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Bentley designer hints at even faster Continental GT3-R

07/28/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Coupes, Sports/GTs, Bentley

Bentley Continental GT3-R

Does Bentley have room in its Continental GT lineup for an even more extreme version than the new GT3-R? Luc Donckerwolke seems to think so. Speaking with Autocar, the Bentley design chief suggested that an even more performance-focused Continental GT could be in the works, potentially ditching the heavy all-wheel drive system in an effort to further reduce weight, improve handling and drop even more ticks off the 0-60 time that's already down to a best-yet 3.6 seconds in the GT3-R.

To borrow a page from the same playbook used not only by sister-companies Audi and Porsche but also by Renault and Jaguar (to name just a few), we'll tentatively call it the Continental GT3-RS. Whatever the name, though, power would likely come from an even more potent version of the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 co-developed with sister-company Audi. Considering that engine already produces 500 horsepower in the Continental GT V8, 521 hp in the V8 S and 572 hp in the GT3-R, we could be looking at as much as 600 horses to make it the most powerful V8 model to date. With that much juice, it would even eclipse some of the W12 models that start at 567 hp in the core Continental GT and range up to the 616 hp in the Speed, which currently ranks not only as the most powerful Conti yet, but also the fastest road car Bentley has ever made.

Donckerwolke says that Bentley has already sold the entire production run for the Continental GT3-R and that customers are already clamoring for something more focused. Younger buyers are likely to be even further drawn to the brand by the ne-plus-ultra Conti, especially if the racing team advanced from its current fifth place in the Blancpain Endurance Series standings.

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Bentley putting Mulsanne-based Azure, Brooklands back on the table [w/poll]

07/27/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Convertibles, Coupes, Bentley, Luxury

Bentley Mulsanne Vision concept

Big plans are afoot at Bentley. The quintessentially British automaker has just about signed off on the final version of its new SUV, and will surely roll out more versions of the Continental in the coming years, but that's not all. It's said to be considering a new sports coupe smaller than the Continental GT, but the latest reports coming in from the UK suggest that it also has plans for the Mulsanne's platform.

Currently, the Mulsanne is only available in one configuration, but Bentley is widely expected to be bringing a new, more powerful Mulsanne Speed to the Paris Motor Show this fall with around 550 horsepower. That's not all, however, as word comes in that the Flying B marque is planning to re-introduce both the Azure and the Brooklands as competitors to the Rolls-Royce Phantom DHC and Phantom Coupe, respectively.

For those who don't remember, the Azure and Brooklands were a pair of two-doors based on the Arnage that preceded the Mulsanne at the top of Bentley's range. The Azure was a convertible and the Brooklands a fixed-roof coupe, both of them larger than the Continental GT and powered by the company's evergreen (yet decidedly un-green) 6.75-liter V8.

Both were phased out, however, along with the Arnage before the current Mulsanne was introduced in 2010. And ever since then, Bentley has been rumored to replace the duo with new versions based on the Mulsanne. But despite having shown the Mulsanne Vision convertible concept to a select group of customers at Pebble Beach a couple of years ago, the project was shelved.

So what's changed, you ask? The guard, that's what. When Bentley unveiled the Mulsanne Vision concept, Wolfgang Dürheimer was the CEO. Then he was relieved of his duties, and Wolfgang Schreiber, who replaced him, nixed the project's development. Now that Dürheimer is back in charge at Crewe, it seems like the convertible is back on the table. "And if we do the Azure," Dürheimer told Auto Express, "the Brooklands just comes automatically." That is, of course, unless Bentley decides to do something out of the ordinary and make a four-door convertible "parade car" instead.

View Poll

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40+ cars that barely avoid the gas guzzler tax

07/24/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Convertibles, Coupes, Sedans/Saloons, Sports/GTs, Wagons/Estates, Government/Legal, Audi, Bentley, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Hyundai, Jaguar, Lexus, Maserati, Mercedes Benz, Porsche, Luxury

The Gas Guzzler schedule, with mpg ratings and charges that haven't changed since 1991, lays out which fuel-swillers owe what to Uncle Sam.

I started thinking about the "Gas Guzzler Tax" - considerably less well known as The Energy Tax Act of 1978 - when I was driving Dodge's new Challenger SRT Hellcat last week. Unsurprisingly for a car that can burn 1.5 gallons of gas per minute at max tilt, theoretically able to empty a full tank of premium in about 13 minutes, the Hellcat will be subject to the Gas Guzzler Tax schedule when it goes on sale.

Beyond knowing that it existed, and occasionally seeing a surcharge for it listed on the specification sheet for a press car I'd been loaned, I didn't really understand how the GGT worked or was calculated.

Thankfully, the Environmental Protection Agency makes learning about the GGT (and a lot of other stuff) pretty simple. EPA.gov has a clearly written explanation of the tax and the tax schedule. That schedule, operating with miles-per-gallon ratings and charges that haven't changed since 1991, clearly lays out which fuel-swillers owe what to Uncle Sam. Basically, if a car's combined fuel economy rating is 22.5 mpg or higher it's off the hook ­- trucks, minivans and SUVs are all exempt from the GGT - if the rating is lower, per vehicle taxes range from $1,000 to $7,700 for the very thirstiest.

Simple, right?

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Bentley considering smaller coupe

07/21/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Coupes, Bentley, Luxury

Bentley badge

Only halfway through the year, Bentley reports that it's on track to post record sales. Thanks in no small part to the introduction of its new V8 engine in the Continental family, sales are up nearly a quarter over last year. And they only stand to increase even more with the introduction of new models currently in the pipeline. The upcoming SUV will surely form a large part of that, but it won't be the end of the story for the storied marque.

Car and Driver reports that, after the SUV, Bentley plans to introduce a new coupe line below the Continental to square off against the Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Details are few and far between at this point, but considering how much Bentley manages to do with the relatively heft Continental GT, a lighter and more nimble sports car sounds promising.

In related news, rumors are gathering pace that Bentley is planning to introduce a new Mulsanne Speed at the upcoming Paris Motor Show, its Jurassic-era 6.75-liter V8 massaged from 505 horsepower - already the most that engine has produced in its half-century history - up to around 550.

Don't think that Bentley has given up, however, on its venerable 6.0-liter twin-turbo W-12 engine. Far from it. Car and Driver also reports that the crew from Crewe only plans to further develop the W-12, and if push came to shove, would be the "last manufacturer of 12-cylinder engines in the world." Indeed it already is among the last, although BMW/Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini, Mercedes and Ferrari aren't likely to give up on dozen-piston engines anytime soon, either... even if Aston Martin eventually does. Expect direct injection and even more powerful versions than the 616-hp Continental GT Speed to follow in the near future.

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This FL man accused of stealing drivers licenses has best tattoo ever

07/11/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Government/Legal, Bentley, Porsche

Derek Denesevich Bentley Face Tattoo

Bentley and Porsche are two of the jewels in Volkswagen Group's luxury brand crown, but in Florida they also have a very tenuous connection with crime. With his multiple face and neck tattoos, including a Bentley logo right between his eyes, Derek Denesevich (pictured above) has been charged with the surprising crime of alleged identity theft. He recently surrendered to a Florida court, and could face seven years in prison, if convicted.

You might wonder where Porsche fits into this. According to the Sun Sentinel, Denesevich's accomplice was one Porscha Kyles, who worked for the Broward Clerk of Courts. She allegedly used her access to driver's license records to steal information and sell it to Denesevich. He is then accused of filing fraudulent income taxes to recoup the refund checks.

According to the Sentinel, Kyles has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy and identity theft and was sentenced to three years and one day in prison. The duo reportedly stole over 100 identities and made at least $120,000. Scroll down for a video about this pair of auto-related criminals.

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Bentley wants to get into the coachbuilding business

07/11/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Bentley

Bentley Continental Flying Star by Touring

There was a time when a customer would buy a chassis from an automaker like Bentley and then take it to a coachbuilder to have whatever bodywork they wanted put on it. The practice was particularly prevalent in Bentley's earlier days, but the industry has progressed in such a way - with tighter regulations and unibody construction - that such a practice is no longer feasible. But Bentley wants to get back into that business.

Speaking to UK trade publications recently, Bentley sales chief Kevin Rose indicated that the company is looking into setting up a special division within itself to meet the demands of extremely wealthy customers who want to commission their own coachbuilt custom creations. It's an emerging trend that's seen Ferrari Special Projects build one-offs like the F12 TRS and SP12 EC and McLaren Special Operations the outlandish X-1, and Bentley wants to get in on the action.

It wouldn't be the first even to rebody a contemporary Bentley in recent years. Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera offers the Flying Star (pictured above) that turns the Continental GT into a shooting brake, and Dany Bahar's new coachbuilding outfit Ares plans to do the same. By bringing it in-house, however, Bentley would be able to pick the chassis up off the assembly line at the right time and provide the necessary support and factory backing.

With such an initiative in place, we'd likely finally see a Mulsanne convertible built, along with countless permutations of the Continental family and upcoming SUV. A four-door Flying Spur GTC parade car? No problem. Two-door Falcon sport-ute? Just sign here, sir. The sky's the proverbial limit, and that's where Bentley appears to have set its sights.

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Bentley plotting Mulsanne performance model for Paris debut

07/02/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sedans/Saloons, Sports/GTs, Paris Motor Show, Bentley, Rumormill, Luxury

Bentley Mulsanne Mulliner Driving Specification

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.

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Bentley SUV to cost over $220k, fix 'problem' of inexpensive competitors

07/01/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sports/GTs, SUVs, Etc., Bentley, Luxury

Bentley SUV

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.

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Bentley in no rush to retire Mulsanne's 6.75-liter V8

06/25/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sedans/Saloons, Tech, Bentley, Luxury

L Series V8 in Bentley Mulsanne

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.

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2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S Convertible

06/24/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Convertibles, Sports/GTs, Bentley, Luxury, Quick Spin

Bentley Continental GT V8 S Convertible

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.

Driving Notes

  • 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.
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