Ultimate luxury with refined performance: 2017 Bentley Mulsanne first drive review Page 3


The rear seats are just as comfortable as the fronts and rear seat occupants get just as many if not more entertainment options as those up front. Opt for the $19,355 Entertainment Specification with Google Maps and you get the 20-speaker, 20-channel, 2,200-watt Naim audio system, veneered rear picnic tables that fold down from the front seatbacks, and a pair of 10.2-inch Samsung tablets that rise out of those seatbacks. These tablets allow rear seat passengers to control the car's climate and entertainment systems, surf the web, and gain access to thousands of Android apps. They are also removable, so you can take them in the house when your driver has dropped you off from a night at the symphony.

Extended Wheelbase buyers can also opt for the $13,670 Comfort Specification that comes with two rear airline-style reclining seats, massage and ventilation functions for all four seats, comfort headrests with alcantara pads, and two loose bolsters.

Another $12,670 will get you a long center console with twin deployable picnic tables. The fold-out table mechanism is a work of mechanical art. It is made up of 761 pieces, and it includes springs and dampers to make the movements as elegant as possible. The mechanism is so sturdy that the outer portions of the tables can hold close to 90 pounds.

2017 Bentley Mulsanne Speed

2017 Bentley Mulsanne Speed

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2017 Bentley Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase

2017 Bentley Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase

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2017 Bentley Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase

2017 Bentley Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase

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2017 Bentley Mulsanne

2017 Bentley Mulsanne

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For a mere $10,970, you can get a refrigerated cooler between the seats. The bottle cooler with three crystal champagne flutes is the most appropriate for the Mulsanne, but you can also opt for a version that holds two water bottles and tumblers, and another to accommodates spirit bottles, crystal glasses, and a Bentley hip flask.

All told, for $56,665, the price of a Lexus GS, you can have a backseat with a premium audio system, pop up entertainment tablets, extending legrests, airline-style fold-out tables, and a cooler. You can get most of those features (the rear screens aren't removable) for $18,600 in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class or $16,250 in the BMW 7-Series, but if you wanted one of those pedestrian cars you would have bought one, wouldn't you? Your damn assistant can settle for one of them.

Extraordinary effort for an extraordinary car

The Bentley Mulsanne starts at more than $305,000. The Mulsanne Speed adds another $30,000 to that total, and the Extended Wheelbase model tops $360,000.

Bentley shared some facts and stats that at least start to justify those price tags.

To wit: It takes 400 hours to build a Mulsanne, which is 20 times as long as the typical production car. Master metal workers, not robots, perform 5,800 individual welds.

Bentley considers the Mulsanne's interior to be the best in the world, and spends 150 hours assembling it. The seats are stitched, shaped, and finished by hand, and if you order contrast stitching that takes another 37 hours to complete.

The Mulsanne's paint is also exquisite. You won't find orange peel on vertical surfaces like you will with many of today's standard production cars. The paint is applied in layers to make sure it appears even. It is hand sprayed, lacquered, and polished by hand with lamb's wool for 12 hours to get the final, mirror-like finish. A total of 120 processes are employed along the way. On top of that, Bentley brazes the seams where the roof meets the rear fenders to make the body look like it's been carved from a single piece of metal.

Efforts like these show Bentley knows quite a lot about building luxurious cars, and my time in the Mulsanne highlighted the car's immense power and unmatched refinement. Experiencing these traits firsthand helped me understand why a discerning buyer would want such an exquisite piece of machinery.

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