For years, prestige car brands remained insulated from the drive towards greater fuel economy and higher gas mileages.
However, tightening regulations on gas mileage and emissions have forced many luxury automakers to take fuel economy seriously for the first time, requiring them to look for alternatives to traditional large-capacity engines to power their cars.
But according to Bentley CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer, Bentley isn’t about to ditch its V-8 and W-12 engines due to environmental and regulatory pressure. Instead, Bentley will use them alongside electric motors in its first ever plug-in hybrid.
The news is hardly a surprise. Last summer when Dürheimer began talking about developing a plug-in hybrid, we noted that the automaker was unlikely to step away from the 8- and 12-cylinder engines which give its cars such impressive performance.
2013 Bentley Continental GT V8
It seems that combining them with a plug-in drivetrain is a way to keep both purist fans and the EPA happy at the same time.
Bentley’s latest 8-cylinder engine is the 4.0 liter twin turbo V-8 found in its 2012 Continental GT. Bentley claims the 4.0 liter V-8 is 40 percent more efficient than its W-12 engine, but still manages to produce 500 horsepower and 487 pound-feet of torque.
Its W-12 engine -- a massive 6.0 liters in size -- is capable of running on both gasoline or E85 bioethanol.
Before you get excited however, we’d like to remind you that any kind of plug-in hybrid from Bentley isn’t going to travel far before in all-electric mode before its massive engine kicks in.
As Dürheimer said last year when pressed about range, Bentley isn't going to be producing the next extended-range electric car.
"I think 25 to 30 km [16 to 19 miles] is good. Maybe in 20 years we will cover 100km [62 miles]," he said. "For the time being, we won’t because nobody can afford the batteries and nobody wants to carry them around.”
For now then, the plug-in hybrid Bentley isn’t about making a switch to electric power, but a way to satisfy tightening emissions standards and enable its luxury cars to travel in all-electric mode in slow-moving city traffic.
And that, is a little sad, because Bentley -- like Rolls Royce -- could change the face of the luxury car market forever if they truly embraced plug-in cars.