Bentley is poised to take a huge step forward with the next-generation Continental by basing it on the Porsche-developed MSB platform shared with the next Panamera, which is in development ahead of a planned launch in 2016.
One Volkswagen Group insider told Autocar: “Bentley will use our technology and there is a good relationship between us. This is a big chance for them.”
That’s not surprising, given that the current Continental’s VW Group D1 platform – conceived for the VW Phaeton – is now 12 years old and will celebrate its 15th birthday when the new Continental is launched in mid-2017.
For a start, the new platform will be engineered for Porsche’s sporty driving characteristics, which should endow the Bentley with much more focused driving manners.
Significantly, it should do away with the nose-heavy weight distribution that hampers the dynamics of the current Continental family by replacing the current car’s Audi front transaxle with a system that passes drive to the front wheels via a ‘quill’ shaft driven from the rear of the transmission.
This system is used in today’s Panamera and allows four-wheel drive to be combined with an engine mounted farther back in the engine bay for superior dynamic balance.
The more sophisticated MSB platform, with its high aluminium content, also offers Bentley the chance to design a roomier Flying Spur saloon equipped with every luxury add-on, yet without a significant increase in kerb weight.
And most significant, Bentley gets access to the all-new Porsche petrol V8 in torquey turbo guise. This engine is being developed as a premium-brand sporty V8, which means fewer volume-production compromises than the Audi-designed V8 that Bentley currently uses.
Potentially, this clears the way for much sportier Continental Speed models to address one of the weaknesses of top-end Continental models compared with rivals – namely, a W12 engine that lacks character.
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