The Car Connection Bentley Mulsanne Overview
The Bentley Mulsanne is the British luxury carmaker's largest, most luxurious offering. Since its 2011 introduction, it's redefined the brand, pitching it into the opulent territory with the most expensive Rolls-Royces and Mercedes-Maybachs.
The Mulsanne nameplate was revived after being dormant from 1992 to 2010. The name is derived from the famous Mulsanne Straight at the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe racing circuit in France, which is home of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Today's Mulsanne sedan is a stately, refined vehicle that can be configured with nearly any option or equipment, with almost any trim material in any hue.
MORE: Read our 2017 Bentley Mulsanne review
The modern Bentley Mulsanne is powered in standard trim by a 505-horsepower, 6.75-liter twin-turbocharged V-8. The engine makes an impressive 752 pound-feet of torque just off idle, and can whoosh this big luxury sedan to 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds—and on to a top speed of 184 mph. Shifts are handled by a very stout ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic. To save fuel, the engine can shut off four of its cylinders under light loads. The Mulsanne is composed in tight turns, although you do get a sense of the car's 5,700-pound curb weight when tossing it around. Brakes for this hefty sedan are entirely capable of stopping it confidently from triple-digit speeds, thanks to huge, 15.75-inch front discs tucked inside large, 20- and 21-inch wheels. The Mulsanne is the only model Bentley builds with rear-wheel drive, making its power and torque that much more entertaining and imparting more of a throwback feel to this big British brute.
A new Mulsanne Speed model was added at the top of the range for 2015. It's powered by a higher-output version of the standard car's V-8, offering 530 hp and a staggering 811 lb-ft of torque. The massive torque figure required a reworked automatic transmission and is one of the highest available from a modern car of any kind, certainly the most of any sedan. Exterior differentiation is minimal, although it would be hard to call something this large a sleeper.
With classic proportions, including a long hood, short front overhang, and relatively short trunk, the Mulsanne plays some visual tricks, appearing a bit shorter than its actual 18-foot-4-inch length. The Mulsanne isn't quite limousine-like in back (buyers will no doubt be split about whether to drive themselves or be driven), but it's luxurious for two rear passengers or comfortable enough for three. While some of the button surfaces are plastic, the rest of the interior is wood, hide, and metal, with all controls beautifully damped.
As you might expect for one of the world's most expensive sedans, nearly everything in the Mulsanne can be customized and custom-ordered, under a so-called "bespoke" process. As a result, the $285,000 entry price tag simply serves as a jumping-off point, with most cars getting extensive customization. Among the baseline choices are nine wood varieties—all real veneers, bonded to solid oak, maple, or cherry—and a wide range of leather colors, and various metal trim options. Also on offer on the outside are several potential two-tone paint schemes.
The interior manages to feature all the expected modern electronics, without tainting the old-world wood-and-leather experience too much. Standard features on the Mulsanne include Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, and full iPod integration, as well as heated 14-way front seats and a multimedia, screen-based control system with navigation and voice control. A rear entertainment system with dual screens, a heated steering wheel, and ventilated seats are among many additional options.
Recently, Bentley has made improvements to the Mulsanne with two new packages, the Comfort Specification and the Entertainment Specification, and for 2014, the Comfort Specification also receives "airline"-style headrests, as well as new footrests and cushions. There's also an iPad "picnic table" and wi-fi hotspot built into the Entertainment Specification, and the previous window shades can be replaced with actual curtains. This should make the Mulsanne more comfortable than most homes.
A Mulsanne Speed Blue Train by Mulliner was recently unveiled, with only four copies slated for production and sales in Europe. The model commemorates the 1930 Blue Train race won by a Bentley Speed Six. It carries special blue paint and trimmings, as well as historical details from the original car.
Bentley also unveiled a convertible version of the Mulsanne—dubbed, quite unimaginatively, Grand Convertible—at the 2014 Los Angeles auto show. It was called a concept, although a very similar model should see production soon—hopefully with a better name. The Grand Convertible uses the same powertrain as the Mulsanne Speed and rides on a wheelbase that is truncated by about half a foot. If produced, it will compete directly with Rolls-Royce's Phantom Drophead Coupe.
For the 2017 model year, Bentley introduced the Extended Wheelbase model. The highlight of the new edition is a stretch of 9.8 inches, which is devoted to increasing rear-seat leg room. Other changes include exterior tweaks front and rear, an all-new infotainment system, new contoured seats, a stiffened chassis, and a host of new rear seat options to take advantage of the extra room in the Extended Wheelbase model.