Bentley is [thumb and forefinger just a few atoms apart] this close to signing off a two-seat super-coupe for production. “It ticks all our boxes,” says Bentley’s board member for sales and marketing, Kevin Rose.
“To decide whether to do a new model we always ask ourselves three questions. Is there a gap in the market? Is there a feeder group of customers coming from similar but cheaper cars? And can we make it a Bentley? With EXP 10, sure we can. It ticks all the boxes.”
So why not just come out and say you’re doing it? “The starting point is the business case. That means technical feasibility, timing, engineering capacity, as well as finance. And the EXP 10 still hasn’t been signed off by the board. We’ll tell you as soon as we know. Couldn’t keep it a secret, frankly.”
Aren’t there a scary number of rivals these days? “It actually helps if it has competition like the AMG GT and Aston Martin. It means people have already made a decision to be in that coupe market.” Things like the Jaguar F-Type R (and the upcoming SVR) probably constitute the ‘feeder group’.
Ok, what sort of car is it? Talking of the concept, Bentley’s boss Wolfgang Dürheimer said, “It will be smaller than the Continental GT but not cheaper.”
Rose confirms to us that the Continental GT and the Flying Spur saloon will be replaced. So the EXP 10 – or whatever the production version is called – will need something special to differentiate it. That something will be performance and sporty character.
Rose says it will use a version of a new VW Group platform matrix called MSB. This is rear-drive or 4WD, with a longitudinal engine. It was first designed for the next-gen Porsche Panamera. Because it’s modular (like MQB) several sizes of car can come from it.
Says Rose: “The EXP 10 will take the MSB platform from Porsche. We will pay them for it but also we have a big hand in the development of that platform. The MSB will be the core platform for the GT, the Spur and the EXP 10, too. It can be different in the front and the rear and the middle.
“So you can create a sedan with sedan feel or a sports car with a sports-car feel. There’s lots of flexibility in the height, too.” So it’s possible to make slinky low cars including the EXP10 and Panamera, and higher ones including the next Spur.
He says customers, even the technically savvy ones, don’t care about platform sharing. “They understand our modular sharing strategy. We can use common technology and get a different feel. I’ve never had a customer say ‘That’s a shared part.’ It’s not an issue. Customers use sharing in their own businesses.”
Engines? They’re being coy still. But the 608bhp W12 has been entirely re-done for the Bentayga so seems certain to have a long life ahead of it. The twin-turbo V8 too. What about a six? “Don’t rule anything out.” says Rose, “It’s such a fast-moving environment.”
What does 4WD mean for Bentley? “We are wedded to it for high-performance GTs but not for all of our cars. Look at the Mulsanne. Our customers like the stability of four-wheel-drive. You don’t go away from that rashly. In the northern US and Germany it’s a major benefit.”
It seems the design won’t change much for production. It has both sharper lines and more flowing surfaces than Bentley’s current rather formal cars. But it also says things about Bentley’s future in general. Says Rose, “I’d point at the EXP 10. That’s an idea for a specific car, but it’s also a glimpse of our design in general. It’s exactly because it is not radical that it’s a Bentley. It would be dangerous for us to do radical stuff. You have to be respectful of where you have been.
“Britishness is highly valued by our customers. British means understated styling, a long life, and special use of materials. Here in Britain we might think that ‘British’ is stuffy, gentleman’s clubs and so on. But overseas it seen as courageous, innovative and creative.”
And if you’re worried about the VW Group’s belt-tightening after the diesel scandal, Rose says it doesn’t affect Bentley. Crewe will make sure it can afford development of the new car from Bentley’s own revenue. “Priority number one for us being able to finance our own future.”