BENTLEY’S DRIVE IS RICHLY REWARDING
There is luxury, there is super-luxury, and then cruising ahead in another class is the Mulsanne
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.
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.
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.
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