Bentley says every car it builds is a blend of luxury and performance, with the Mulsanne taking the luxury ideal to the company's furthest extreme. Well, if you're going to go to extremes, you might as well go big, and for the 2017 model year Bentley is adding more luxury to its biggest, cushiest, most expensive car.
Bentley says the 2017 Mulsanne represents a "step change" in refinement and ride comfort over the car it replaces, and it comes in the form of cabin and noise abatement improvements, a stronger structure, and the addition of an Extended Wheelbase model with a wealth of amenities to spoil rear seat passengers. The Extended Wheelbase joins the base model, called Signature, and the more performance-oriented Mulsanne Speed.
To show off the merits of its new Mulsanne, Bentley invited Motor Authority to Innsbruck, Austria, to experience all three models in the picturesque setting of the Austrian Alps. Given the company's claim that the Mulsanne employs everything it knows about building the world’s most powerful, most luxurious cars, we were happy to take Bentley up on its offer.
The Mulsanne replaced the Azure in 2010 as a 2011 model, using a new, dedicated, rear-drive architecture. The 2017 changes are the most extensive since it was released.
With the addition of the Extended Wheelbase model, Bentley engineers employed several measures to stiffen the body to deliver the kind of ride and performance the company expects of its flagship. Most of the changes were at the rear subframe. The crossmember closest to it was thickened and longitudinal shear plates were added in the same area. The local dynamic stiffness of the subframe mounts was also strengthened and so were the suspension mounting points. Finally and only for the Extended Wheelbase body style, the lower door sills were fortified.
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But that's not all that was done to make the Mulsanne ride and handle better. Bentley increased the air capacity of the air spring suspension and made it operate more efficiently, both of which allow the springs to react quicker. More substantial rear control arm bushings were installed, and new hydraulic bushings were used on the rear subframe. Bentley says these measures cut rear end noise by four decibels, reducing rumbling noises best.
That meant the tires also had to get quieter and Bentley used an innovative tire sound absorption technology inside the tires to reduce tire noise by 50 percent. Active engine mounts were also added to produce out-of-phase vibrations into the structure and therefore reduce noise by another 15 decibels.
In addition to the air spring suspension, every Mulsanne comes with adjustable shocks, with a choice of three settings: Bentley, Comfort, and Sport. Those modes also adjust the throttle mapping and the shift points of the ZF 8-speed automatic transmission.
Setting off from the Schloss Elmau Luxury Spa Retreat and Cultural Hideaway (read: hotel), my Bavarian adventure began in the Mulsanne Speed. The Speed sits 0.4 inch lower than other Mulsannes, its dampers have a firmer setting in Sport mode, and it comes with carbon ceramic brakes. With 530 horsepower, it's twin-turbocharged 6.75-liter V-8 makes 25 more horsepower and 59 more pound-feet of torque than the other Mulsannes.