Bentley has its eye trained on its more iconic competition. That’s why the new 2017 Mulsanne looks much like the 2016— instead of tweeking the already pleasing good looks, Crewe was bent on making the car as smooth, quiet, and opulent as can be. Oh, and if you’re in the habit of being ferried about by a chaufeur, consider the new extended wheelbase iteration, stretched 25cm for your backseat pleasure.
Bentley is keen on mainting what it likes to call the “torque plateaue” which is why we continue to see pushrod valvetrains in their cars. The Mulsanne engine, a 6.8L V8 was reworked upon launch, with the bore-center spacing, and the bore and stroke the main hold overs from the Arnage. The bulk of engine parts, including the block and heads were revised in 2010. Word from Paris has it that the Mulsanne Speed shares the same engine, so it will be interesting to see what they’ve done to make it faster.
Not that that the Mulsanne isn’t powerful: it’s twin Mitsubishi turbos combine to blow 16 psi into the manifold, rating 505 horsepower at 4200 rpm and, oh, 752 pound-feet of torque at 1750 rpm. The car redlines at 4500 rpm, but there’s no bad place in the rev band and you’ll feel as though the car could tow a full size luxury yacht just for the photo op. There’s also some modern fuel savings on offer here, as the Mulsanne was the first Bentley to feature cylinder deactivation. The Mulsanne does the 0-100 kph sprint in about five seconds, hitting 160 kph in just eleven ticks of the stopwatch. The engine delivers power to the wheels in concert with the extremely competent ZF eight-speed box, a popular choice found in the Audi A8, BMW 760Li and 5-series GT, and the Rolls-Royce Ghost, to name a few.
Inside the Mulsanne is pure Bentley— comfortable, luxurious, and tasteful. There are a ton of creature comforts, including power throughout for your sundry devices, a television, grill, refrigerator and privacy shades on all rear windows. The seats in this classy saloon come clad in (didn’t think this was possible) even softer leather than before that somehow manages to be more durable. That way, once you select your favourite of the twelve available colours, you’re sure it will last until the grandkids inherit the car (a far cry from the Chevy Citation my Granddad left behind).
The seats might be the most comfortable found in just about any car, and there’s plenty of room to dial in your own driving nirvana, with 14-way adjustment including memory and lumbar functions and, of particular import in our region, ventilation for all. The cabin has ample storage and amenities, but my personal favourite is the inclusion of picnic tables, so you're never without a fine dining experience… even in Ras Al Khaima.
Naturally, if you’re lucky enough to own a Mulsanne you may also have a driver to go with it, so the standard inclusion of Electrically-operated rear side blinds will come in handy if, for instance, you don’t like people to watch you gorge yourself at those picnic tables. Behind the central rear armrest, an available nine-litre bottle cooler can be added to ensure that you always have something cold to drink with your feast.
New to this year’s Mulsanne is a set of bespoke fitted luggage hand made by the storied Italian luggage specialists Schedoni. Boasting six pieces, two large cases, two small cases and two foldable garment bags, the overall shape of the luggage is inspired by the inner door panel design of the car, with the frame surrounding the main side panels echoing the main feature frame of the door with its distinct twin ridge. Note to product designers of the world; making things that mirror Bentley designs is a cracking good idea— unless you’re wannabe carmaker.
Not many people are crazy enough to try and knock off a Bentley though, and that's because these superlative cars from Crewe are greater than the sum of their parts— it takes more than a badge and a body kit to achieve the enlightened state of “Bentleyness,” and true luxury in its most exceptional form can’t be faked. The Mulsanne’s exterior is a marriage of sharp lines and crouching muscularity at the rear, while dipped headlights and taillights give both ends of the car a sort of cool and stately anthropomorphism. The car manages to look powerful, but with a graceful subtlety that’s not confident in it’s success, but without being the visual equivalent of a boast.
If you're a family man like me, you’ll probably get a slightly less precious vehicle to tote your babes around in, given the destruction they’re so adept at inflecting. But should you choose to ferry the children about in the Mulsanne, fighting should be at a minimum since every passengers gets their own touch-screen infotainment system to keep them busy, replete with mobile connectivity including Wi-Fi, and their own DVD, USB, and SD-card inputs along with wireless headphones.
There’s also a tablet like touch screen remote, which can be used to control the HVAC and audio systems and keep track of the driver’s actions with a faithful digital reproduction of the Flying Spur’s speedometer. Come to think of it, the kids are sure to fight over the remote since, necessarily, there’s only one. Best to kick them out and enjoy the opulence on your own or with a favourite (full grown) companion.
Even at a healthy clip, it’s hard to know that the Mulsanne is actually moving, assuming for a moment that you have your eyes closed. Even at track speed, the car is so incredibly smooth that you could (not that you should) conceivably take your hands off the wheel. But at the same time, you still feel connected to the Mulsanne, and the road by extension— except maybe when you let go of the wheel.
So yes, this is one of the greatest passenger cars on the planet, but it’s also quite fun to drive, offering a real visceral experience of the velvety variety that is no less engaging for its refinement. The suspension is very accommodating to less than perfect road surfaces, passing none of their raucous demeanor on to the passengers, while the wheel offers enough feedback to give the driver a solid sense of what lies beneath. The steering is fluid and connected, and it manages to keep you informed and empowered.
The Bentley takes hard turns well, with a slight preference for understeer that is easily countered. It has almost perfect 50/50 weight distribution, and retains its composure even when piloted by a track day lout.
Ultimately, a car like this is all about making its owner happy. Bentley has put together a manicured beast clad in a metaphorical bow tie and monocle, combining power, comfort, style and refinement to the extent that you can (probably) have your cake and eat it too, maybe even atop those wood veneered picnic tables.
Sure, the car costs about as much as a small apartment, but while smaller than most Pied-à-terres, the Bentley has the advantage of mobility when Emaar or some other developer starts construction on a mall a few meters outside your veranda. On the other hand, if you can afford a Bentley, you may well be the one financing the mall, to which I say, why not put a Bentley dealership in there? Malls in Dubai already have everything else.
“Bentley is keen on mainting what it likes to call the “torque plateaue” which is why we continue to see pushrod valvetrains in their cars.”
“Even at a healthy clip, it’s hard to know that the Mulsanne is actually moving, assuming for a moment that you have your eyes closed.” “New to this year’s Mulsanne is a set of bespoke fitted luggage hand made by the storied Italian luggage specialists Schedoni.”
By: Adel Habib