Bentley has revealed how its luxury saloon might look in the year 2036, incorporating autonomous driving technology, components made via 3D printing and even a holographic butler to cater to the needs of passengers.
The image shows the kind of interior a car from the luxury, chauffeur-driven end of the manufacturer’s portfolio, possibly a Mulsanne, might have two decades from now.
The lounge-style rear cabin features two sofa-like seats positioned opposite each other and infotainment screens made from flexible, 0.5mm-thick material mounted to the side panels. It is the work of Bentley’s 50-strong design team led by Stefan Sielaff, who joined the company as director of design last July.
“This explains how the interior of Bentleys has to develop and in particular how the luxury experience has to develop in the future,” said Sielaff.
“We are pushing with materials and with screens. The super-thin screen is still experimental but it is only as thick as a piece of paper and you can bend it. The screens of the future won’t be straight pieces of glass, instead they will be integrated into the materials. The luxury customer is not sitting in front of a shoebox all the time.
“With this image we are talking about the luxury atmosphere in our cars. You could imagine that this is the interior of an autonomous Bentley, even though many of our customers already do not drive themselves because they have chauffeurs.”
The holographic butler represents “somebody you can talk to, it’s not just a machine” to offer Bentley customers a more personalised experience. “This is also part of luxury and design in the future. This is what we have to combine.”
In addition to the 2036 vision of a luxury interior, Sielaff hinted at some aspects of design that are closer to production reality and will “take Bentley design into the future”. Indeed, some cues could be incorporated into the design of upcoming cars, such as the next Continental, which is currently in development ahead of an anticipated launch in 2017.
Bentley’s future designs will continue to emphasise the brand’s British roots via what Sielaff refers to as a “fusion of extremes”, with the sporting models at one end of the spectrum and luxury models at the other.
Bentley is plotting new cars in its portfolio; company boss Wolfgang Dürheimer recently told Autocar that he would like to see as many as seven model lines, with prospective future offerings, such as a Bentayga-derived sports SUV and the production version of the EXP 10 Speed 6 coupé in the final stages of consideration.
Sielaff said the “overall ratio between performance and luxury will get even wider. Our flagships will get even more luxurious on the one hand and even more sporty on the other.”
Future Bentley designs will retain some familiar elements, such as the round headlights - which Sielaff refers to as “something that should stay with Bentley forever” – and two significant styling lines in the exterior side profile.
“One is what we call the ‘power line’ and the other is the ‘haunch’,” explained Sielaff. “So to express a really sporty statement we always separate the power line and the haunch, but in the more luxury flagship models we stretch the power line into the haunch to accentuate the length of the cars.”
Future Bentleys will also make greater use of components made via 3D printing, inspired by the use of such techniques on the EXP 10 Speed 6 concept.
“3D printing is fascinating for use because it overcomes problems of production for us. You can create detailed, complex components that in the past we would not be able to make via milling or casting, for example integrating a 3D image of a Union flag into a door hinge. This is only possible using 3D printing.
“The detailing on the interior of the grille can also be 3D printed and that is also something that in the future will give each car in our family personality. We can play with the interior of the grille to make it more sporty or more elegant. These are things that are influencing our future design language from a technical perspective.”
Bentley sees sales potential among technology-savvy ‘millienials’, and “their expectations will be different”, said Sielaff who explained that, as car-buying preferences change, Bentley has to react. Having already incorporated stone veneer into its cars’ interiors as an alternative to wood or metal, Bentley is now doing research into other natural materials that could be an alternative to leather.
“In California, especially in the area around Los Angeles and San Francisco, there are some customer trends that will definitely be coming to Europe, and that are influencing our way of living and our behaviour,” he said.
“This is a more ecological and sustainable way of living, and a different way of acting towards both society and your own body, such as the vegan lifestyle. This is definitely coming into the luxury car sector at the moment. These customers are not interested in leather upholstery in cars anymore because their lifestyle almost forbids them to use material taken from animals.
“So we have to experiment with this and find alternatives. We are experimenting with protein leather and with natural-based materials and textiles to meet these new expectations. It gives us a big chance to reinvent the interiors of our cars.”
Bentley’s design team is also in the process of refreshing its iconic ‘Flying B’ grille mascot and ‘Winged B’ badge. “They are part of the corporate identity so we have to be very careful how we refine them,” said Sielaff.
OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) technology is set to feature in the lights of future models, with Sielaff explaining that the company “has some ideas for three-dimensional OLEDs”.
“We have many different targets to fulfil, but it must always be a Bentley,” said Sielaff. “You must smell, feel and touch it and think ‘this is a Bentley’. This applies not only to the materials, but also to the architecture, such as the way the dashboards of our cars mimic our double wing theme. This is part of the genetic code of our interiors and we will continue this in the future.”