(Pocket-lint) - The Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 Concept was our favourite car of the Geneva show. We know what you're thinking: yet another super/luxury performance car? Well, Geneva was littered with the things – performance and big money dominated the show.
Once you've taken another intake of breath having said the full concept name, you can revel in what was easily the most perfectly proportioned little coupe on a show stand in Geneva, and the hope that Bentley might – just might – be thinking about building something like this one day soon.
The EXP 10, as we'll simply call it, has been created to sit on the VW's groups next-gen front-engine, four/rear drive large coupe platform. And we'd expect there to be a Porsche-branded equivalent of this car appear at some point in the future too. This concept is a sure sign that Bentley is thinking about expansion. With the dreadfully named Bentayga SUV already in the pipeline, the thinking goes that a small sports GT could be shoe-horned into the bottom of the range below the full-size Continental GT to expand the brand. With two seats and decent space for luggage, think of it as Bentley's answer to the Aston Martin Vantage.
You might even be thinking there are some Aston cues in the design – thanks to the shape of the window line and the swan-wing door openings for that. But looking at it from the front you'd never mistake it for anything other than a Bentley.
The overall form is relatively simple: a classic two seat coupe that's beautifully resolved. But the EXP 10 is a modern take on some historic ideas and design cues, so you get full LED lamps, while that grille, those tail-pipes and the mesh in the apertures are actually 3D-printed metal.
Playing a fillip to the green exterior coat is a bronze/copper colour, which shows face on the Bentley badge, in the wheels and on the brake callipers too. It also prepares you for what lies within.
Swing open that door and a clever mix of old and new greets you. Bentley has some classic interior design signatures – the winged-dashboard being one of them – but in the modern day, and for a smaller car, the sections are typically massive, thick and look heavy. Not so the Bentley EXP 10, as its classic dashboard shape has been hollowed out.
The dash floats in thin sections of wood and looks light; it joins up with the centre tunnel that jinks its way through the car; it houses some exciting details; and it shows off how clever Bentley's designers have been. Such design avoids a reduction in the sense of space and any potential feeling that Bentley is slightly out of step with the modern world and its trend for energy reduction and lightness.
Let's start with the 12-inch centre touch screen, which is thin and portrait orientated. It reminds us of what's currently found in a McLaren or the Porsche 918, but, and just like Audi, Bentley has its hands on curved screen technology, so the upper section curls outward towards the passengers.
Below the screen, Bentley contrasts the digital world with an analogue one, fitting a gear shifter that's topped with cherry wood and is beautiful to hold. Check out the milled mechanical connection for the shift linkage. And the bronzed Bentley "B" in the hollow section of the shifter, which doubles as the start/stop button, firing up the engine when pressed to the side. Bentley might be going modern, but it still wants to do dramatic and special better than anyone other manufacturer.
Move onto the cluster, and you're looking at perhaps the most interesting element of the car from a tech point of view. Bentley's designer told us that they thought about going all digital here, but the company didn't feel a fully digital screen was entirely appropriate for the brand. Instead a hybrid of analogue dial and digital screen – the speedo stays analogue, like a chronograph watch, while set within it, rather than analogue dials like timepieces tend to have, are three small OLED screens. Each is about the size of a 10-pence piece and displays digital read-outs for power usage, battery charge state and fuel level. Next to this, where the trip info and the rev counter normally live, there's just one screen – formatted in the shape of the traditional gauge pack – that reformats on the fly to show navigation, music and so forth. We couldn't take our eyes off it.
It wouldn't be a Bentley without some fabulous material use, and our highlight was the door. Hollowed sections of that cherry wood and leather combine to make the thing feel and look light. Look at the end of the door and it is actually hollow rather than solid, but it appears to have much more three-dimensionality than your average door. The cherry wood in the door was carved down to a super-thin piece, and fashioned into a diamond pattern – a very new/old way of re-interpreting Bentley's signature diamond pattern, normally found in the grille and on the seat leather. Set in-between the wood's diamond patterns are a series of copper squares, riffing off the material used elsewhere in the car.
To sit in, the Bentley EXP 10 feels super special. To look at, it is fabulous. And VW group has the hardware to make this concept car actually happen. Forget the theoretical tech specs of the press release, the reality is that Bentley's parents company has rear or four-wheel drive setups, plus 6-cylinder and V8 engine options, in among hybrid modules. Apparently Bentley's customers were queuing up to try and buy one in Geneva, so the signs are good that it might happen. We certainly hope so – not that we'll be able to afford one.
Sometimes, in the context of The Cloud, 4G, electric drive technology and climate change, we wonder about the future of a brand like Bentley. The old world can occasionally feel just stuck in the past. But what's most pleasing about the EXP 10 is that the company clearly has a bunch of clever people on board, who know the brand needs to change, modernise and move forward – but have some very nice ideas about how to do that while retaining classic design elements and brand values for the modern world. And if a future production Bentley looks and feels like this, surely Bentley's future will be brighter than ever.