Bentley has been talking casually about adding a hybrid for years now, dropping the green buzzword into the occasional interview or press release. It's now moving on to showing previews. The Bentley Hybrid Concept, which will debut later this month, is the first official look at Bentley's plug-in hybrid future.
While Bentley will launch the production gas-electric system on a dedicated hybrid version of its yet-to-be-seen SUV model in 2017, the 2014 Hybrid Concept is built on a Mulsanne base.
"The Bentley Hybrid Concept is based on the flagship model in the Bentley family, the Mulsanne, to show that hybrid technology enhances even the pinnacle of luxury and performance," the automaker explains.
Bentley says that the hybrid option will cut CO2 emissions by 70 percent while boosting power by up to 25 percent. It also promises an all-electric range of at least 31 miles (50 km). The company plans to deliver those improvements while maintaining every speck of dollar-sucking luxury it is so well known for.
"There is no doubt that plug-in hybrid technology is true to Bentley’s values of outstanding luxury and effortless performance," says Dr. Wolfgang Schreiber, Bentley chairman and chief executive. "Combining our renowned engines with electric power reinforces and enhances both principles, and so we will gradually introduce this powertrain across our model range. By the end of the decade, at least 90 percent of our production will be available as a plug-in hybrid. We are proud to be pioneering these developments in the luxury sector."
Bentley shows a photo of a "Hybrid"-badged version of the Mulsanne's 6.75-liter V8, but if it's planning on revealing all the details of the plug-in system's electric layout, it appears that it will wait until the car's April 20 debut at the Beijing Auto Show.
Aesthetically, the Hybrid Concept uses a large amount of copper highlighting to allude to the electric architecture underneath. Outside, this copper can be found around the headlights, radiator, brake calipers, badges and feature lines. It continues inside on the fascia inserts, instruments, switch bezels and leather cross-stitching.
The Hybrid Concept will appear alongside the Flying Spur V8, Continental GT Speed and Continental GT V8 S in Beijing, but Bentley doesn't mention plans for bringing the recently teased SUV up on stage.
Rolls Royce is also making plug-in hybrid plans. CEO Torsten Müller-Otvos told Auto Express last month that, while the Phantom 102EX electric vehicle it showed in 2011 suffered image problems from range and recharging issues, hybrid technology will allow it to use electric power in a more uncompromising way. He also said Rolls Royce will need to implement the technology within the next couple of years in order to stay on the right side of emissions regulations.