Like the sky is blue, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens will break every box-office record in the history of mankind, it’s accepted as fact that Bentley makes great cars. But as far as great cars go, well, they’re kind of boring. Yes, the Continental GT is a beautifully-built, $200,000-plus, 582 horsepower grand tourer that most of us can only dream of owning. But it’s also been influenced a little too much by parent company Volkswagen AG’s cold, teutonic styling. Thanks to its superb German-British engineering, the Conti utilizes all 582 of its ponies to scramble its 6,000 pounds from zero to 60 in 3.2 seconds on the way to 198 miles per hour, and it does this all without breaking a sweat. And therein lies the problem: Bentley’s current sporty crop is stoic, removed, and competent; Continentals are as clinical as Audi coupes dressed up in British Racing Green.
But that may be changing, because this year, Bentley unveiled the EXP10 Speed 6 at the Geneva Motor show, and the automotive world seemed to stand up and collectively shout “now THIS is that we want in a Bentley!” It was like the decades of Rolls-Royce and Volkswagen ownership had been erased, and the marque had never stopped making the bold, rakish, “gentlemen’s racers” that it had built its reputation on 90-something years ago. At Geneva, Bentley used the concept to gauge interest in a grand tourer to slot in below the Continental line, and the response has been so strong that it now looks like the Speed 6 will be coming our way – eventually.
At Geneva, Bentley CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer hinted that the Speed 6 could already be rooted deeper in reality than most blockbuster concepts. The car would likely use parts from across the Volkswagen Group’s line, and is likely one of two concepts that he said “…would fit perfectly into the Bentley portfolio.” In the months since, Dürheimer said at the launch of the Bentayga SUV that because of strong customer response to the car, “We want to build on this and make it a reality,” but cautioned “I cannot stand here and confirm a date for production; we are not at that stage yet.” It’s likely that before we see a production Speed 6, we’ll be seeing the next-generation Continental and Mulsanne first.
Don’t let the parts-sharing get you too riled up; in this case, Bentley being owned by Volkswagen isn’t all bad. Among the virtually unlimited funds (well, at least before Dieselgate) for design and R&D, under the Speed 6’s gleaming exterior, the concept’s reliance on the VW parts bin likely made it cheaper and quicker to develop, and hopefully will make an easier case to greenlight for production. In concept form, the Speed 6 has a 4.2 liter naturally aspirated V8 borrowed from the Audi RS5 – though unlike the German car, with its engine slung over the front axle, the Speed 6 is front-mid engined. Its steering and brakes came from Audi’s R8, and if put into production, it’s likely to be built on a next-generation Porsche Panamera platform.
Unlike the bigger Continental, with its available giant W12 engine, don’t expect anything larger than a V8 under the hood of the Speed 6. This car will be more of an Aston Martin Vantage/Mercedes-AMG GT S/McLaren 570S fighter than big comfortable GT. And on top of a smaller powerplant, the company is also exploring offering a plug-in hybrid powertrain, a first for the company, and a move that will put it in line with the incoming crop of near-supercars like the Acura NSX.
With its styling by Sang Yup Lee, who also designed the fifth-generation Chevy Camaro, and overseen by Luc Donckerwolke, who recently defected to lead Hyundai’s design team, the Speed 6 is is the most visually exciting car to come from Bentley in some time, and we’ll be breathing a sigh of relief once this one gets officially green-lit; it’s too good to consign to the annals of concept car history. We only hope the beautiful details of the concept are largely carried over – that interior looks like the kind of place we’d want to spend a very long time in.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.
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