Although the car has not been officially confirmed as going on sale, Bentley engineering chief Rolf Frech has admitted that all recent concepts from the company have made it to production. However, it will be subjected to "very professional" analysis in the US and China before a final decision is made on it being built.
"This is not a creation that has fallen from the sky. We have been thinking about it for a long time," said Frech. "We have really good experience and knowledge of how to judge buyers' reaction from researching the SUV. We will just do it again.
"How long will it take? Just the same as the SUV - three years to create; four years to get it on the market. But the launch date will also be affected by how well it fits the cycle plan."
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, and has been described as being "the best you can get" by Frech. It will have a wheelbase that is approximately 100-120mm shorter than that of the Continental GT, and the car is said to be more driver focussed than the larger car.
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.
The car has been packaged to accommodate both a standard V8 and a plug-in hybrid. "And if there is a really powerful V6, why not on such a car?" said Frech.
The battery weight means that a production version of a plug-in hybrid would weigh around 2000kg.
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 that of 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. Bentley has also said that 3D printing is likely to be used to produce some of the high-quality components and controls in the cabin.
A 12.0in 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.
There is also the chance of a racing variant, with a spokesman saying it would make a "much better racing car" than the current car. It has been created with motorsport in mind, with the suspension pick up points and other elements specially designed.
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. Production numbers for the finished EXP 10 Speed 6 would be around the same level as those of the Continental GT, and it is expected to go on sale in approximately three years' time, suggesting a 2018 launch date.
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.
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