Future Bentley glamour from the 1920s

Bentley has unveiled its fastest, most powerful production car ever, which it has tagged ‘the extreme Bentley”, a two-seater that harks back to the 1920s and the glamorous, speedstruck ‘Bentley Boys”.

While boasts of supercar performance may sound out of step with tough times for the car industry and mounting concerns about climate change, Bentley is running the new car on green fuel E85 — containing 85% bioethanol.

But the extreme Bentley is still far more about performance and luxury than economy. It will, for example, accelerate from 0-100kph in 3.7 seconds and, though Bentley has not priced the new model, it will cost at least £140 000 (about R1.7-million).

Fuel consumption is 4km a litre on an urban cycle and 8.6km a litre travelling outside urban areas. Carbon dioxide emissions run at about 388 grams a kilometre.

For all that, the new car does represent the first stage of Bentley’s commitment to improving its environmental performance as well as maintaining ‘driveability”.

Bentley is hardly alone in seeking to buff up its green credentials. At the opposite end of the market, Ford recently launched its Fiesta Econetic, the latest in a range of fuel frugal cars which already includes the Mondeo and Focus, with a Ka version to come.

Using modifications including lowered suspension, aerodynamic body styling and a gear change alert, the £12 450 (R152 700) Fiesta Econetic’s fuel consumption is 26.9km per litre and its CO2 emissions are expelled at 98g/km.

Whether green is the new mean, as buyers chase thrifty fuel consumption and lower car taxes, or whether it is driven by genuine environmental concerns or a combination of the two, carmakers and governments know they have to act.

The ability to invest in technologies that cut fuel consumption and carbon emissions will be crucial to companies and countries competing in the global car market with a wider, economic knock-on effect. Much of the industry’s research spending is directed towards reducing emissions or producing greener cars.

Government bail-outs for the sector have also been linked to environmental targets in many countries. The industry has spent a lot of time recently stressing the importance of its engineering expertise.

As Jaguar Land Rover chief executive David Smith took care to point out in a speech, the company ‘is one of the country’s biggest investors in research and development ensuring our vehicles keep their technological edge on our competitors. In fact, we are one of the top 10 research and development investors in the UK and top 150 globally.”

The message is not being lost in the corridors of power, not only in the UK but across the world.

A substantial portion of the aid handed out to assorted national car industries has a green flavour — not least that offering incentives to buyers who scrap old gas guzzlers for new, lower emission models.

For Bentley the new model springs from a long tradition of speed and comfort, but the engineering capacity that has made it possible is another, invaluable UK tradition. —

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