Between three distinct body styles and numerous engine specifications, Bentley has made more versions of the Continental over the years than we would care to count. But one thing it has, by and (very) large left alone is the Mulsanne. Sure, it’s done some special editions and some extra equipment packages – it’s even toyed with the idea of a two-door convertible version – but at the end of the day, the Mulsanne soldiers on as a four-door sedan with one engine and one engine alone. That may be about to change, however.
Fueled by ambiguous pronouncements from Bentley’s returning chief Wolfgang Dürheimer, rumors from the UK suggest that the Flying B marque is preparing a more performance-focused version of the Mulsanne to debut at the Paris Motor Show this October.
Details are few and far between, but we’d expect the Mulsanne’s long-serving 6.75-liter V8 engine to be further tuned beyond its current specification of 505 horsepower and 752 pound-feet of torque, accompanied by a stiffer suspension, bigger brakes and other upgrades. Historically Bentley would turbocharge the Mulsanne’s predecessors (to turn the 90s-era Brooklands, for instance, into the Turbo R), but the Mulsanne’s engine is already spooled up, so the British automaker will likely have to massage the extra muscle out another way.
We wouldn’t count on it swapping the engine out entirely, though: though the most potent version of the company’s 6.0-liter W12 engine as found in the Continental GT Speed produces more power (at 626 hp) than the Mulsanne, at 605 lb-ft it’s significantly down on the big sedan’s trademark tidalwave of torque.
There’s no shock in finding out that a new Bentley is going to be expensive; it kind of goes with the territory. However, company boss Wolfgang Dürheimer is indicating that its upcoming SUV could create a whole new rung of pricing for luxury utility vehicles.
While speaking with Autocar at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Dürheimer let slip that the company’s forthcoming SUV would have a price of 130,000 pounds or more ($220,000 at current US exchange rates). Thankfully, the Bentley boss further clarified the reason for such a high cost of entry. He said that the elite players in the field like the Porsche Cayenne or Land Rover Range Rover have prices that hit the European equivalent of about $220,000 for top-trim, fully-optioned models. “We aim to solve this problem,” said Dürheimer to Autocar. While it’s exceedingly rare for converted foreign MSRPs to equal the actual expense in the US, it looks to be at the very top end of the class.
That is a stratospheric figure, but the Bentley SUV already has some big rumors to live up to. The company is reportedly aiming for a 200-mile-per-hour top speed and may possibly offer a plug-in hybrid powertrain, as well. It’s being pretty flagrant in evaluating the new vehicle too by plastering a promotional URL on its test mules (see above). They show the model with the brand’s trademark circular headlights up front, and interior photos indicate a digital instrument panel. If Dürheimer is serious about that price, the company better pack the car with every bell and whistle it can find to justify it.
Since taking over Bentley, the Volkswagen Group has done a lot to modernize the marque and its products. And no small part of that came down to the engines. Under VW stewardship, Bentley introduced its ubiquitous W12 that makes it the largest producer of twelve-cylinder engines in the world. It then rolled out a smaller V8 co-developed with Audi that offers nearly all the benefits of the larger twelve but with less weight and better fuel economy. There’s even been talk of hybrids and diesels. But one thing the Germans have avoided touching is the 6.75-liter V8 in the Mulsanne.
Based on architecture that dates back to 1959, the Bentley L Series engine is one of the oldest automobile engines still in production. But while the basic architecture may remain the same, the engine has, of course, gone through many updates over the past several decades. Introduced when Bentley was still under Rolls-Royce ownership, official output figures were not released, but suffice it to say you can rest assured that it has increased dramatically from the “perfectly adequate” ratings of the original to the effortless 505 horsepower and 752 pound-feet of torque it produces in the Mulsanne today.
And for the foreseeable future, according to Autovisie, the car section of Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. Which may seem like a foregone conclusion, but does not represent the wisdom of a couple years ago. Speaking with an unnamed spokesperson for Bentley, Autovisie reports that the Flying B marque has no intention of retiring the big old V8 that’s still demanded by Mulsanne customers who are not interested in a newer or more technologically advanced engine brought in from Germany. The 6.75-liter V8 is a Bentley signature, after all – much as it was for Rolls-Royce before the two split and new parent BMW developed a V12 of the same capacity for the Phantom – and that’s not about to change any time soon, emissions legislation be damned.
There are few things in this world I enjoy more than an enthusiastic drive down tree-lined backroads on a warm summer evening. If you’re familiar with the geographic location of Detroit, you won’t be shocked to learn that we don’t have the sort of very-involving roads found all throughout California and other gorgeous parts of the country, but we still have some stretches of pavement that can be pretty darn fun when driven in the right car. The vast majority of our scenic roads, however, are of a more relaxed nature. And that’s why, despite my tendency to prefer high-strung hot hatches above all, I will never say no to a big, fast convertible during the warm season.
As far as said big, fast convertibles go, perhaps none is more exquisite than the 2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S Convertible, pictured here in the striking shade of St. James Red. Not long after returning from my trip across the pond to drive Bentley’s V8-powered Flying Spur sedan, I was given the chance to sample another one of its eight-cylinder wares, this one carrying less heft, offering a smidge more power, and, oh yeah, a roof that neatly stows behind the rear seats.
As luck would have it, the weather for my Conti weekend was the absolute definition of perfection. And so I took to those sweeping, tree-lined roads way outside of Detroit to see how this Bentley’s “S” badge improves upon the lovely GT V8 Convertible I drove last year. Hard work, but somebody’s gotta do it.
By the numbers, the differences between the V8 and V8 S aren’t that significant. Power from the twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 increases from 521 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque – increases of 21 and 15, respectively, versus the non-S model. This makes the 5,445-pound, all-wheel-drive convertible a bit quicker off the line, with Bentley estimating a 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds, compared to the 4.7 of the standard droptop.
But the power increase isn’t the point here. Specific changes for the V8 S turn this already exquisite Grand Tourer into a much more precise, nimble machine – words I’ve never used to describe one of the creations from Crewe before. Front and rear spring rates have been increased by 56 percent and 18 percent, respectively, versus the normal GT Convertible. Bushing stiffness is up by 70 percent. The ride height has been lowered by 10 millimeters. The rear anti-roll bar is 54 percent stiffer.
Numbers, shmumbers – when all that data comes together on the road, you’ve got a Bentley that’s one of the better cruisers the company has ever produced. I’ve always found these cars to be completely unflappable, but the GT V8 S hauls with a far more focused attack. There’s an eternity of grip available from the 20-inch wheels and 275/40ZR20 Pirelli PZero tires, not to mention the all-wheel-drive system keeping the power delivery under control. But that characteristic boat-like float that occasionally marred the GT’s comportment is gone. The V8 S stays totally poised through the corners, and on the more involving stretches of my sun-drenched drive route, it truly felt lighter and more agile than its nearly three-ton heft would suggest. Feedback through the steering wheel is improved versus the non-S model. The large brakes keep everything in check with supreme force. This is truly one of the best-driving Bentleys I’ve ever tested.
One of the greatest sounding, too. The 4.0-liter V8 used here is an engine truly tuned for performance, whereas the larger W12 is just, well, very powerful on its own. But here in the S, the aural stimulation from the twin-turbo eight-pot is improved, and with the roof folded back, it’s a delight. There’s a low, throaty growl bellowing from the figure-eight-shaped pipes out back, with a sort of percussive bass line that makes you feel like you can hear each individual piston pumping. I know Bentleys are all about being quiet and refined – and with the roof affixed, you barely hear anything – but this improved tone does wonders for the whole motoring experience. It’s fantastic.
Speaking of the roof, it’s a solid, thick, nicely upholstered bit of work that’ll easily shield you and yours from the elements. Beyond that, the Conti GT V8 S Convertible’s interior is just as nice as it is in the coupe, or the Flying Spur sedan. Is the tech outdated? Yep. I’ve complained about that before. But like every other Continental with which this interior is shared, I’ve got nothing but praise for the craftsmanship and material selection. It’s really hard to beat a Bentley in terms of comfort and refinement.
Compared to the standard GT V8 Convertible, the S adds a premium of $13,100 – a solid chunk, no doubt, but that’s chump change for the Bentley connoisseur. That sneaky little “S” really does change things for the better, here, making the Continental Convertible a genuinely involving, wonderful car.
The Continental GT V8 S Convertible is still the same big, luxurious Grand Tourer it always was – comfortable, tight as a drum, damn sexy and plush. The changes to this S model aren’t immediately noticeable in the city, or even while straight-line highway cruising. But on a beautiful day, on a tree-lined, lazy backroad, the Big B comes into its own with far more precision than before. It’s an easy car to love, and one I’d happily steer every day until the summer fades away.
A 19-year-old in the UK is smarting after the possibility that his prolific social media use may be at the heart of four family-owned supercars going up in flames in barely a week. Aleem Iqbal has thousands of followers on Twitter and Instagram paying attention to his frequent posts about the high-priced cars he’s driving. He’s even been featured on the Tumblr page Rich Kids of Instagram. It appears that some people might not be so smitten with him, though.
According to his Twitter profile, Iqbal owns Platinum Executive Travel, a luxury car rental company in the England, and UK newspaper The Telegraph claims the company is also owned by Iqbal’s father. On June 6, cameras caught three hooded men setting fire to a Lamborghini Aventador Roadster leased by the company for a wedding. A few days later, two Audi R8 Spyders and a Bentley Continental Flying Spur from Platinum also got the torch, and two men were caught on camera setting the blaze. Nobody was hurt in either of the attacks, and the Aventador appeared to be repairable with the fire causing most damage to the passenger seat and dashboard. Police are still investigating both of the crimes.
According to The Telegraph, Iqbal believes that the arsons could have stemmed from jealousy towards him and his family’s business. Regardless, setting fire to a bunch of cars that are likely insured isn’t a great way to show displeasure.
Episode #385 of the Autoblog podcast is here, and this week, Dan Roth, Steven Ewing and Michael Harley talk about the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans, Tesla opening its patents, and Ford lowering fuel economy ratings for several vehicles. We also had a chance to chat with Jonathon Buckley, the host of Translogic here on Autoblog. We start with what’s in the garage and finish up with some of your questions, and for those of you who hung with us live on our UStream channel, thanks for taking the time. Check out the new rundown below with times for topics, and you can follow along down below with our Q&A. Thanks for listening!
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