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Hybrids set to replace Bentley W12

W12 engine gone within five years as Bentley prepares to abandon combustion engines

20 May 2021

BENTLEY Motor Company has just nine years to separate itself from combustion engines as it attempts to be “environmentally and ethically transparent” in its transition to an all-electric vehicle line-up by 2030.


While V8 and W12 petrol engines form the historical legacy of the British luxury marque, Bentley says it will offer a plug-in hybrid version of every model by 2024, and that the current W12 engine – a substantially new powertrain that debuted in late-2017 in the third-gen Continental GT – will be discontinued within five years.


Speaking to Australian motoring media at the recent MY21 Bentayga launch, Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark confirmed that widespread hybridisation of its line-up is already happening – starting in Australia with the Flying Spur plug-in hybrid in the second quarter of 2022 – and that its first battery-electric vehicle (BEV) is “now definitely (due by) the end of 2025.”


“We really are on the move (in terms of completely revamping the Crewe production site) and it’s all about making us ready for this electrified future for Bentley,” said Mr Hallmark.


“It’s quite ironic that … the 12-cylinder has been the bedrock of the Bentley story but there’s no doubt that within five years, that engine will not exist, and that’s a sad statement.


“But faced with this, and with the ever-growing knowledge about the impact on climate, and with the technologies that we now know are available, and especially with customer trends that we’re picking up through our research and through our dialogue, we’ve fully embraced that electrified, carbon-neutral future. And actually see, for us as a company, that next big strategic leap.


“We believe that we can make Bentley environmentally and ethically transparent, and neutral, all positive. And we think this gives luxury a purpose – it makes the brand and the segment appealing to a new generation of customers,” said Mr Hallmark


But he also admitted that Bentley plans to make the most of the time it has left building on its combustion-engine heritage.


“Please, please don’t worry, because for the next nine years, we will celebrate to the nth degree everything that we do – in eight cylinders, in hybrids, and in 12 cylinders – and we’ll do the best Bentleys we’ve ever done, and we’ll send this combustion-engine technology era out with the maximum fireworks and product highlights that we possibly can, and engage with existing customers as we make the shift towards electrification.”


While the Bentayga plug-in hybrid is already available in the US, Canada, Puerto Rico and China, the Flying Spur plug-in hybrid will be the first electrified Australian-market Bentley, complete with “a lot more horsepower in the base engine (compared to Bentayga Hybrid), as well as a little bit more range in the electric, and because the car is lighter, this combination makes the car absolutely sublime,” said Mr Hallmark.


The Bentayga Hybrid he’s referring to combines a 3.0-litre turbo-petrol V6 with a 17.3kWh lithium-ion battery for combined system outputs of 330kW/700Nm.


It is capable of 0-100km/h in a claimed 5.5 seconds, has a top speed of 254km/h and achieves 3.3L/100km on the NEDC combined fuel cycle.


“(The Flying Spur Hybrid) is literally as refined as the W12 but the economy of the vehicle is truly incredible,” he said.


“So even if it doesn’t meet the most strict city limits in terms of CO2 certification numbers, in the real world you can get between 60 and 300 miles-per-gallon (3.9 and 0.8L/100km) in your daily use of the vehicle.”


As for what’s coming from Bentley, Mr Hallmark is bullish about what the Volkswagen-owned British marque is set to deliver.


“The next generation of hybrids, which will be about two to three years away, will be with more powerful engines and more battery power, so you’ll end up with more power than the W12.


“This should reduce our total CO2 footprint by between 60 and 70 per cent in the real world, and then in 2025 we launch the first battery-electric vehicle – it’ll actually be early ’26 before we see it broad-scale across the world on the road.


“And from ’26 to ’29, we then systematically go from ICE to electric in every nameplate over that three- to four-year period, so we really are on an extraordinary journey from that perspective,” he said.


With a completely refreshed model range, Bentley sales have been setting records in the lead-up towards electrification.


Global volume reached 11,206 units in 2020, with sales up a further 40 per cent in the first quarter of 2021 – even though the order rate is higher than Bentley’s delivery rate.


In Australia, Bentley achieved 165 sales in 2020, down 14 per cent on 2019 mainly due to stock shortages in the transition to facelifted Bentayga and new-generation Flying Spur.


Year-to-date in 2021, Bentley sales are up 23 per cent to 64 units – 28 Continentals, 26 Bentaygas and 10 Flying Spurs.

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