• What is it? The first completely new car from Bentley in 75 years
• The basics: V-8 and all-wheel drive
• On sale: Next year, with a public showing and more details at the Frankfurt
• Price: $300,000 (est.)
The 2011 Bentley Mulsanne was revealed for the first time at the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours but its official world debut is at the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show, which kicks off today.
Bentley says the new Mulsanne--named for the 90-degree corner at Le Mans--follows the end of production for the Arnage sedan, but is not a direct replacement. While the current Arnage dates back to the days when Bentley and Rolls-Royce were joined under one corporate banner--with Bentley playing the role of junior partner--the new car is a fresh design that's expected to challenge the latest Rolls-Royce Phantom directly.
Inspiration comes from the 8-liter Bentley from 1930-1931, a car which Bentley also displayed at Pebble Beach. The new car bears a passing resemblance to today's Continental Flying Spur but appears more massive, with a more traditional shape to its grille, headlamps and in particular, its D-pillar. Its chamfered fenders echo the other cars in the Bentley lineup, and its visual heft pits it squarely in Phantom and Maybach territory.
The design's a blend of a traditional silhouette with some modern detailing, less so than the smaller Continental range. Some similarities exist in the treatment of the front fenders, but the Mulsanne's grille and D-pillar are more tailored to the Phantom and Maybach crowd. Uniquely designed 20-inch wheels (and optional 21-inch) reinforce the Mulsanne’s powerful, sporting stance.
Peer under the sheet metal and you will find a new-from-the-ground-up chassis and powertrain. Drive 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. Based along the same lines of cylinder deactivation technologies used by the likes of General Motors and Honda, Bentley’s ‘power-on-demand’ system simply closes the valves of four of the eight cylinders for maximum fuel economy when cruising.
Peak output stands at 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.
Performance should be brisk, despite the car’s generous proportions. 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.
Also new is the chassis, which features air suspension system and continuously variable dampers. A new Drive Dynamics Control system operated by a 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.
This multimedia system also incorporates a 40 GB hard disc drive, satellite navigation, audio/video, personal data, a telephone, an 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.