2011 Bentley Mulsanne

2011 Bentley Mulsanne

With the all-new 2011 Bentley Mulsanne, there's reason to believe that Bentley has a little grudge against its former sibling Rolls-Royce. Today's live display at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show reveals the car's ambitions even more clearly, as you can see in the gallery below.

The Mulsanne had its world debut at the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours back in August, and Bentley makes no veiled references to challenging Rolls-Royce's Phantom with the new sedan. They're saying it outright, calling the Mulsanne the "pinnacle" of luxury cars.

The ultra-luxury automaker has a lot riding on the car so it’s not surprising that each example takes a total of nine weeks to complete. After all, the Mulsanne is Bentley's first all-new car since the 1930s (The Continental range shares some minor pieces with other Volkswagen Group products).

Named for the 90-degree turn at Le Mans, the Mulsanne arrives in the middle of next year with a pricetag likely approaching $300,000, before any custom finishes or materials are specified.

The design's a blend of a traditional silhouette with some modern detailing, less so than the smaller Continental range. Echoing the Bentley S -Type of the 1950s, the Mulsanne features a bold frontal design dominated by the traditional Bentley matrix grille and highly prominent round inner headlamps with chrome surrounds, flanked by two smaller outboard lamp clusters. The iconic ‘Flying B’ retractable radiator mascot is available as an option. Uniquely designed 20-inch wheels (and optional 21-inch) reinforce the Mulsanne’s powerful, sporting stance.

2011 Bentley Mulsanne

2011 Bentley Mulsanne

But it’s not all about style. Such an imposing car needs an equally impressive powertrain and thankfully Bentley’s engineers didn’t disappoint in this area. Power in the Mulsanne comes from a totally revised version of the automaker’s 6.75-liter V-8 engine, which has been updated with cam phasing and variable displacement technologies to help reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Bentley’s ‘power-on-demand’ system simply closes the valves of four of the eight cylinders for maximum fuel economy when cruising.

New lightweight componentry including pistons, connecting rods and forged crankshaft reduce reciprocating mass and internal friction for improved engine response.

The end result is a healthy 505 horsepower and a massive 752 pound-feet of torque, the latter delivered at just 1,800 rpm. Drive is sent to the rear wheels via a ZF 8-speed automatic transmission equipped with steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters.

Complementing the new powertrain is an all-new chassis, unique to the new Mulsanne. Both lighter and stiffer than previous flagship Bentleys, the new chassis benefits both ride and handling.

A new Drive Dynamics Control system operated by a rotary switch mounted next to the gearshift selector can be used to select from three driving modes--Bentley, Sport and Comfort--offering precise calibration of suspension and steering control systems. A fourth mode, ‘Custom’, allows the driver to select their own settings via the multimedia system to ‘tune’ the Mulsanne to a preferred driving style.

A new air suspension system with continuously variable dampers creates an even more refined and comfortable ride at lower speeds, and can reduce the Mulsanne’s ride height automatically at high speeds to reduce lift and improve aerodynamic stability.

Body measurements come in at 219-inches in length, 75.8-inches in width, 60-inches in height and 128.6-inches for the wheelbase.

It wouldn’t be a Bentley without a plethora of options and as such customers have a world of infinite choice when commissioning their cars. There are 114 paint colours in the range that include everything from unusual heritage colours, special satin and pearlescent finishes and duo-tone combinations. But the choice does not end there. Through the bespoke world of Bentley Mulliner, unique colours can exactly match a customer’s vision and taste.

2011 Bentley Mulsanne

2011 Bentley Mulsanne

Customers can also select from an extensive range of premium quality veneers for the cabin: unbleached for a natural appearance, and two marquetry options, picture frame and contemporary crossbanding. True to the ‘customized’ theme, customers may also select from a virtually unlimited palette of leather hides, including 24 ‘standard’ colours, of which three are new for Bentley.

Following detailed customer feedback, a traditional tanning process has been re-instated to match the rich, worn leather smell that is so evocative of vintage Bentleys. Only a very few hide suppliers worldwide have the capability to do this.

It’s not only about old-world themes, however. The latest in-car technologies are discretely placed within the Mulsanne’s sumptuous interior. The list includes a multimedia system with a 40 GB hard disc drive that incorporates the satellite navigation, audio/video, personal data, telephone, 8-inch touchscreen display and Bluetooth connectivity. A 14-speaker stereo system is fitted as standard but a 20-speaker Naim system is also offered.

A personalized keyless entry system allows multiple pre-programmed configurations and automatically sets radio stations, phone books, seat (including ventilation and massage modes, both front and rear), steering column and seatbelt settings and even the electrically operated rear-seat blinds for side and rear windows.

While the all-new Bentley Mulsanne pays respect to the past, as you have just read, it’s also a thoroughly modern luxury car that should offer one of the world’s most exclusive driving experiences.


Cruise the High Gear Media network! TheCarConnection for experts reviews of every new vehicle; MotorAuthority for luxury and performance-car news, reviews, and spy shots; GreenCarReports for news and reviews of the latest earth-friendly cars; CelebsandCars to see how the stars roll.