Europe is clearly going through a financial crisis, America is changing its decadent ways by being more frugal but Asia is one of the last regions where fortunes can still be made. It’s the new mantra for most car manufacturers, especially those in the luxury segment where the total volume of cars, irrespective of brand, is probably lower than the number of people employed all together in that segment of the business. But Asia, while highly aspirational, isn’t brash, it isn’t impulsive. Spending big money on big cars that burn more money than fuel isn’t the Asian way. It’s why most luxury and sports car manufacturers are marginally downsizing their products to make them more affordable to own. Case in point Bentley.
From manufacturing colossal 12 cylinder engines to power their range of cars, Bentley has, together with Audi, developed a smaller all-new engine for the Continental. It’s a 4.0-litre V8 and delivers Bentley’s promise of making an economically friendlier engine which would be kinder to the environment as well. The engine is fed by two twin scroll turbochargers and direct injection both of which give the engine the same depth and range as the W12 engine. In fact the V8 helps the Continental maintain a similar status quo to the W12 without deducting anything.
The V8 makes 500PS of max power at 6000rpm with 660Nm of torque available from just 1700rpm. It’s an incredibly powerful engine and the range of torque gives it amazing driveability. Poke it in any gear and it just picks itself up and flies. The only drawback this engine has comes not from itself but the weight of the car. Losing four cylinders reduces the weight of the engine by 25kg but that is a small amount when the car overall weighs close to 2.5 tonnes. That means the V8 has a bit of an uphill struggle to generate the same rapidity and pace as the W12. Bentley’s next focus area should be on drastic weight loss, the benefits are obvious and I will come to that in a moment. I don’t know how they will achieve this, probably do the zumba, but this car needs to lose some of its chubbiness.
Now I’d like to think of this V8 as a marvelous feat of engineering, because consider this—it’s just 67PS less powerful than the W12 but it will allow the Continental to accelerate to 100kmph in 4.6seconds, just two tenths of a second slower than the W12. Its top speed is 302kmph as compared to the 318kmph the W12 registers. But it offers 40 percent better fuel efficiency than the W12 for skeletal performance losses, that is incredible. For a Bentley owner it’s of little consequence just how much fuel goes into the car, what matters is the range and a full tank should last around 800km. Which probably means two Mumbai-Pune round trips or three round trips between Delhi and Agra before you need to refuel!
So how does a car that does a 100 in 4.6 seconds get to be 40 percent more efficient. It’s actually quite simple, 16 percent comes from it being a smaller displacement engine. Six percent comes from the 8-speed transmission and another five percent comes from variable cylinder management. What that means is that when driven sedately only four of the eight cylinders are used for combustion. Now four cylinders are enough to get this car from point to point if the situation isn’t urgent. But if it is, all you need to do is prod the gas pedal harder to get the juices flowing through all eight cylinders. Some more benefits are added on by components such as the power steering with variable ratio, indirect high efficiency intercooler, direct injection technology, better aerodynamics, improved alternator management and improved oil circulation in the gearbox to cool it efficiently.
Curiously the Continental V8’s transmission isn’t a DSG and though that twin clutch box would have been lighter, quicker and probably more efficient, Bentley claims to have matched the shift times with a standard torque converter and yet get the desired fuel efficiency. So what’s the car to drive like then?