There's a new phrase for the very top layer of luxury in the car world. "Pinnacle cars" are the diamond-quilted, champagne-fluted versions of, you know, everyday luxury cars.
A Benz S-Class isn't good enough to qualify. Make it a Maybach. Better yet, make it a Pullman.
A Phantom? Fine, for starters. You do have a custom paint color in mind, don't you?
At Bentley, the pinnacle car is the Mulsanne. It's a sedan with the pedigree and performance to claim best-in-class status, if not best-in-world.
With rivals like those, that's no easy claim to make. Bentley's pressing the claim, convincingly, with an updated Mulsanne range for 2017. New to the lineup are a long-wheelbase model, a very exclusive and even longer-wheelbase model, and new technology on the safety and infotainment fronts.
The world got a first look at the newly revamped sedan at this week's 2016 Geneva Motor Show. Motor Authority went to Crewe last month for an in-depth look at the new Mulsanne, behind the scenes at the Crewe factory that hand-crafts and robot-welds the brand's peak four-door.
Assembled under the same roof as Continentals and Flying Spurs and Bentayga SUVs, the Mulsanne has one of the more distinctive launching pads in the automotive world. In a world where churning out mass-market cars can take as few as 17 hours, the Mulsanne can take up to 400 hours. Still, it's a benchmark of efficiency.
Much of its body is built with the most advanced technology available today. Aluminum and steel are glued and riveted and welded together without any human input.
The Mulsanne also has more hand-crafted content than just about every other vehicle made by a major manufacturer. That's what takes up those extra 383 hours.
In its spotlessly clean production lab, modern technology blends in with its Etsy analogue. Robots weld aluminum body sections together, while craftspeople braze metal panels together to create the Mulsanne's elegant roofline, or spend weeks composing the wood and leather trim that wraps the Mulsanne interior to the buyer's whim.
"It needs to look like an orthopedic clinic in here every day," says Bentley chairman Wolfgang Duerheimer, as we dine off bone china at the end of the production facility, amid kanban bins full of future-Bentley bits and pieces.