand’s image.

“There are places in the world where luxury cars aren’t always perceived as a positive – in some places it’s ‘Oh, you’re a gas guzzler’ and others it’s ‘Oh, you’re rich, how did you get your money,'” Georges said. “But with electrification, some people will be comfortable showing off their wealth.”

The Bentley EV is the solution to many problems, both real and anticipated. There is certainly an obvious benefit to being a more ecologically conscious consumer, but there can also be a practical one.

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George speaks to American buyers and how his electric Bentley will be able to drive in their cities, as his legislators have decided to ban vehicles that use gas and diesel, as in Paris, Madrid and other European metropolises. It’s worth planning for, even though the electric car recharging network isn’t strong enough yet.

“If you can’t enter Los Angeles in the future because it’s CO2-emitting, like any other city in the world, what happens? You might not have enough charging stations, but if you live in a city, Can’t enter, so what’s most painful?” Georges said.

Georges considers this active focus on sustainability – which includes all-EVs by 2030 – part of Bentley’s tradition of disrupting the luxury market. And yet, he believes there is a market for electric luxury, and points to the Porsche Taycan to meet market demand. But at the end of the day, climate change is happening, he said.

To plan ahead for that, you design a car early for an estimated 5-7 year lifespan, and develop it years in advance; At Georges’ estimation, it’s building a car to appeal to consumers after 11 years. In practical terms, that includes catering to the next potential owners of Bentley cars: Millennials, who will make up more than 50% of the luxury item purchasing market by 2025, according to Forbes.

Appealing to this younger demographic means embracing sustainability, but also how they use their luxuries; Use, not ownership, is more important. So Bentley is thinking about how it might introduce its vehicles to the leasing market: “It’s part of the younger generation trend….

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