Bentley plots new models

Published: 28 November 2006

Bentley's replacement for the Continental family is likely to be constructed of aluminium, to cut weight and transform the dynamics.

Engineers are already pondering the new model range, although it's a few years away. The replacement must maintain Bentley's stellar growth rate. Before the Continental in 2003 it made 980 cars; this year – with the GTC cabrio coming on stream and 4000 orders for it in the bank – production should exceed 9000 cars.

Today's Continental family is spun off the VW Phaeton's steel chassis, saddling the GT coupe with a 2385kg kerb weight and lumpen dynamics that make it more suitable for grand touring than B-road blasting. According to those in the know, the next Continetal will use adopt Audi's MLB platform. This is being readied for a host of new cars, starting with the new A5 and, in its biggest guise, the new A8.

As a result, a lightweight aluminium spaceframe body and new-generation four-wheel drive are on the spec sheet, and there's enough room for the mighty W12. Meanwhile, the Bentley boys are contemplating additional low-volume models like a Sedanca de Ville, a Shooting Brake or a four-door cabriolet.

Next up however is the Azure coupe, referred to internally as Havana. The £200k-plus, 450bhp V8 four-seater is pencilled in for the 2007 Geneva motor show. This model family – also including the Arnage limo and Azure convertible – will continue to gently evolve, because the priority is the Continental cash cow.

They can be quite easily updated - with more of the same, with a fresh rwd components set or with a modular mix of new and existing elements. One other significant development is under consideration. The brand may return to Le Mans in 2010 when new rules could spawn a very interesting minimalistic supercar...

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel