The Mulsanne is a classic Bentley, with which I don’t want to underestimate the very successful Continental GT, but the Mulsanne most closely matches the traditional image everyone has of this type of English car. A large, imposing sedan, hand-built, an engine with “sufficient” power in which the owner lets himself be driven around in the sumptuous interior.
With the Mulsanne Bentley harks back more strongly to the past, where it still stood on its own two feet and was not part of Rolls-Royce. This is especially important for the design, because Bentley must and can now be more than Rolls-Royces with another badge. Bentley goes back to icons from their past, such as the powerlines over the front fenders of the Continental R-type, the “muscular” rear fenders, the mesh grille and the large headlights which are divided into three compartments. It is a reference to the eighty year old Bentley 8.0-litre. It doesn’t deliver the most beautiful front, but it is a subtle reference to Speed. Still, the design works better in real life than on pictures, perhaps mainly because only then the majestic size becomes clearer.
Since Bentley has been separated from Rolls-Royce, the English car manufacturer can and should sail its own course. This is clearly expressed in the design, which goes back to the past instead of being “upside-down” Rolls-Royces. They are not completely independent in Crewe, but the interference of the Volkswagen Group is not so strong that the identity is in danger of being lost. The Mulsanne isn’t an extended Audi A8, but of course it uses components that are available. The front suspension comes from an A8, the rear suspension from the A6 Avant and of course the navigation system will also be known if you know the other VAG products well. The Mulsanne is also a Bentley. The bodywork is produced entirely in Crewe. If you ever see a Mulsanne, look for the seam between the roof plate and the rest of the bodywork. In almost every other production car you see it somewhere, sometimes hidden under a decorative strip on the roof, sometimes as a transition between mudguard and roof. Not with the Mulsanne, the transition is fully welded and concealed. This is not only more solid, but also an indication of how much attention to detail there is during design and production.
Respect for Bentley also grew after a tour of the factory. Almost everything is done by hand and every car is meticulously inspected before delivery, both inside and during a test drive on the road. Even more fun is the truly traditional work done on the interior. All leather is stitched by hand, for example one thread is used for the steering wheel. Optionally, all functional stitching can still be embellished with cross-stitched thread. One person does this for a full week. That doesn’t serve any function, except that it’s beautiful.
Wood normally belongs in the fireplace, but in a Bentley it is also allowed. For the Mulsanne applies: everything that looks like wood is also wood. It is not just a layer of veneer glued to another material. If the apocalypse is approaching, you can use all the wood from a Mulsanne to keep the fireplace warm for another evening. Don’t do that until you’ve fired up the parquet floor in the ballroom of your castle, because there’s significantly less work in it than in the excess wood in the Mulsanne. The entire interior requires more than 170 hours of manual work, almost half of the total production time.
The bloodline of the V8 can be traced back to 1959, but the power source has been drastically adapted to modern times. Bentley himself has a completely new block, but bore and stroke are the same as those from the V8 of the Arnage. All internal parts and the cylinder heads are in any case completely new. To further reduce fuel consumption there is even cylinder disengagement. The V8 disengages four cylinders when the engine is running less than 2,000 rpm and is not heavily loaded. This results in savings of 8 percent under these kind of conditions. The total CO2 emission and consumption decreased by 15 percent.
Kick the pedal especially thick and rich, and the Mulsanne throws itself towards the horizon with an appalling surrender. It is a lobe of a car weighing 2600 kg, but the V8 doesn’t have a problem with it at all. From 1750 rpm there is no less than 1020 Nm of traction available! At 4200 rpm the maximum power of 512 hp is released. The redline soon follows, at 4500 rpm the party is over. It says something about the character of the twinturbo V8: “effortless” the Mulsanne takes you to your destination. If you have to hurry, but that’s not the main mission of the Mulsanne. By the way, the performance is impressive enough: in 5.3 seconds 100 is on the counter, in 11.5s 160 km/h and the top speed is 296 km/h in any case.