Gas-guzzling Former Roommates Poised to Become Eco Rivals

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
gas guzzling former roommates poised to become eco rivals

For nearly five decades, Rolls-Royce and Bentley shared the same bed, then lived amicably under the same roof for another 18 years, becoming ever closer to each other due to dwindling shared finances. Then two Germans showed up and they parted ways, forever.

While still representing the richly browned upper crust of British motoring, the two brands have maintained fairly similar development paths, launching sedans, coupes, and now SUVs in quick succession of each other. Now, because green types look down on ornate, porky, roadgoing behemoths powered by gas-swilling eight- and twelve-cylinder engines, both brands have decided to embrace the environmental movement.

Naturally, news of these tentative electric product plans hit the presses almost simultaneously.

Two weeks ago, as Rolls-Royce released a bevy of its massive Cullinan SUVs into the hands of journalists, CEO Torsten Müller-Otvös told Bloomberg that hybrid vehicles were not a proper fit for the BMW-owned company. Not electrics, however.

“There is an electric future for Rolls-Royce. We have not made our plan about what comes first, and what comes when, but we know that we will go full electric,” he said. “We will not do hybrids or whatever. Our proposition is full electric. It will come in the next decade, step by step by step.”

What form this proposition will take is murky. Müller-Otvös recently said he had no plans to add another model to the brand’s portfolio, which suggests it could be an electric variant of an existing model. That said, the CEO said he’ll “go with the flow” if the public demands it.

Meanwhile, a Reuters report suggests the future electric Roller might have some friendly British (headquartered) competition. Bentley is reportedly in the midst of discussions over a potential EV due to its excessive corporate emissions, the strict regulatory environment, and Europe’s march towards combustion vehicle bans. It’s no secret that VW’s lesser brands are all on board with HQ’s plan for a multitude of EVs in the coming years.

A high-end dedicated electric platform under development by Porsche and Audi (Premium Platform Electric, or PPE) offers an opportunity, but Bentley needs to make a decision fairly quickly. Top brass would have to give the project the green light, so to speak, within a year.

“When is the first full-electric Bentley? That is currently in the decision process, but our target is definitely before 2025,” said Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark.

[Image: BMW Group, VW Group]

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2 of 15 comments
  • Dan R Dan R on Oct 31, 2018

    We should all buy a RR to help stop climate change!

  • WallMeerkat WallMeerkat on Nov 01, 2018

    The story is an interesting one. BMW and VW wanted a halo brand and were fighting over buying the RollsRoyce-Bentley company. BMW looked the top contender as it already supplied engines, Mercedes showed interest but then decided it could do better by digging out an old marque, but VW swooped in and won. However it turned out that they won the factories, production lines and rights to the Bentley marque. BMW negotiated with the Rolls Royce parent company and obtained the rights to the marque on cars. They did give VW a grace period to run out current Rolls Royce cars, and VW looked to replace the BMW engines in the Bentleys with the previous home-grown engines. BMW built a brand new factory at the Goodwood estate and released the Phantom.

  • BEPLA My own theory/question on the Mark VI:Had Lincoln used the longer sedan wheelbase on the coupe - by leaning the windshield back and pushing the dashboard & steering wheel rearward a bit - not built a sedan - and engineered the car for frameless side windows (those framed windows are clunky, look cheap, and add too many vertical lines in comparison to the previous Marks) - Would the VI have remained an attractive, aspirational object of desire?
  • VoGhost Another ICEbox? Pass. Where are you going to fill your oil addiction when all the gas stations disappear for lack of demand? I want a pickup that I can actually use for a few decades.
  • Art Vandelay Best? PCH from Ventura to somewhere near Lompoc. Most Famous? Route Irish
  • GT Ross The black wheel fad cannot die soon enough for me.
  • Brett Woods My 4-Runner had a manual with the 4-cylinder. It was acceptable but not really fun. I have thought before that auto with a six cylinder would have been smoother, more comfortable, and need less maintenance. Ditto my 4 banger manual Japanese pick-up. Nowhere near as nice as a GM with auto and six cylinders that I tried a bit later. Drove with a U.S. buddy who got one of the first C8s. He said he didn't even consider a manual. There was an article about how fewer than ten percent of buyers optioned a manual in the U.S. when they were available. Visited my English cousin who lived in a hilly suburb and she had a manual Range Rover and said she never even considered an automatic. That's culture for you.  Miata, Boxster, Mustang, Corvette and Camaro; I only want manual but I can see both sides of the argument for a Mustang, Camaro or Challenger. Once you get past a certain size and weight, cruising with automatic is a better dynamic. A dual clutch automatic is smoother, faster, probably more reliable, and still allows you to select and hold a gear. When you get these vehicles with a high performance envelope, dual-clutch automatic is what brings home the numbers.