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Bentley sets expiration date for its iconic W12 engine, but what does its first electric car have in store?

The current Bentley Continental GT could be the last with a 12-cylinder engine.

Bentley Motors believes its long-running W12 engine will finally wind down production by 2026, around the same time the brand plans to roll-out its first battery electric vehicle (BEV).

Speaking to Australian journalists at the launch of the new Bentayga, Bentley Motors boss Adrian Hallmark said the 12-cylinder engine has been integral to the brand’s growth, but that the time had come to retire the powertrain in the wake of tightening emissions regulations.

“I joined the company back in 1999 for the first tour of duty, and at that point we derived the strategy to grow Bentley, the Continental GT being the trigger for that growth followed by the Flying Spur then the cabriolet, and we took the company from 800 to 10,000 sales in six years,” he said.

“And we also based that strategy on a 12-cylinder engine technology.

“Since then, the 12-cylinder has been the bedrock of the Bentley story, but there’s no doubt that within five years that engine will not exist.”

The W12 engine has been in production since 2001, and can be found under the bonnet of the Continental GT, Flying Spur and Bentayga.

Measuring 6.0 litres in displacement, and featuring two turbochargers, the Bentley’s W12 engine makes as much as 522kW/1017Nm.

However, Mr Hallmark said the W12 engine will be retired in style, hinting that there might be several special-edition vehicles with the engine to entice collectors as the brand moves towards its goal of full electrification by 2030.

“Faced with this, and the ever-growing knowledge about the impact on climate and with the technologies that we now know are available, and especially with customer trends that we’re picking up through our research … we fully embrace that electrified carbon neutral future,” he said.

“We believe we can make Bentley environmentally and ethically transparent and neutral – or positive – and we think this gives luxury a purpose, it makes the brand and the segment appealing to a new generation of customers, but please don’t worry, for the next nine years, we will celebrate to the nth degree everything that we do in eight cylinders, hybrids and 12 cylinders, and we’ll do the best Bentleys we’ve ever done, and we’ll send the combustion engine technology era out with maximum fireworks.”

The ultra-premium brand will also roll out its first BEV around the same time the W12 engine is stood down, meaning Bentley’s new performance flagship will likely be powered by electricity.

Bentley is yet to detail any what form its BEV will take, whether it will be an existing nameplate or something all new, but it is understood the current architecture for the Continental, Flying Spur and Bentayga cannot accommodate full electrification.

Therefore, Bentley will likely turn to parent company Volkswagen Group for its EV architecture.

Though Bentley could make use of the J1 platform that underpins the Porsche Taycan and Audi e-tron GT, what’s more likely is the use of the Premium Platform Electric (PPE), which is planned to underpin the Audi Q6 and A6 e-tron models, and is specifically designed for large luxurious vehicles.

After the debut if Bentley’s first EV, it will rollout emissions-free powertrains to the rest of its line-up over the coming years, but Mr Hallmark said the change in propulsion won’t hurt the fundamentals of the brand.

“In 2025, we launch our first battery electric vehicle,” he said. “It’ll actually be early ‘26 before you see it broadscale across the world on the road, but from ‘26 to ‘29, we then systematically go from ICE to electric in every nameplate over that three-to-four-year period.

“If you look at electrification and you look at Bentley, we think they are totally compatible.

“Our customers love the burble, the sound and the experience – its certain points in the driving experience – but actually what people talk about is that sense of power and control and effortless progressions that really make them feel good.

“So, it’s that torque and immediate on-tap power that really makes a Bentley driving experience a Bentley, and that fits perfectly with electrification.”

Tung Nguyen
News Editor
Having studied journalism at Monash University, Tung started his motoring journalism career more than a decade ago at established publications like Carsales and Wheels magazine. Since then, he has risen through...
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