There's still life for Bentley's big 12.
Bentley is renowned for high levels of luxury and large displacement engines with deep reserves of power from which to draw and surge past the commonfolk on the road. But with the British automaker announcing plans to go fully electric by 2030, it seems to spell disaster for the brand's signature engine, the 6.0-liter W12. At the recent launch of the Continental GT Speed in Sicily, CarBuzz spoke to several Bentley executives, including Dr. Matthias Rabe (head of engineering) and member of the design team, Brett Boydell. Speaking of the Speed and how it was a final hurrah for the W12 engine, our comments were met with the suggestion that the 650-horsepower 12-cylinder might not be dead after all.
This follows previous comments from Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark about the relative newness of the engine, but at the time, his comments were vague. Rabe and Boydell were both quick to say "There's more to come," from the W12, both highlighting that while the Speed is the pinnacle of performance GTs at present, the automaker has more in store. So what could the plan be? Well aside from the brief one-liner of there being more to come, the pair remained tight-lipped about the possibilities.
CarBuzz was able to dig up a little more info, however, while speaking to Dr. Rabe about alternative solutions. Part of Bentley's Beyond100 sustainability plan includes looking into alternate fuels - not just electrification. The brand has no interest in hydrogen either but has instead been looking at synthetic fuels.
We've spoken about this before with Porsche and Bentley pushing the development of such fuels. These are cleanly-produced fuel products that are carbon neutral when produced and burn cleaner than traditional gasoline. Bentley even ran a Continental GT prototype up Pikes Peak on the synthetic fuel, proving the performance possibilities. Dr. Rabe didn't let slip too much but did suggest this is an avenue of particular interest, citing the need to serve clients who want to hold onto their ICE vehicles. "It's definitely something we're looking into," he said. "Until such time as electricity is produced in a cleaner manner, synthetic fuels are a strong alternative," he continued, but states clearly that it is only a stopgap for the time being.
Whether changing legislation allows for combustion vehicles to be sold past various global deadlines if powered by alternative fuels remains to be seen. However, the fact that Bentley believes there's more to come from the W12 and has a greener way of fueling the large engine is highly promising.