7 May 2004

Bentley is planning an unprecedented number of new models in the next two years, under the stewardship of new owners Volkswagen. Autocar has obtained the first, exclusive details of the key new models that are being developed.

Arnage W16

A 600bhp W16 version of the Arnage is in the pipeline, designed to battle the Rolls-Royce Phantom and Maybach. Being developed under the codename BQA – Bloody Quick Arnage – the first road-going prototype is due on the road this week.

Based on the new BY821 Arnage, but with an extra 250mm in the wheelbase, the BQA will be powered by a naturally aspirated version of the Bugatti Veyron’s W16 engine. It will be mated to a new six-speed automatic ’box.

The model has yet to be confirmed for production, but product planners have sketched out a total run of up to 250 cars with a price tag of at least £250,000 each. Bentley refuses to discuss the model officially: ‘We don’t speculate on new models,’ said a spokesman.

If engineering and production feasibility projects go as planned, the BQA could be available as soon as December this year.

Depending on customer response, the model may be built as a series production model on the Crewe assembly line, or handed to Bentley’s specialist coach-builder Mulliner, which would tailor each car to individual customer specification.

Arnage convertible

Bentley’s prototype department has also built an open-top Arnage, being developed under the code names BY825 and BY835.

This model is not yet confirmed for production, but Bentley is aware that Rolls-Royce is planning a soft-top Phantom, inspired by the imposing 100 EX concept. The two-door soft-top Arnage is a running prototype and features a conventional folding canvas roof and 10mm lower rear suspension.

Continental GT convertible

More details have also emerged of the soft-top Continental GT convertible (right), project BY615, on sale in early 2006.

Bentley has enlisted German specialists Karmann to help with the design and engineering of the car’s soft-top, which will include a glass rear window. To package the hood so it folds flat, Karmann and Bentley are having to redesign large sections of the GT’s rear end.

An alloy rear suspension subframe will save weight and add stiffness to the body structure. This saving will help offset the extra weight of two 20mm cross braces that are being added to stiffen the Continental GT’s platform.

These major changes to the GT’s body-in-white have prompted Bentley to investigate assembling the soft-top’s body in Crewe. This would be a huge boost to the British factory because GT coupé bodies are currently built at VW’s Mosel factory in Germany and shipped to Britain for final trimming.

A raft of minor trim and equipment upgrades are also expected to be introduced on the convertible and applied to a facelift of the coupé. Meanwhile, Bentley’s powertrain department is developing a near-600bhp version of the twin-turbo W12, but its introduction date has yet to be confirmed.

Continental GT saloon

Next spring’s Continental GT saloon is expected to be launched with today’s 550bhp W12, with the 600bhp engine reserved for the GT coupé and its soft-top sibling.

Ultimately, Bentley might also fit carbon metallic brakes. A prototype Arnage T fitted with these brakes is reported to have been tested at the Nürburgring.

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