What’s the Secret Behind Bentley’s Ethanol Supercar? I Think I Know, and I’m Telling Everyone.

Several weeks ago, I filled you in on Bentley’s upcoming ethanol supercar, promised to be the fastest, most powerful Bentley ever offered.

In the days since, Bentley has kept the world’s journalists hungry for more details, releasing only this “Project Victoria” teaser video, a March reveal date, and precious little else… but has one of Volkswagen’s lesser-known suppliers inadvertently given away Project Victoria’s horsepower secrets?

You bet! Read it here first, after the jump.

When we last encountered Bentley’s Continental GT-based “Project Victoria”, we knew what everyone else knew at the time: Bentley had announced that some new flex-fuel technology would be introduced in the coming months on the company’s new flagship GT, and that – whatever it was – this new technology would deliver more than 600 horsepower and a top speed in excess of 205 mph.


Heady numbers, to be sure – and I speculated that the new tech would have something to do with the way the Bentley’s turbocharged W12 managed boost, taking advantage of ethanol’s higher octane and resistance to detonation.  While I was technically correct (the best kind of correct), a more complete description of Bentley’s upcoming green tech goes something like this: Ethanol-boosted direct injection (EBDI).

By using the recently-announced direct injection technology developed by VW group supplier Ricardo, the engineers at Bentley are going to offer an engine that turns the gas/ethanol equation upside-down, making MORE power than a comparable gas-only engine, and allowing Bentley owners the flexibility to use whatever blend of fuel is locally available (seemingly up to 100% ethanol).

More credibility is given to this theory by Ricardo themselves, who played an integral part in developing the highly efficient direct injection technology found in Audi’s dominant, direct-injected LMP racecars. Audi, like Bentley, is a VW property, and VW has frequently told the motoring press that it has been using the Audi racing program as a testbed for new “green” technologies.

What, then, is the most cost-effective way to test the real-world viability of this new technology? The answer is obvious, to anyone who’s ever had to read The Constitution of Liberty: package it pretty and sell it to rich people!

With the right marketing spin, you can sell new and expensive technology at a premium price, minimizing financial risks like tooling costs and warranty liabilities in the process. With that in mind, the best way to sell VW tech at a premium price is clearly “sell it as a Bentley.”

Need more evidence that we’re on the right trail?

The engine Ricardo highlights in the company’s Feb 6th press release is a 3.2L 6-cylinder engine. The natural assumption is that this engine is a conventional V6… but what if it isn’t? Volkswagen sells a 3.2L VR6 engine across the US and Europe. Even more telling: you get 2 VR6 engines every time you buy a Bentley Continental.

How so? Each Bentley W12 engine is, essentially, a mated pair of VR6 VW/Audi engines.

You heard it here first: My guess is that if you want to see what’s under the hood of Bentley’s next supercar before the automotive press gets a sneak-peak in March, visit the Ricardo Company’s website.  Bentley’s own teaser video below.


Image Credits:  screencap and video from Bentley Motors.


Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.