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Beijing show: Bentley plugs in

Charging forward: Bentley’s first-ever plug-in hybrid powertrain is being demonstrated in the Mulsanne, but will debut in its still-to-be-named SUV due in 2017.

Mulsanne showcases Bentley plug-in hybrid tech, but 2017 SUV to be first to use it


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10 Apr 2014

BENTLEY Motors has confirmed its all-new luxury SUV due for release in 2017 will be fitted with the hallowed British brand’s first plug-in hybrid powertrain.

The company has yet to reveal the production version, and the name, of the controversial high-riding off-road wagon, the front-end of which was shown in a teaser image released last month.

However, in a move that continues the marketing campaign in the lead-up to the SUV’s official unveiling, the company has offered up the ‘Bentley Hybrid Concept’ based on the flagship Mulsanne – and promised that the powertrain will eventually be offered across its entire range.

The concept will be shown at this month’s Beijing motor show, and Bentley’s confirmation of the hybrid drivetrain comes exactly two years after management revealed at the 2012 show in the Chinese capital that it was planning to offer a plug-in hybrid version of the forthcoming SUV.

At the time, a V6 plug-in hybrid was under consideration, but an engine shot released with the concept shows that it will be combined with the Mulsanne’s 6752cc V8.

In conventional guise, the high-performance petrol bent-eight is a twin-turbocharged unit that develops 377kW of power and a phenomenal 1020Nm of torque, driving the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

The big 2685kg Mulsanne can reach 100km/h from standstill in 5.3 seconds, on its way to a 296km/h top speed, but its environmental performance is less impressive, with combined-cycle (EU) fuel economy of 16.9L/100km and CO2 emissions of 393 grams per kilometre.

Hence the importance of the plug-in hybrid system as Bentley keeps up with increasingly stringent international economy/emissions regulations and changing consumer expectations.

“There is no doubt that plug-in hybrid technology is true to Bentley’s values of outstanding luxury and effortless performance,” said Bentley Motors chairman and CEO Wolfgang Schreiber.

“Combining our renowned engines with electric power reinforces and enhances both principles, and so we will gradually introduce this powertrain across our model range.

“By the end of the decade, at least 90 per cent of our production will be available as a plug-in hybrid. We are proud to be pioneering these developments in the luxury sector.”

Specific details on the plug-in hybrid system are still to be revealed, with Bentley at this stage saying only that it will offer “a power increase of up to 25 per cent together with a 70 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions, both without any compromise to the exquisite luxury, timeless design and industry-leading refinement for which Bentley has become renowned”.

“Bentley hybrids will also be capable of driving at least 50km on electric power alone, allowing for emissions-free city driving with the option of enhanced performance on the open road,” the company said.

Bentley used the Mulsanne flagship rather than another model in its range “to show that hybrid technology enhances even the pinnacle of luxury and performance”.

The designers used copper as a styling element both inside and out “to highlight the car’s electrical veins”, with copper detailing on the headlights, grille surround, brake callipers, side trim, rear bumper and badges.

Copper accents are also used across the cabin in areas such as fascia inserts, switch bezels and instruments. Copper cross-stitching to the ‘Mulliner Driving Specification’ diamond-quilted trim provides “the finishing flourish”.

With the Beijing show hosting the SUV’s plug-in system, the production version of Bentley’s first off-road wagon is now expected to make its world premiere at the Paris motor show later this year.

The teaser image released last month proved that Bentley has made substantial changes to the polarising EXP 9 F SUV concept unveiled at the 2012 Geneva motor show.

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