BENT­LEY’S DRIVE IS RICHLY RE­WARD­ING

There is lux­ury, there is su­per-lux­ury, and then cruis­ing ahead in an­other class is the Mulsanne

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - PAUL CON­NOLLY

THERE are ex­ec­u­tive sa­loons and lux­ury sa­loons, but there’s only one Bent­ley Mulsanne.

Su­per-lux­ury sa­loon is prob­a­bly the cor­rect term for this car — in fact, it may well be the best car you can buy any­where.

It’s not the world’s most ex­pen­sive car, the Bu­gatti Veyron sports car, for ex­am­ple, can cost north of £1m. And there are rare vin­tage cars that can cost 12 times that amount.

But the Bent­ley Mulsanne is the creme de la creme of the mo­tor­ing word, prob­a­bly the finest ‘nor­mal’ car you can buy. Any­where.

Ev­ery­thing about the Mulsanne is be­spoke. There are no com­pro­mises what­so­ever — from the hand-stitched leather to the pure Bent­ley-made V8 6.75-litre en­gine, it’s all unique to the UK man­u­fac­turer.

At the 80-acre Bent­ley plant in Crewe, work­ers proudly de­scribed to us the his­tory of in­di­vid­ual parts and cars. This is a mo­ti­vated work­force that be­lieves deeply in the prod­uct.

The Mulsanne is Bent­ley’s flag­ship and is the first ‘pure’ Bent­ley since the 1930s, with Bent­ley bosses re­sist­ing group de­mands to save money by us­ing some Audi parts.

The Mulsanne — launched in 2009 and named af­ter a curve on the Le Mans race course — is a unique ve­hi­cle. Only five roll off the pro­duc­tion lines at Crewe per day (com­pared to 55 Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tals).

Each car con­tains 620 sep­a­rate com­po­nents, 5,800 spot welds, 669 self-pierc­ing riv­ets and 25 kg of paint.

It takes 12 weeks and 480 man hours to build a Mulsanne, with 22 hours alone re­quired to com­plete the fi­nal in­spec­tion.

It’s a big car. The Mulsanne’s long bon­net, wings and doors are made from alu­minium, with the rest of the body com­posed of steel. Apart from the boot, that is, which is com­pos­ite to al­low electrics to work with­out an ugly aerial stick­ing out of the roof. Eigh­teen ft long, al­most 6 ft wide, and weigh­ing 2.6 tonnes, this is a car that is ex­u­ber­ant in al­most ev­ery as­pect.

Ul­ti­mate cabin

The first thing you no­tice upon climb­ing in is a rich smell from all that hand-stitched leather (it can take 15 hours to stitch the steer­ing wheel). Bull hide leather is taken from only a few se­lected sup­pli­ers from Scan­di­navia and south­ern Ger­many.

The bulls graze high al­ti­tude pas­ture where barbed wire and elec­tric fences are for­bid­den so they don’t mark the hides. There are 16-17 bull hides in ev­ery Mulsanne.

You’ll also no­tice the deep pile car­pet un­der­foot and the in­cred­i­ble ring of wood cir­cling the cabin.

We vis­ited the wood shop at Crewe to learn how they craft per­fect de­tail­ing the whole way around the cabin

from the one piece of wood (mir­ror-match­ing is the term used).

Turns out the most pop­u­lar wood ve­neer is burr wal­nut, with the wood taken from the tree’s root­ball.

Driv­ing abil­ity

The ded­i­ca­tion to ex­cel­lence con­tin­ues un­der the bon­net. Bent­ley re­sisted the kind of com­pro­mise ex­pe­ri­enced by Rolls Royce and May­bach, which re­spec­tively used BMW 7 Se­ries and Mercedes S- Class en­gines, and cre­ated its own ded­i­cated Mulsanne en­gine.

It’s a thing of beauty. It of­fers 5105PS (there’s an even faster Mulsanne Speed with up to 537PS) and is in­cred­i­bly smooth and re­fined as well as be­ing pow­er­ful.

In fact, this is one of the few car en­gines in the world that ex­ceeds 1,000Nm of torque (1020Nm, ac­tu­ally). Put your foot down and the en­gine will pro­pel you from 0-60 mph in 5.1 sec­onds, on your way to a top speed of 184 mph. You won’t feel like you’re grap­pling with the en­gine. The ac­cel­er­a­tion is re­fined, not raw.

De­spite the fear­some power, and awe­some size of the car, the drive is in­cred­i­bly smooth thanks to a su­per-stiff body-shell, con­tin­u­ous damp­ing and Drive Dy­nam­ics Con­trol, which lets you se­lect Sport, Com­fort, Bent­ley or Cus­tom modes.

There’s an 8-speed ZF au­to­matic gear­box which chan­nels all that power very smoothly in­deed — but you have at your dis­posal a huge twin-booster brak­ing sys­tem should you lean your right foot too heav­ily on the ac­cel­er­a­tor.

Op­tions

This be­ing a Bent­ley, there are all man­ner of lux­u­ries in­side the cabin as well as that sump­tu­ous leather (nine choices) and deep wood ve­neer (nine more choices here).

My favourite in the car I was driv­ing — loaned by Bent­ley at Charles Hurst, the only out­let in Ire­land — was an au­to­mated re­frig­er­ated bot­tle cooler, com­plete with frosted glass and be­spoke crys­tal cham­pagne flutes cost­ing £8,225 to sup­ply and in­stall.

It also had a large-panel glass sun­roof, con­trast stitch­ing, side view cam­eras and one of those fa­mous Fly­ing ‘B’ ra­di­a­tor mas­cots on the bon­net.

The list of op­tions is ex­haus­tive, with one favourite be­ing the 20-speaker, 2,200 watt Naim au­dio sys­tem. There are over 100 body­paint fin­ishes avail­able so you can per­son­alise all you want.

Cost of own­er­ship

What about the eco­nom­ics? Well, there’s no doubt this is a car for the very rich. Road tax alone is £1,200, and you won’t get any more than 16 miles to the gal­lon from that stonk­ing en­gine. In­sur­ance is, as you might have guessed, Group 50.

Buy­ers who reach the end of the queue and get the chance to buy will un­doubt­edly slap loads of ex­tras on to the car’s £230,000 list price. Bent­ley’s fa­mous Mulliner be­spoke ser­vice will per­son­alise things fur­ther. The list price on my Charles Hurst demon­stra­tor is £280,727.00.

That said, the cars main­tain a very strong resid­ual value and there is a healthy in­dus­try in ap­proved pre-owned Bent­leys.

If you want to make a state­ment about pres­tige, power and re­fine­ment, this is the ul­ti­mate ex­pres­sion in mo­tor­ing.

Sheer ex­cel­lence: the Bent­ley Mulsanne has it all

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