Behind the wheel of the revised 2016 Bentley Mulsanne
The revised 2016 Bentley Mulsanne, be it the standard car, Speed or now Extended Wheelbase, all subscribe to a world where only the biggest numbers suffice. Let’s dispense with the £229,360 entry price for a moment and serve up a discussion – the standard Mulsanne represents surprisingly good value. Okay, bear with us a moment on that one.
With revisions for 2016 that include a new vertical vane grille, lights, bumpers, interior enhancements and infotainment system conjoined with the usual extensible calculations of power, girth and height they all empirically articulate the Mulsanne’s true purpose: to be the world’s finest luxury car especially now the £318,120 Rolls-Royce Phantom is ceasing production. To properly test this claim Luxury London got itself appropriately suited and booted up to find out.
Accepted £229,360 is the Mulsanne entry price and no we didn’t mention the options added to our press car, did we? Those included the Extended Paint at £5,000, the Entertainment Specification with Google Maps £13,260 or the rear Refrigerated Bottle Cooler and Bespoke Tumblers at £8,225 – we simply loved that particular option. Nevertheless, by adding the excuse-me-how-much £65,730 worth of options (or the cost of a new BMW 7 Series 730d we’re being picky) the suggestion of value withers a bit when the final £295,090 price is revealed, proving that Caracas in Venezuela is not the most dangerous place in the world. A Bentley customer car configuration room is.
The Mulsanne, make no mistake about it, trades in the biggest numbers out there. It’s enormous to begin with being 456mm longer, 27mm wider and 25mm taller than a standard wheelbase Mercedes S-class and roughly casts a similar shadow of Rolls Royce Ghost that, funnily enough, has a comparable entry price of £222,888. Now some will bemoan the fact that the Mercedes-Maybach S600 isn’t included here but the German has a distinct whiff of the lad that went to the wrong school. It looks far too much like an everyday S-class and while stretching one’s legs out like a Parker Knoll Recliner may hold a certain cachet somewhere, travelling with a degree of deportment is entirely another and nobody ever appreciates being mistaken for 50 Cent either. The Mercedes-Maybach is shown the door.
We mentioned power and it’s what lurks underneath the Mulsanne’s bonnet that’s worth inspection. The 6.75-litre twin turbo V8 develops 505bhp at 4,000rpm and 1020Nm/752 lb ft. at 1,750 rpm. This is a 2,685 kg mastodonic limo that wallops you unrelentingly from 0-60mph in 5.1 seconds and hilariously trounces a base Lotus Elise – the doyenne darling of lightweight, fast sports cars – with its puny 0-60 mph time of 6.5 seconds. We won’t dwell on the mpg, will we? Good, that may be for the best. Flat out though the Mulsanne thunders all the way skyward to 184 mph. Sitting almost mini MPV high and flooring a Mulsanne is one experience that should be on everyone’s to-do list.
Approaching the car three words come into play – integrity of construction. Blindfolded a person with a slim hand could reach into a crevasse deep within the car’s interior and not a single piece of cheap plastic will be found. All that appears the finest metal, aluminium, stainless steel or leather is just that. One other reason the Mercedes-Maybach didn’t make the grade. To support this point, it takes around 400 hours to build one Mulsanne with much of the process done by hand. If you do happen to commission a Bentley – any Bentley for that matter – you must visit the factory at Crewe. Only then will you fully appreciate the love and care put into a car from some of the most proud and engaging people to populate a factory floor.
Every now and then a car impresses for different reasons. It’s might be performance, construction, appearance or maybe the interior. We say, after long consideration that the Bentley Mulsanne provides occupants with the finest and best made interiors in the world today. Everything in our Mulsanne’s dark leather cabin reeked of supreme quality with materials that were utterly gorgeous. Become excited by the way the sun visor swivelled in an oiled, gliding movement? We did. But what swung it from the Rolls Royce Ghost is the traditional sporting appearance mixed with classic design realisation throughout.
We drove out of London, along the M25, M23 and eventually onto urban areas it was here that the Mulsanne’s enormity of character clashed with the car’s biggest nemesis – its own enormity. This is a very, very big car. Negotiating villages and towns added anxiety when mixing it with other road users busy doing everything with a smartphone that’s possible while driving. No journalist ever wants to make that call to Bentley HQ. After time we left urban areas and revelled in the good visibility the smooth waft of the twin-turbo V8 and while we had four different suspension settings we settled for Bentley’s “B” optimal setting – a good balance between comfort and firmer handing. The surprise of the first day was how much fun the big Bentley is to drive and how well it hangs on at improbable speeds. This is a Mulsanne that’s up for fun and sweeps along while all the time dowsing the driver with an aromatic mix of cured leather and woods that are hallucinogenic in separating you from the daily grind.
On day two we had to drive back to London to return the car and faced the dreaded M25 bumper-to-bumper motorway crawl. It was here that the Mulsanne acted as a terrific social experiment – there was no escape from prying eyes – so how would this ultra-luxury conveyance be accepted by other drivers? It seems the world too is a Bentley fan. Space was made for lane changes and we never got the impression we stuck out making our drive back to London very pleasant.
Eventually we reached our destination and switched off the engine. At no time in the previous 24 hours did the grey November weather even spring to mind and for all too fleeting a time we got a taste of how life could be in the one-percent club. Which brings us to the big question. How good is a £229,360 Bentley Mulsanne now that the Rolls-Royce Phantom is no more? We’ll tell you – by capturing a mix of disparate traits – traditional luxury allied with a particularly surprising sporting prowess the Mulsanne in Speed specification can now be judged as the best bred luxury car that you can buy. And yes at £229,360 for the base Mulsanne you might even call that good value.