Currently reading: Bentley tipped to replace W12 engine with V8 PHEV
Bentley Continental GTC plug-in hybrid starts testing as firm hints at switch to electrified V8

Bentley is poised to replace its emblematic W12 engine with an even more powerful plug-in hybrid system – one that Matthias Rabe, the company’s head of engineering, hints is likely to be based around a V8. 

“I want all of our future plug-in hybrids to be more powerful than today’s 12-cylinder,” Rabe told Autocar at the launch of the Bentley Bentayga EWB in Canada. “I don’t want a reduction in power.” 

Bentley has three existing PHEV powertrains, each using a 3.0-litre V6, but the 443bhp and 456bhp options in the Bentayga and the 536bhp one in the Flying Spur are shy of the output of the venerable W12, which makes 650bhp in the Continental GT Speed and 730bhp in the limited-run Mulliner Batur. 

Sibling brand Porsche, meanwhile, uses a PHEV powertrain that combines a 134bhp electric motor with the Volkswagen Group’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, making 671bhp in the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid and 690bhp in the Panamera version. This could serve as the basis for similar options in the closely related Bentayga, Continental and Flying Spur. 

Bentley has confirmed to Autocar that PHEV mules are currently out testing, as the entire range will offer a plug-in option by 2025, and our spies have snapped a Continental PHEV on the roads for the first time.

Bentley continental gtc phev spy front three quarter

Although Bentley wouldn't confirm the ICE base of the powertrain in the testing mule, Rabe hinted that an electrified V8 is on the cards. 

“We've had fantastic six-cylinder engines in the past, but I think Bentley today is normally either eight-cylinder or 12-cylinder, and a hybrid combined with the eight-cylinder would be a perfect fit," he said. "Also from the point of view of weight distribution, because you can achieve something like 50:50.” 

Before a V8 PHEV Bentley arrives, the W12 may well get a spectacular sign-off, because Rabe said the company is toying with the idea of commissioning a higher-performance derivative to commemorate its retirement. 


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“The Batur showed we can go higher. It is good for up to 750hp [metric],” said Rabe. “For sure we will celebrate the last W12, but the final decision isn't made whether we commission something. 

“We could do a special series with a little more power… Does it make sense for 200 or 300 cars with a little more performance? It could be done, but it would have to make sense.”

Mike Duff

Mike Duff
Title: Contributing editor

Mike has been writing about cars for more than 25 years, having defected from radio journalism to follow his passion. He has been a contributor to Autocar since 2004, and is a former editor of the Autocar website. 

Mike joined Autocar full-time in 2007, first as features editor before taking the reins at Being in charge of the video strategy at the time saw him create our long running “will it drift?” series. For which he apologies.

He specialises in adventurous drive stories, many in unlikely places. He once drove to Serbia to visit the Zastava factory, took a £1500 Mercedes W124 E-Class to Berlin to meet some of its taxi siblings and did Scotland’s North Coast 500 in a Porsche Boxster during a winter storm. He also seems to be a hypercar magnet, having driven such exotics as the Koenigsegg One:1, Lamborghini SCV12, Lotus Evija and Pagani Huayra R.

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567 20 October 2022

Yuck! Replacing a W12 with a V8 and batteries. Utter green ideology nonsense has caused this!

beechie 19 October 2022
Yawn. Another load of half-arsed crap on our roads. It's like fitting a cart with a small petrol engine to assist the horse when he gets tired.
Peter Cavellini 19 October 2022

Anyone surprised?, no, me neither, probably have simular performance .