Bentley’s yet-unnamed SUV will be on sale in 2016 and not long after it materializes in a gated community near you, there will also be a plug-in hybrid variant.
Fuel economy hasn’t traditionally been a major consideration for the brand, but that is starting to change. All of Bentley’s products have moved to an eight-speed transmission from the former six-speed unit. But as fuel consumption rules become stricter, Bentley is girding itself for much more extensive changes than the current measures, which include extra gears, cylinder deactivation and low-friction materials.
Bentley engineering boss Rolf Frech says there is a chance that plug-in hybrids could do more than just supplement already existing powetrain options; they might end up serving as substitutes.
New Rules, New Bentley
“You never know what will happen in China. We also have to look at what is going on with the c02 limitations in the U.S. and in Europe,” Frech said. Nothing is set yet, but emissions laws could push Bentley to replace existing models in some markets rather than supplementing them. “Maybe it will be a substitute, if there are coming up legal requirements,” he said before adding that Bentley might eventually replace some models with plug-in hybrids to satisfy carbon dioxide rules.
SEE ALSO: Bentley SUV Forging an All New Segment
But Frech promises that this won’t mean the death of Bentley’s signature luxury performance. The SUV will use common plug-in hybrid powertrain parts shared among Volkswagen Groups’ vehicles, but tweaked to provide what Bentley casually calls effortless performance.
After its introduction in the SUV, the powertrain “can also be rolled out to the other car lines,” said Frech. “That’s a big advantage we can use with that model strategy out of the VW Group. These powertrains, these engines and transmissions are available and we can just ‘plug it in’ as a plug in. So that’s a big advantage and it’s definitely our strategy to go for plug-in hybrid vehicles because of the social acceptance and legal requirements which will come up.”
Next Generation Battery Technology
But by the time the plug-in hybrid SUV is ready to be sold, Volkswagen Group will have moved on to a new generation of battery technology beyond what is being sold in the new plug-in Porsche Panamera.
“I think we will be able to get a plug-in hybrid to a level where we say ‘yes, this is really luxury performance and that is well adapted for Bentley.’ Of course, we have to do something differently than other can manufacturers are doing. We have ideas for that,” he said.
The car pictured here is the EXP-9F concept that debuted two years ago during the Geneva Motor Show. After a tenuous reception, Bentley is said to have rethought the Mulsanne-based design. Frech said development and testing of the vehicle is on track for the planned launch in roughly two years.
GALLERY: Bentley EXP 9 F SUV Concept
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