Second model from Bentley’s bespoke coachbuilder expected to cost more than £1.5m
Bentley is well under way with development of the second bespoke model from its Mulliner coachbuilding division, both as a way of celebrating the luxury car maker’s venerable W12 engine and previewing the design of its first pure-electric models.
The Volkswagen Group’s 6.0-litre W12 engine – the only mass-produced powerplant of this format – turned 20 years old this year, having served in a range of flagship Audi, Volkswagen and, most prominently, Bentley models. It is currently only used by the latter marque and will be retired shortly after the launch of the next Mulliner car as Bentley moves towards an all-electric future.
According to a source at the Crewe firm, the new creation will be based on the Continental GT Coupé(its predecessor, the Bacalar, was based on the Convertible) but will feature bespoke styling in line with its far more exclusive build run, a unique technical make-up, heightened levels of personalisation and a far higher list price than that of the standard car. The new model is being designed and engineered in line with the expansion of the Mulliner division, which will launch the finished product in 2023, 80 years on from the start of the coachbuilder’s relationship with Bentley.
It is believed that high demand for the £1.5 million Bacalar (all 12 examples of which sold out even before the first was completed) has prompted Bentley to up the build run for its hard-top successor, 25 of which will be built. It will be priced from between £1.5m and £2m, but the extent of Mulliner’s personalisation offering means that most, if not all, examples will sell for more than £2m, making this Bentley’s most expensive creation yet.
Power will be delivered by an enhanced version of the turbocharged 12-cylinder engine, most likely running in the same state of tune as in the Bacalar and Continental GT Speed. Peak outputs of 650bhp and 664lb ft are expected, and the Mulliner car should reach 62mph from rest in comfortably less than four seconds and surge onwards to a top speed in excess of 200mph. The model is also expected to carry over the Speed’s performance-focused chassis make-up, which boasts enhanced dynamic credentials over the standard Continental courtesy of its stiffer suspension, uprated four-wheel steering system, record-breaking 440mm-diameter carbon-ceramic brake discs and electronic differential at the rear.
As shown in Autocar’s exclusive renderings, the second Mulliner model will be marked out from its series-production range-mates by a radical styling overhaul. This will draw on elements of Bentley’s sustainability-focused EXP 100 GT concept of 2019, but with a number of bespoke cues that are likely to become hallmarks of the brand’s first pureelectric cars. A more angular and aggressive front end will be a defining characteristic, bearing a new interpretation of Bentley’s trademark grille design, slim headlight clusters and more angular air intakes.
As with the Bacalar, a bespoke rear-end treatment will further differentiate the Mulliner car from the Continental GT, with slim LED lights, wide arches and prominent haunches among the cues that could make their way to electrified successors.
It is understood that the second bespoke Mulliner car is the first project being led from start to finish by ex-Audi designer Andreas Mindt, who was appointed as Bentley design boss at the beginning of this year when Audi took full control of the Bentley brand as part of a drive for greater synergies between the two marques. His highest-profile design while at Audi was the company’s debut production EV, the E-tron SUV, and his work at Bentley begins as Audi ramps up development of the groundbreaking Artemis EV platform, which will underpin Bentley’s first electric car.
Mindt is not a newcomer to Bentley. He was responsible for the exterior styling of the 1999 Hunaudières concept, a highly strung, W16-engined hypercar that would become one of the primary influences for the Bugatti Veyron a few years later.
His radical overhaul of Bentley’s characteristic design cues will be matched by an equally outlandish interior treatment drawing on the themes of sustainability and exclusivity showcased by the Bacalar, which itself shares only its door handles and steering wheel centre with the Continental. As such, the second Mulliner car is likely to adopt a wraparound-style dashboard, drop its back seats in favour of an optional, bespoke luggage set and be trimmed with unique materials including 5500-year-old British riverwood, Scottish tweed and natural wool.
Bentley’s first EV: what we know
Bentley’s first EV is due in 2025 as a luxury saloon using the new Artemis platform currently in development at Audi.
Rather than directly replacing the Continental or the closely related Flying Spur, it is expected to be one of a series of Artemis-based, higherriding EVs that will complement the brand’s existing models, which will in turn be entirely electrified from 2026.
Due to be previewed by Mulliner’s second car, the EV will be inspired by the design and ethos of the EXP 100 GT concept, with a heavy focus on aerodynamic efficiency and sustainability.