The new 2011 Bentley Mulsanne is the ultimate luxury flagship for the historic British marquee and it’s soon to be available in the U.S. for a starting price of $285,000. Designed from a clean sheet and with a platform that’s not shared by any of it siblings, it’s styled somewhere between a Rolls Royce Phantom and the new Ghost. The Mulsanne is the replacement for the aging Bentley Arnage, which was a British icon as big as Blenheim Palace, and the new car’s proportions are staggering. With a weight of almost 6,000 pounds, it’s taller, wider, longer and has more space between the wheels than the old Arnage but still performs like a Bentley.
The Mulsanne is equipped with a 6.75-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 producing 505 horsepower and 725 pound-feet of torque. This car is as big as Wales, but still has a top speed of 184 mph and can do 0-60 mph in just 5.1 seconds. Nothing short of the Rolls Royce Phantom Coupe can even come close to the performance and sheer size of this machine. In addition, the car is equipped with an eight-speed ZF transmission, sport mode and even paddle shifters--just in case Michael Schumacher is your chauffeur. With an aluminum body taking 125 hours to complete, the only thing about this car that isn’t huge will be the production figures.
Safety equipment for the car will include everything you could possibly imagine, including head and thorax airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system, a vehicle immobilizer, an interior volumetric alarm system, and a magnetic trickle charger for the battery concealed in the rear license plate recess. Even the famous Flying B hood ornament is designed to drop instantly out of sight when hit. The most obvious safety feature are the new headlights, which look like the size of dinner plates and remind me of the old Lucas P-100 headlamps of the 1930s. These Gatling gun styled monsters are surrounded by LEDs and are the main focal point for the front of the car. Of course, with a Bentley you can expect a full range of colors including 24 specially selected for this model alone. With the Bespoke option, any color or accessory imaginable can be created just for your car.
The interior of the Mulsanne is like sitting inside a fine Hermes Bag, which has been placed inside an old English library. Every surface is either fine selected leather or perfectly finished wood. It takes 170 hours to complete the interior of each car, and requires the sacrifice of 15 pampered cows. The hides are tested 20,000 times by real workers at Crewe rather than robots in order to accurately simulate wear and tear. Each hide is even treated with special chemicals to account for the drivers sweat and to prevent staining on areas where the hands most often touch. The selection of leather colors is staggering, and every aspect of the car can be color coordinated, from the seatbelts to the leather trimmed carpeting. In fact, Bentley changed the whole dying process for the new leather hides just to ensure its customers got the rich leather smell customary in a classic Bentley.
The wood veneer inside the new Mulsanne is exquisite and each piece has to be matched to every other piece in the car. This mirror matching process takes workers 50 hours and the complete finishing takes five weeks per car. Inside a normal vehicle, all the little chrome bits are plastic, but in a Bentley they are highly polished metal. Even the driver’s speedometer and tachometer were redesigned to reflect the aviation style instruments of classic Bentleys, with the needle starting at the one o’clock position and traveling clockwise.
The new Mulsanne is fitted with wonderful little surprises throughout its cabin, like a leather lined glove box as well as a leather lined iPod compartment. It has the most powerful stereo installed in a production car, with 2,200 watts, plus a 60 GB hard drive and two digital card readers. In the rear door, the small vent windows retract with the rear glass, and all have privacy curtains. The glass even has an acoustic glazing with an infra red reflective interlayer.
The Bentley Mulsanne is the pinnacle of luxury motoring, and its performance and opulence are astounding. It is a car that is cutting edge, but still retains the classic Bentley heritage of the past.