Bentley focuses on plug-in performance for Continental GT

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R&D boss hints that Bentley will prioritise hybrids over super-powered range toppers.

Bentley’s new 485kW Continental GT Speed will be the hottest, most driver-focused version of the third-generation luxury coupe, company insiders have hinted.

Instead of successors to either the 522kW W12-engined Continental Supersport of 2017 or the V8-engined GT3-R of 2014, the development effort for the GT now turns to petrol-electric options to further broaden the GT model spectrum and drive down the average carbon emissions of Bentley’s new-car line-up.

Bentley engineering boss Matthias Rabe told us that there is “some interest in an electrified GT from Bentley customers who live in metropolitan areas and will need a car capable of zero-emissions running to drive in new clear-air zones”. The company has a strategic roadmap for the total electrification of its product line by 2030, and has already introduced PHEV versions of the Bentayga SUV and the Flying Spur limousine.

Crewe’s technical options for any GT Hybrid would include the same V6 hybrid system fitted to those sibling models; a more powerful V8 hybrid technically similar to the powertrain in Porsche’s Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid; or even a more powerful and sophisticated combination of electric motors and piston power to rival Mercedes-AMG’s recently announced GT 73. “We are investigating several options in the experimental prototype stage,” said Rabe, “but we are still talking to customers and testing the appetite of the market.”

While a smaller-engined, less powerful PHEV could give Bentley the best chance of scoring a sub-50g/km European emissions rating, it might not be the obvious choice. Buyers in key global markets continue to favour the GT’s 12-cylinder engine over the smaller V8, and there are even some at Bentley’s home in Crewe with memories long enough to recall how poorly the BMW-engined Arnage of the late 1990s was received by customers who were quick to swap them in for 6.75-litre, Bentley-engined Red Label cars.

Meanwhile, and at the other end of the derivative spectrum, Bentley insiders have strongly hinted that no replacement for either the Continental Supersport or the GT3-R is in the product plan for the current GT model generation.

The predecessors of these derivatives came along late in the life cycle of the second-generation GT; and it can be assumed that, by the same time in the life cycle of the current-generation GT later this decade, Bentley’s pivot towards an all-electric model line-up will make hardcore petrol-engined GTs an awkward fit.

Matt Saunders

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