The big V8 engine that powers Bentley’s Mulsanne flagship traces its roots all the way back to 1959. The eight-cylinder has been comprehensively updated over the past couple of decades, but the British marque has announced that it’s now living on borrowed time.
57 years ago, Bentley’s L-Series V8 launched as a 6.2-liter naturally-aspirated unit fed by a pair of carburetors. It initially powered the ultra-luxurious S2, and the equally-opulent Silver Cloud II that was built by sister company Rolls-Royce. The mill gradually evolved into a 6.75-liter — six and three-quarters in Bentley-speak — unit fed by a pair of large turbochargers. Currently, it develops 505 horsepower and 752 pound-feet of torque in its initial state of tune, though buyers who require more grunt can order a tweaked version of it with 530 horses and a mighty 811 pound-feet of twist.
Technology is advancing at a neck-snapping pace. While it’s technically possible to continue spending money on making the eight-cylinder cleaner, more powerful, and more efficient, Bentley boss Wolfgang Dürheimer recently told Car & Driver that the historic V8 has found its “final home” between the front fenders of the current Mulsanne. The next-generation model will adopt a 12-cylinder engine for the first time ever. Whether it will downsize and adopt the same 6.0-liter W12 that’s found under the hood of the Bentayga or use an entirely different engine is anyone’s guess at this point.
The entire Mulsanne range received major updates inside and out for the 2017 model year, so Bentley’s range-topper and the famous six and three-quarters that powers it aren’t going away any time soon. While details about the next Mulsanne are few and far between, Car & Driver speculates that it’s at least five years away from hitting showrooms.