Bentley plans to offer plug-in hybrid versions of its entire range within a few years.
The first will be seen in the Bentley Bentayga SUV, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version launching in 2018.
Bentley Motors CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer revealed the plans during a speech to the Automotive News World Congress, held in Detroit alongside the North American International Motor Show.
According to Dürheimer, Bentley does not agree with the short life of PHEV powertrains predicted by other manufacturers, a stop-gap technology until full electric or fuel-cell vehicles become viable.
Electric drivetrains may allow owners to drive their cars in urban areas where emissions laws may restrict the use of traditional petrol or diesel engines. But such units cannot currently offer the long-distance travel routinely undertaken by Bentley owners, without extended stops to recharge their batteries.
“PHEV sometimes is mentioned as a transitional technology — it will be out of our way pretty soon – from my point of view, plug-in hybrid technology provides the best of two worlds,” Dürheimer said.
“To cover long distances and to make it from one city to another — and you travel long distances in the U.S. – I think the combustion engine will follow us for a long time.”
Speaking to Automotive News following his speech, Dürheimer revealed that the next Bentley Continental GT would follow the Bentayga down the PHEV route.
The new Continental GT is expected to be revealed in 2017 with the familiar W12 petrol engine. A V6 plug-in hybrid model will follow it and then the V8. Duerheimer also indicated that the PHEV version would match the power of the V8, the current version of which puts out 500hp.
Just before the Detroit show Bentley unveiled the fastest-accelerating version of the current Continental yet. The Bentley Continental Supersports produces 710hp from its W12 engine and a 0-60mph time of 3.4 seconds.
The CEO’s words are being seen as an indication that the brand is not pursuing rumoured development of an all-electric model.
Decade of transition
Dürheimer told the Congress that the next 10 years will be transformational for luxury car makers, and appeared to indicate that Bentley is not in favour of self-driving autonomous technology.
“We will see customer demographics broaden and change dramatically to incorporate millennials; the rising affluent in developing economies; and members of Generation ‘C’ – the connected generation where attitude, rather than age, is the defining characteristic,” he said.
“These future customers will have very different expectations and requirements to the luxury car buyer of today.”
Dürheimer added that to engage these new customers and future-proof the luxury British brand technology on its own would not be enough. “Technology in isolation is cold and can never be truly luxurious – we must never lose the human touch.”