A 19-year-old in the UK is smarting after the possibility that his prolific social media use may be at the heart of four family-owned supercars going up in flames in barely a week. Aleem Iqbal has thousands of followers on Twitter and Instagram paying attention to his frequent posts about the high-priced cars he's driving. He's even been featured on the Tumblr page Rich Kids of Instagram. It appears that some people might not be so smitten with him, though.
According to his Twitter profile, Iqbal owns Platinum Executive Travel, a luxury car rental company in the England, and UK newspaper The Telegraph claims the company is also owned by Iqbal's father. On June 6, cameras caught three hooded men setting fire to a Lamborghini Aventador Roadster leased by the company for a wedding. A few days later, two Audi R8 Spyders and a Bentley Continental Flying Spur from Platinum also got the torch, and two men were caught on camera setting the blaze. Nobody was hurt in either of the attacks, and the Aventador appeared to be repairable with the fire causing most damage to the passenger seat and dashboard. Police are still investigating both of the crimes.
According to The Telegraph, Iqbal believes that the arsons could have stemmed from jealousy towards him and his family's business. Regardless, setting fire to a bunch of cars that are likely insured isn't a great way to show displeasure.
Episode #385 of the Autoblog podcast is here, and this week, Dan Roth, Steven Ewing and Michael Harley talk about the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans, Tesla opening its patents, and Ford lowering fuel economy ratings for several vehicles. We also had a chance to chat with Jonathon Buckley, the host of Translogic here on Autoblog. We start with what's in the garage and finish up with some of your questions, and for those of you who hung with us live on our UStream channel, thanks for taking the time. Check out the new rundown below with times for topics, and you can follow along down below with our Q&A. Thanks for listening!
Autoblog Podcast #385:
Le Mans 2014
Tesla opens patents
Ford lowers MPG ratings
In the Autoblog Garage:
2015 GMC Yukon XL
2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S Convertible
2014 Honda Civic Si
Hosts: Dan Roth, Steven Ewing, Michael Harley
Guests: Jonathon Buckley
Intro and Garage - 00:00
Jonathon Buckley - 24:12
LeMans - 43:21
Tesla Patents - 52:07
Ford Fuel Economy - 59:30
Q&A - 01:10:36
Get the podcast:
[UStream] Listen live on Mondays at 10 PM Eastern at UStream
[iTunes] Subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes
[RSS] Add the Autoblog Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator
A factory-entered Bentley hadn't won a top tier race in the UK for 84 years when the Continental GT3 recently took victory in the second round of the Blancpain Endurance Series at Silverstone. It was an early success for a racer that only hit the track competitively for the first time late last year at the Gulf 12 Hours in Abu Dhabi. To capitalize on the potent platform, Bentley is bringing it to the street with the limited-edition Continental GT3-R.
Limited to just 300 units worldwide, this bruiser starts as any other Continental GT on the assembly line in Crewe, England, but then Bentley Motorsport get ahold of it to painstakingly improve its performance. Like the racer, GT3-R uses the 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V8, and here, power is cranked up to 572 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, 51 hp and 14 lb-ft better than the GT V8 S. The muscle is routed through an eight-speed automatic gearbox from ZF with shortened gearing and a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system with torque vectoring for the rear wheels. The weight also comes down over 200 pounds from the V8 S to 4,839 pounds. Bentley claims all the tweaks are enough to hustle the GT3-R to 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds, on to an estimated top speed of 170 mph.
To handle all that power, an air suspension holds up all four corners, and the brakes use carbon silicon carbide discs for plentiful stopping power. A titanium exhaust saves an additional 15 pounds of weight, and Bentley promises that it gives the car a baritone growl.
In the name of saving weight, the rear seats get thrown to the curb leaving just two racing buckets. Of course, this is still a Bentley, so the carbon fiber shells are covered in a combination of Alcantara and leather with green accents. The dashboard and center console are also replaced with carbon fiber pieces. The exterior wears a new carbon fiber front splitter and rear wing, and big cooling vents in the hood make sure the upgraded engine doesn't get too hot. All 300 cars get Glacier White paint with green accents. Bentley is taking orders for the GT3-R now and deliveries start at the end of 2014.
Continue reading Bentley GT3-R is the most hardcore road-going Continental yet
Despite Bentley's reputation as a holier-than-thou, ultra-luxury brand, at the end of the day, the Big B is still a business. As such, ongoing trends like powertrain downsizing and model range expansion are more prevalent at Bentley than ever. Just look at the Continental range - what started as the GT W12 has expanded into the GTC W12, GT V8, GT V8 S, GTC V8, GTC V8 S, GT Speed and GTC Speed. Talk about "have it your way."
But there's good reason for that. So many of these vehicles, despite their hand-crafted, bespoke nature, are all - gasp! - plug-and-play exercises that allow Bentley to appeal to the broadest range of upper-lux buyers, while keeping development costs relatively low. It's a move that's indeed worked, the company managing to post healthy sales increases year after year. And that's only going to get better, following the launch of the Flying Spur sedan last year, not to mention the upcoming, highly anticipated SUV that's in the works. As Kevin Rose, Bentley's member of the board for sales, marketing and aftersales told me recently, "The best years are yet to come."
To further expand an already growing range, I recently hopped a plane to London to experience the second member of the Flying Spur family - the V8. This less-powerful Spur offers better fuel efficiency and a lower staring price, while not compromising any of the brand's core values of luxury and refinement above all. But to paraphrase what executive editor Chris Paukert said when he drove the Conti GT V8 in 2012, this is indeed The Thinking Man's Flying Spur. Here, less really is more.
What makes this Flying Spur different from the ones before it is beneath the bonnet: a twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V8, seen elsewhere in the greater Volkswagen Group portfolio under the hood of the Audi S8. In the Spur, this robust engine puts out 500 horsepower and 488 pound-feet of torque. Note that those figures represent decreases of 116 hp and 102 lb-ft versus the 12-cylinder model that senior editor Seyth Miersma drove in China last year.
On the surface, that seems like a huge loss. But hold on - run the two cars side by side, and the V8 is only half a second slower to 60 miles per hour (4.9 seconds, here), thanks in part to a 110-pound weight savings. What's more, despite the Flying Spur's quest of first and foremost being quiet and shielding you from the outside world, the V8 sounds a whole lot better, with a revvy, throaty quality, much like what you hear in the Audi.
There's really nothing in this world that can quite compete with the pavement-warping thrust of the W12, but for what I imagine will be 95 percent of the Flying Spur's driving scenarios, the V8 is more than adequate in terms of power. The eight-speed automatic transmission does a fine job of managing things, as well - you'll never notice it's there, unless you decide to click through the gears yourself via the column-mounted paddles. (Honestly, don't.)
This combination of less power, less weight and an efficient transmission posts gains in the fuel economy department - the V8 model is estimated to achieve 14 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg highway, compared to 12/20 mpg city/highway in the W12.
Let me be clear: the 616-hp W12 Spur is great, but if I'm playing favorites, I'd rather drive the V8 car. On the more engaging roads through the English countryside, the happier-to-rev eight-pot is easier to keep on boil, and with 110 less pounds to lug around (a full 88 of which are due to the engine swap itself), the Spur doesn't feel like quite a lummox when driven spiritedly.
Of course, this is still a 5,341-pound, all-wheel-drive sedan we're talking about, with suspension geometry that's a bit softer than the Continental or the Spur that came before it, so it's not so much "tossing" as it is, well, let's just go British and say "motoring." Indeed, this car may be better to drive than its W12 counterpart, but only just. The Flying Spur still offers typically unnoticeable amounts of driver feedback, with nicely weighted (but light) steering, and an air suspension that keeps things copacetic while allowing only the necessary amounts of pitch and body roll to keep Sir from being thrown about in the back seat.
As Miersma rightly pointed out in his First Drive, the grip on offer largely comes down to the excellent all-wheel-drive system, and the fat tires, sized 19 inches in diameter here (20s are optional). Make no mistake, the Driver's Bentley is still the Continental coupe, but the Spur isn't completely muted in terms of enthusiastic voice. It's quick and smooth, with an unmatched ride quality, all enhanced by the very subtle purr of the V8 underhood.
Other V8-model-specific differences include red badges on the exterior, and the unique, figure-eight shaped exhaust outlets around back. Other than that, it's business as usual inside and out, so only your most discerning of colleagues at the country club will notice you've opted for a less-expensive version.
That means driver and passengers are treated to a truly top-notch experience inside the cabin, with only the finest fabrics sewn over the seats and doors, matched with 33 square feet of natural wood (crafted by hand, cured for 72 hours and clear-lacquered, by the way). It doesn't even seem right to discuss things like fit and finish, or critique material selection, because as you can imagine, it's all outstanding. The best stuff out there.
Bentley offers this sedan with three different rear seating arrangements - a two-plus-two, fixed-seat setup, a three-wide bench, or a contoured bench offering two-place seating. To rightly experience this, I was chauffeured into central London in the back of a fixed-seat car, featuring fully adjustable thrones, and pretty much every single amenity you could ever ask for. It's second-best to the larger Mulsanne, sure, but I can't see a single reason why anyone in this world would ever complain about the Spur's accommodations. Of course, I reside in a wholly different tax bracket than target buyers, but still - I dare you to find something less-than-lovely in the Flying Spur's rear accommodations.
Perhaps my only gripe with the Flying Spur is its navigation/infotainment system in the center stack up front, which both feels and looks a couple generations too old. It's way too similar to the Volkswagen unit employed in cars like the last-gen Passat, and while it's decently intuitive to use, it's not pretty. Far less expensive fullsize sedans like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and even Volkswagen Group's own Audi A8 best the Flying Spur in the new and innovative tech category. Still, the system checks all the right boxes and works as advertised, so really, I'm just being picky. It also offers backseat residents control via the smart-phone-like Touch Screen Remote, which the Audi and Benz don't yet have an answer for.
Flying Spur V8 models will start at $195,100 when they go on sale in the third quarter of this year - a decrease of $5,400 versus the W12. The higher-lux Mulliner specification comes in at $208,170, and as with all Bentley models, the configuration possibilities are literally infinite.
Bentley expects the V8 to account for a full 50 percent of Flying Spur sales here in the US, attracting new buyers to the brand in the process. From where I sit, I can't see a single reason to not get the V8, unless you've got an extra $5,400 in your pocket (if you're a customer, you likely do) and simply cannot settle for anything less than the top spec. It's a better-driving version of an already astonishingly comfortable and competent luxury sedan. If this is what model expansion looks like in the world of Bentley, the best years are indeed yet to come.
It's been over two years since Bentley unveiled its first SUV concept at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show. In the time since, Bentley has sent it back to the drawing board and started development, embodied just a couple of weeks ago as a test mule wearing the bodywork of an Audi Q7, the replacement for which will share its underpinnings with the new Bentley. But what we have here is our best look yet at the forthcoming big Bentley.
Now wearing its own suit (albeit a heavily camouflaged one), this Bentley SUV prototype was recently spotted undergoing testing. And judging from the NewBentley.com stickers plastered along its flanks and rear bumpers, it seems like the crew from Crewe wanted us to see it - or at very least has resigned itself to the fact that we probably would.
The prototype is already wearing the new round headlamps that were part of the redesign, as well as LED taillights, and the interior photos snapped through the windows give us an idea of what to expect from the completed cabin, including the digital instrument cluster and head-up display at the base of the windshield.
The jury's still out on what name the finished product will carry when it reaches the market in 2016 with potential V8 and W12 power, but for our part we're still fixated on the Falcon for which the last letter in the concept's EXP 9 F handle was said to stand.
When it comes to street-legal cars there's "power," there's "Power" and then there's "PAHRRRRRR!" This Bentley Continental GT dragster built by Webster Engineering in Bedford, England owns that third category, with its 3,082-horsepower heartbeat erupting from a twin-turbo, 10.2-liter Chevrolet V8 crate motor built by Steve Morris Engines. An entrant in the Street Eliminator Class of last weekend's European Drag Racing Championship, it is fully road legal.
As you might expect, it's not exactly a factory-fresh Continental GT, more like an authentic Bentley bodyshell placed over a tube-frame chassis and a carbon-fiber-heavy interior that took eight months and 250,000 pounds ($420,763 US) to finish. It will be driven by its owner, Yorkshire watch repairer Steve Neimantas. Builder Jon Webster told Autoblog that they're hoping for times in the "mid to low sevens on street tires and 6's on slicks."
You can watch a couple videos of the engine running and the car on the go below.
Continue reading This is what a street-legal 3,000-hp Bentley Continental GT drag racer sounds like
The Bentley SUV is coming and there's not a thing we can do to stop it. The latest indication that the wing-badged behemoth is on the way is this teaser video, which (thankfully?) doesn't show us a whole lot of the new vehicle, aside from its Continental GT-inspired headlights and its Mulsanne-inspired grille. Of course, we've seen this fascia before.
Via Bentley's associated press release, we now know that the SUV will head into production in 2016 with a range of engines that will expand to include a plug-in hybrid in 2017.
There are a few other details, such as the large, five-spoke wheels and side grilles. Whatever the new SUV is called, it should be wearing Continental-esque taillights and a rather aggressive rake to the roof behind the rear doors. That said, none of the other styling clues are as clear as our look at the SUV's face.
Take a look below, and then hop into Comments and let us know what you think about Bentley's newest, upcoming product.
Continue reading First Bentley SUV teased in video short
Sure, this looks largely like an Audi Q7. What if we told you, though, that it was actually a Bentley? This may be one of the very first sets of images we've seen of the aristocratic brand's SUV. Based on the borrowed Audi bodywork, however, testing appears to be in the early stages.
While it may look like an Audi Q7, there are a number of giveaways. One of the more subtle are the British number plates, in place of the traditional German plates that would be found were this a mule for the next Q7. Other changes are more noticeable. According to our spies, this mule is much wider, while its fenders have also been enlarged to accommodate larger wheels and tires.
Out back, four exhaust pipes jut out from the lower fascia, while larger brakes are hidden behind black wheels. The big indicator that this is something special, though, can be seen in the front fascia. The heavily modified front clip is home to two massive intakes below the headlights. According to our spies, these conceal a pair of intercoolers. Whether they are for Bentley (and Audi's) twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V8 or the 6.0-liter W12 is unclear.
Of course, should any more details arise on Bentley's new high-rider, we'll be sure to pass it along. Until then, hop up top and have a look at our spy images.
Bentley Director of Design Luc Donckerwolke certainly thinks highly of the vehicles he creates. "We are the only ones that offer performance compatible with luxury," he says in Intelligent Details, a new short documentary commissioned by the brand. While that might be a bit hyperbolic (the Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG says hello), the company does have a long history of blending elegant interiors, sophisticated exteriors and powerful engines. The film examines how crafting that works in the modern world.
Intelligent Details stars Donckerwolke and his colleague Head of Exterior Design Sang Yup Lee as they ride in two contrasting Bentley Mulsannes through New York City. They talk about what makes a Bentley special, but their biggest focus is their belief that automotive interiors can no longer by "a closed cocoon," according to Donckerwolke. It has to transform into a living space thanks to the brand's interior infotainment technology.
The message might be self-aggrandizing, but the short film itself is beautifully shot and edited with some loving looks at the city. The way it was actually made could be the most surprising part of all. We don't want to spoil it here, but scroll down and watch the whole video to see.
Continue reading Bentley designers talk about Intelligent Details
The top end of the new car market seldom seems to need much justification for rolling out a new special edition - other than bringing in a few extra bucks and making its customers feel extra special in the process. Bentley, for its part, is celebrating its 95th anniversary this year, and to mark the occasion has released a special edition of its top-of-the-line Mulsanne saloon.
Called the Mulsanne 95, the limited-edition limo gets three very British color options, dark-tint finish for the Flying B hood ornament and special 21-inch wheels. Step inside and you'll find two-tone blue and white leather with red top-stitching, with a 95 motif embroidered into the seats and special illuminated treadplates, all offset by special Fulbeck Walnut panels that come from a single, giant walnut tree some 300 to 400 years old that came down in a storm in Lincolnshire in 2007.
Buyers will be able to choose between Britania Blue, Empire Red or Oxford White, but only 15 examples will be made available, and all exclusively in Bentley's home UK market.
Continue reading Bentley marks 95th anniversary with special Mulsanne