Bentley Goes Electric at Beijing Show with Plug-In Mulsanne Concept

Luxury makers face pressure to go greener.

by on Apr.21, 2014

Bentley shows off its plug-in hybrid system.

China’s long economic expansion has made it one of the most promising markets for luxury carmakers, with demand for high-line vehicles soon expected to exceed that in U.S. Even the most expensive brands have been growing at a blinding rate, right along with the rest of the Chinese market.

But China’s central government is putting pressure on carmakers – particularly those producing the most powerful and fuel-inefficient products — to develop more electric and hybrid vehicles because of growing concerns about the country’s endemic air pollution problems.

Electrifying News!

That’s encouraged Bentley to introduce its first-ever plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle, or PHEV, at this year’s Beijing Motor Show. The good news for potential buyers, stressed according to Wolfgang Schreilber, chairman and chief executive officer of Bentley Motors, is that the plug-in version of the flagship Mulsanne is both more powerful and even more efficient than the conventional, gas-powered model.

It's unclear if Bentley actually will offer a Mulsanne Plug-In, but a PHEV version of its new SUV is due to debut for 2017.

Bentley’s unveiling didn’t come entirely by surprise, the British-based maker previously promising to offer a plug-based powertrain for the new SUV it is now developing.

And Bentley’s parent, Volkswagen AG, has sharply shifted directions over the last several years. Company officials announced in Beijing that they will invest about $27 billion over the next five years to expand their offerings in the Chinese battery-car market.

(For more on VW’s EV plans for China, Click Here.)

The Bentley Hybrid Concept features a copper design scheme, both inside and out, using the hue to highlight the car’s electrical veins from accents to the radiator grille and headlamps to copper cross stitching throughout the Hybrid Concept’s elegant leather cabin.

The new plug-in hybrid system increases power by up to 25% compared to the existing Mulsanne, VW officials announced, while also reducing emissions by 70%. The system yields a driving range of at least 50 kilometers – or 31 miles — on electric power alone.

Bentley will first take plug-in hybrid technology from concept to production when it launches its new SUV in 2017. But by the end of the decade, at least 90% of Bentley cars will be available as a plug-in hybrid, the maker announced.

“Adding performance and efficiency with no-compromise-to-luxury plug-in hybrids are an important part of Bentley’s future and we are proud to be pioneering these developments in the ultra-luxury sector,” Schreiber declared.

(Will BMW’s Vision Future Luxury concept become its new flagship model? Click Hereto find out.)

The new Bentley Flying Spur V-8.

Also making its Chinese debut at the Beijing Show was the Flying Spur V8, broadening the appeal of the acclaimed luxury sedan to new customers. Powered by a 507 horsepower 4.0-liter engine, the Flying Spur V8 reaches 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds – about 0.6 seconds slower than the Flying Spur’s original W-12 engine.  Top speed drops from 200 mph to “just” 183. But range jumps to 500 miles on a tank of fuel.

For those who only care about performance, Bentley also unveiled the new, 206 mph, Continental GT Speed – the fastest production model the maker has ever sold in Asia. Its stiffer and lower Speed chassis is matched with new Speed styling to give it more of a road presence, Bentley said in a release.

(Lincoln reveals new MKX Concept in Beijing. Click Here for a closer look.)

The new Continental GT V8 S, a faster, more dynamic and more agile new model for customers who want a V8 with a sharper performance character, also features on the Bentley stand in its regional debut.

“China has always been a key market for Bentley and, after a remarkable year in 2013, we have seen an impressive start to 2014 with a 19% increase in sales in the first quarter,” said Ricky Tay, Managing Director, Bentley Motors. “Our customer base is growing and we are expanding our dealer network to offer our ultra luxury products and a unique brand experience throughout the region.”

The luxury end of the Chinese market is expected to grow to about 10% annually, according to various industry analysts, which means China could annually absorb more than 2.2 million luxury vehicles a year. The country is expected to soon pass the U.S. to become the world’s largest automotive luxury market.

(Click Here to check out TheDetroitBureau.com’s complete NY Auto Show coverage.)

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