Auto Express talks with new Bentley engineering boss Rolf Frech
Bentley has a new engineering boss in the shape of Rolf Frech, who comes to the British luxury car maker after 28 years at Porsche. It's his job to help widen the Bentley range, developing new models to fill the many gaps that Bentley has. We talked to him about the new Continental V8 GT and lots else besides...
You started your new job in November. What do you think of the new Continental V8?
I'm very impressed with the V8. It's a car that has a new character - but it's a character that won't compete with the W12. It's a car that's additional to the W12. The V8 is younger and sportier and makes a great sound. The engine is ligher so it's more agile to drive and it fulfills our committment to improving efficiency by 40 per cent too.
Do you think engines will get smaller at Bentley?
Would we do a V6 do you mean? Well, never say never. But Bentley is all about torque – so I don't think so. We need an engine that produces lots of torque and we are most likely to get that from larger engines.
Much has been rumoured about a petrol-electric model - how is the Bentley hybrid system developing?
We're currently at the concept stage. We have to use the best powertrains in the VW Group. There is a V6 hybrid that Audi has developed but I do not think this is the best way forward. Our hybrid, when it comes, has to be the pinnacle – it has to be a flagship. We have not revealed our targets but it has to be the fastest in the range. It could even be the most efficient. Like I say, we are going to use the best engine at our disposal. The twin-turbo V8 is a good starting point, let me say that...
You were responsible for the Cayenne at Porsche. How are plans for a Bentley SUV developing?
I don't want to copy what we did at Porsche with Bentley. But let me say this...our new SUV has to be the best in the world. It has to be the most luxurious, the fastest, the most desirable. We have a chance to do something no other car company can do.
When can we expect a Bentley SUV to go on sale?
Not for a while yet. We are still at the concept stage...we are working out where it will fit in the range [it is thought the SUV will sit above the Continental GT]. However, at Porsche it took us five years to get the Cayenne ready. At Bentley we are a little bit slower.
What about a replacement for the Flying Spur?
There is no rush. The Flying Spur is still selling very well – particulalry in China where there is strong demand for four-door cars.
How is the Chinese market?
We sold 1,839 cars in China last year. Globally, we sold 7,003 cars of which 2,400 were Continental GTs and 2,300 were Flying Spurs – so you can see why we can wait a while before we replace it.
What about diesel? Do you ever see the day when we will have a diesel Bentley?
Diesel is not needed in China and the US - two major markets for Bentley. If there is a business case for Europe then we will consider it, but the new V8 is much more efficient [it can do around 500 miles between fill-ups].
Would you ever build a car below the Continental?
No, there are just too many other rivals. Plus, I am not sure a cheaper, less exclusive Bentley would be right.
What about weight reduction?
It is true, our cars need to lose weight and we are certainly working on it. We'll use more aluminium and lighter steels.