A former Motoring Editor at the Telegraph, Erin Baker combines a bike licence and race licence with a love of high-speed cars and penchant for embarrassingly low-speed crashes. Now she has two sons, she’s largely put her leathers to one side, preferring the cut and thrust of automotive industry debates and wondering which cars have Isofix…
Bentley unveiled an image of the future yesterday: its car of 2036. It says a lot that the image is an interior; cars in 20 years are going to be more about the passenger experience than ever, which is sad news for those of us who are committed petrolheads. Generation Y are far more interested in whether they can hook up to Google, use apps, talk to their mates or get work done than they are about how a car handles, looks or sounds.
The result of Bentley’s vision of the future says a lot about both the direction of travel for British luxury automotive companies and how car designers use the environment around them to style a response to consumer demands that haven’t even been realised yet – car marques have to answer questions before customers ask them which is, to put it mildly, tricky.
So what does Bentley think its future customer will want from a car? Stefan Sielaff, the head of design at Crewe, has observed those ultra-high net worth individuals coming out of LA and San Fransisco and noticed how a growing ecological awareness and sense of environmental responsibility means demands and expectations are shifting, No one wants animal-derived leather any more, for example, so the craftsmen at Crewe are looking at protein leathers alongside other materials such as textiles and even stone – Bentley has invented a stone veneer option which is a 10th of a millimetre thick (although naturally you can still specify a traditional wood veneer using timber from your own estate, should that float your boat/Bentley).
Glass plays a big part in the future too – the vision unveiled shows a glass surface inside, covering the doors, displaying lights, patterns, colours, information and more. Imagine the touchscreen infotainment system you have now and expand it to more or less fill a car. Using whisky cut-glass tumblers as inspiration, the headlamps of the future are works of intricate art, the glass cut a thousand different ways to create miniature sculptures refracting light down the road.
Luxury takes many forms in the 2036 car; perhaps the most extravagant, fun example is the holographic butler, magically popping up between seats to act as concierge for the passengers. A Google-modified Jeeves for our times, perhaps (remember the “Ask Jeeves” search engine? I doubt they envisaged Bentley’s solution).
It’s a tough call for Bentley to combine the conflicting demands of the marque in one car: on the one hand, dynamic cars competing in motorsport such as Blancpain, on the other, luxury limousines delivered to the Queen. But, as Sielaff pointed out, that dichotomy is what British brands are good at resolving – we are, after all, one of the oldest and most successful democracies, bringing conflicting ideologies together under the “Britain” banner, and Bentley sees itself as an extension of that resolution, bringing together sporting and luxury dynamics, sometimes in the same car. They’re a very clever bunch, despite using “DLO” (daylight openings) to describe what you and I would call windows. Designers, eh?