New & Used Bentley Mulsanne: In Depth
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Bentley’s flagship sedan, the Mulsanne, is a premium full-sizer that redefines the terms premium and full-size. Elegant, stately, and refined, the Mulsanne can be configured with nearly any option or equipment, with almost any trim material and in any hue. Its only real competition is the Rolls-Royce Phantom sedan, although the Mulsanne is decidedly less showy than the Roller.
For more information on the current model, read our brief review of the 2015 Bentley Mulsanne.
The Bentley Mulsanne was all-new for 2011, reviving a nameplate that went unused from 1992 to 2010. The name is derived from the famous Mulsanne Straight at the legendary Le Mans racing circuit in France.
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 eight-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, however, thanks to huge, 15.75-inch front discs. And wheels include large, 20- and 21-inch designs. 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 horsepower and a staggering 811 pound-feet 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' 4” 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. And 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 multi-media, 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 WiFi 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.
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.