New Bentley SUV starts development journey ahead of 2016 launch

New Bentley SUV starts development journey ahead of 2016 launch

First test mule for Bentley’s first-ever SUV spotted disguised under Audi Q7 bodywork, as engineers configure electrical and cooling setups

The first ‘engineering simulator’ of the new 200mph Bentley SUV has been spotted testing ahead of sales late next year.

Disguised inside this Audi Q7 bodywork are the electrical system, running gear and powertrain of the new Bentley.

Because production tooling for the Bentley body is not yet available, engineers are using the Audi structural base to start work on the new SUV’s running gear, particularly calibrating the complex electrical system, which will feature well over 50 ECU control brains.

With vital functions controlled electronically, engineers can calibrate the key items, like transmission, steering, damping, stability/traction control and air conditioning from inside the car via a laptop.

This mule appears to also have a role to evaluate engine cooling, because the front-end of the Audi has been modified with generous vents below each headlight.

The Bentley is expected to be equipped with a twin-turbo W12 and the intercooler, for example, will need to be fed with cooling air on the test prototype. Other details at the front also appear to be related to cooling and airflow management into the engine bay and under the SUVs floor.

One of the major engineering jobs on the new Bentley will be evaluating aerodynamic performance, engine cooling and tyre longevity at the planned 200mph top speed, which Autocar understands was written into the technical specification last year.

The air suspension, for example, will have to be controlled electrically to lower itself automatically as the speed rises.

While the engineering work to set the optimum height can be done in the design lab, the engineering simulator is needed to prove that the real-world performance matches the calculations.

Development work can proceed at a pace thanks to Bentley’s ability to exchange data gathered in the engineering simulator with engineers at Crewe from a boot-mounted data logger.

Because today’s cars have so many ECU control units and monitoring systems, the boot-mounted hard-drive collects information from the production electrical system, via the diagnostic plug.

This data can be emailed overnight back to engineers at Crewe to monitor progress. In turn any changes to the control code can emailed back and uploaded into the ECU for evaluation on the test track.

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