It’s Good to Know Where you Come From. It Makes you What you are. It’s DNA – it’s in your Blood
Bentley update their flagship model, now offering three in their Mulsanne family
Article by Andy Barnham
It is clear when you come face to face with the new Mulsanne that Bentley believe in the phrase ‘God is in the detail’ and the new hand crafted family are spawned from the same gene pool as their predecessors. The Consummate has now been joined by the Speed and Extended Wheelbase all powered by the same 6 3/4 litre twin turbo v8 engine. The Consummate and the Extended Wheelbase both share 505bhp with the Speed coming in at 530 horses, which when combined with the 1100 Newton metres of torque means this 3,200kg heavyweight has a 0- 60mph time of under 5 seconds (4.8 seconds to be exact). To put this into perspective, a Mini Cooper S 1.6 litre weighs less than half at 1,235kgs, comes in at 192bhp with a 0- 62mhp time of 6.8 seconds. The Mulsanne is big and not just big, but quick. He’s Jonah Lomu and, if you spy him in your rear view mirror – you’re getting out of the way.
However, this is not an American muscle car; this hand crafted pride of Crewe is the result of 400 hours of labour and love which is approximately 200 times longer than a standard saloon car. There are 5,800 individual welds, 120 different paint processes with the interior taking 150 hours to build including 480 individual pieces of leather. The final polish takes 12 hours alone.
Chatting with Stefan Sielaff, Bentley’s RCA educated director of design and Anglophile to boot, who claims ‘designers have a criminal mind,’ one does wonder where evolution ends and theft begins. In a nod to previous models, the front grille is 80mm wider than before with the Bentley matrix grille visible behind the vertical vanes. There is now also a ‘B’ signature element which is visible in the grilles by the front wheel arches, the bottom edges of the front fender and the tail lights. The LED headlights now emit whiter light with adaptable beam patterns depending on location of country, city roads or motorway and automatically switch from high beam to dipped if an oncoming vehicle is detected.
On the inside, there is an 8 inch touch screen display in front whilst passengers in the back are treated to a pair of 10.2 inch Android tablets in addition to an internal Wi-Fi system. After a 4 decibel noise reduction in the cabin, Bentley decided that their wheels were too loud which led to new tyre foam and a 50 per cent reduction in the rolling noise. For those being driven in the back of the Extended Wheel base, there are now first class airline style reclining seats, along with curtains and fold away tables crafted with precision dampeners that can support 40kgs of load. For those who like to entertain there is an optional fridge and champagne flutes available across the Mulsanne range. Every strand of Bentley DNA has been examined and modified, and prior to being unleashed on an unsuspecting public has been road tested in the North Cap, the deserts of Africa, and the roads of USA and China to ensure robustness and durability. It is not hard to comprehend why the Mulsanne takes as long as it does to build.
So how do these engineering and styling achievements translate to the road? The first impression is just the sheer size of the Mulsanne. While only 20cm wider than my Mini, I felt like I was driving while sitting in the middle of the road at best and frequently like I was in the wrong lane. This made driving in narrow country and city roads nerve wracking and very slow as I frequently drove at a snail’s pace in the face of oncoming traffic. It wasn’t until a few hours behind the wheel that I finally had the spatial awareness and wherewithal to position the car confidently in the lane and start enjoying the Mulsanne; though I still gave a very wide berth when overtaking cyclists.
It was on the motorway, which was comfortably roomy, that I was able to test the capability of the 500 plus horses I was in control of. The ride is smooth with more than ample power for those who like to accelerate quickly or just want to overtake more pedestrian speed vehicles who can’t (or won’t) pull over. As you’d expect, the cabin is very quiet; it was only at 120mph that the air whistling past started to be noticed (editor’s note; the Mulsanne was driven on an unrestricted autobahn in Germany). Otherwise the only noise I heard was the chainsaw like screech of a scrambler motorbike as it passed me in the opposite direction on one of the smaller roads I drove on. Given the size of the Mulsanne I found a higher than normal seat position gave substantially increased visibility and view of the road. Though initially strange to be seated so high, the low seat position in comparison felt like I was in a tank peering through an armoured sight, offering only a limited field of view, to try and see where I was driving.
For those who require it, the sat nav can not only be displayed in the 8 inch screen, but also in the driver’s dashboard and viewed through the steering wheel; though personally I found the constantly changing map scale difficult to adjust to and missed more than a few turns not realising exactly when to go left or right. When reversing, the screen helpfully shows a feed from the rear mounted camera with guidelines indicating where you are currently steering and your projected course.
The downside of a heavy car is a heavy fuel consumption with the Mulsanne achieving 12.1 miles per gallon in an urban environment and 28 mpg in an extra urban environment for a combined rate of only 18.8 mpg. It is therefore no surprise that the fuel tank comes in at 96 litres in size (21 UK gallons), in order to achieve a reasonable range between petrol station visits.
So how much does 400 hours of Bentley care and attention set you back and how much buck does this big bang cost? The base price of the Consummate is £229, 000 with a total option cost of an additional £52,000 for a total of £281,000. Topping the range of the option costs is the entertainment specifications including Google maps at just shy of £15,000 and the fridge with bespoke glasses (with the bottoms mirroring the Bentley 5 wheel spoke design) at just over £8,000. It is however hard to imagine anyone who plans on spending this amount of money not going for a fridge, especially if they intend to be driven and potentially entertain in the Extended Wheelbase, or wanting an all singing and dancing entertainment system.
In keeping with its DNA, the Mulsanne is eye catching while remaining understated. This isn’t a car that is going to be revved to the max in Knightsbridge setting off alarms left, right and Chelsea demanding to be looked at, but also sung to sleep and tucked into bed every night to ensure it starts the next morning. This is a car that will effortlessly and smoothly get you to your destination, whether driving or being driven that you can count on. Bentley recently set up a hotline for customers in need of emergency help to support their 1, 400 vehicles on the road. To date the hotline has received just five calls. The boys from Crewe should take a bow.
Enquiries: Bentley/ www.bentleymotors.com