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...