Bentley could have massive changes in store for the next-generation of its Mulsanne flagship. We already know that the historic 6.75-liter V8 engine won’t live beyond the current model, but a recent report suggests the big sedan could swap its eight cylinders and two turbos for an electric motor and a big battery pack.
The British firm explains the push towards electrification comes from China, one of its biggest and most important markets in terms of volume and profits. The strict emissions regulations that are set to come into effect in a few years’ time are forcing companies from all over the automotive spectrum to re-think how they design a car.
“At the moment, the indication is that full electric will be the only way that you’ll get into some of the cities in China,” noted Hans Holzgartner, the Mulsanne’s product and marketing manager, in an interview with British magazine Autocar. “I wouldn’t say we’re discounting [hybrid engines] completely, but it looks like if you don’t have a full electric drive, even some of the hybrid drives just won’t get into some cities in China.”
Holzgartner believes the market is ready for an all-electric Bentley, and he points out that building a battery-powered luxury sedan makes a lot more sense that launching a battery-powered sports car. That’s because, broadly speaking, Mulsanne buyers appreciate the smooth, whisper-quiet ride and the immense amount of torque that’s available low in the rev range. Going electric can potentially make the Mulsanne quieter and smoother than today while giving it even more torque.
That doesn’t mean Bentley will yank the V8 out of the Mulsanne’s cavernous engine bay, install an electric motor, and call it a day. The company admits it needs to figure out a way to avoid alienating performance junkies who opt for the hot-rodded Mulsanne Speed model (pictured). The V8 is known globally for its throaty exhaust note, and Holzgartner explains Bentley needs to come up with a way to make up for the loss of character associated with an electric motor.
The Bentley Mulsanne was just given a comprehensive mid-cycle update, so its replacement is at least a couple of years away from hitting showrooms. Bentley engineers have plenty of time to decide if, when, and how the Mulsanne is going battery-only.