Bentley’s EXP 12 Speed 6e concept may please car enthusiasts, environmentalists

Bentley is one of the auto industry’s most tradition-focused brands, but it’s been breaking with tradition a lot lately. The British luxury automaker recently launched its first SUV, the Bentayga, and even sells a diesel version of it in Europe. Sacrilege.

Now, Bentley is expanding in a different direction, one that might be more appealing to both car enthusiasts and environmentalists. Debuting at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, the Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6e concept is not a hulking SUV. It’s a convertible sports car, with an electric powertrain to boot.

The EXP 12 Speed 6e borrows heavily from the well-received EXP 10 Speed 6 coupe concept, which debuted at the Geneva show in 2015. Both cars share a similar front fascia, sculpted sides, and oval taillights. The styling used for both cars could be considered an evolved version of the look of the current Continental GT, but adapted for a much smaller car. The EXP concepts hint at what a true Bentley sports car could look like.

While it did confirm an all-electric powertrain, Bentley did not offer any details or specifications. It did note that the EXP 12 Speed 6e is equipped with wireless inductive charging, which allows the car to charge by simply driving over a pad placed on the ground or a garage floor. Some aftermarket companies already offer ways to retrofit existing cars with this feature, and Mercedes-Benz is expected to be the first automaker to offer it as a factory option, likely sometime this year.

Like the powertrain, the interior takes Bentley in a different direction. The steering wheel looks more like something one would use to maneuver a Boeing 747, while the interior itself looks like it was modeled on a brothel. The center console is one long, vertical OLED screen. The driver gets redundant controls on the wheel, made from hand-cut glass, while the passenger gets their own screen on the dashboard fascia.

Bentley believes electric cars make sense because many of their qualities, such as quiet operation and torquey powertrains, are already associated with its internal-combustion cars. Electric cars will also help Bentley (and parent Volkswagen Group) meet stricter emissions standards. Bentley already plans to offer plug-in hybrid versions of every model, beginning in 2018 with the Bentayga, but an all-electric production model isn’t out of the question.

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