The Mulsanne is a car that was never meant to be. While Paefgen and his team fought hard to keep the Arnage alive after Volkswagen Group’s purchase of the storied British marque, there was never a plan -- nor the money -- to replace the flagship Bentley with an all-new vehicle. As recently as four years ago, the Arnage successor was to be a pumped up Continental Flying Spur. Paefgen was never completely happy with the idea, and when the reworked CFS fared poorly in clinics, he abruptly canned it, and sold the VW Group board on developing an all-new vehicle that retained two key elements of the Arnage’s DNA -- rear drive with the front axle centerline pushed as far forward as possible, and a 6.75-liter pushrod V-8 with twin turbochargers.
2011 Bentley Mulsanne Rear Three Quarter
You can fit the number of Mulsanne components carried over from the Arnage in a reasonably sized briefcase, say Crewe insiders. Despite rumors the new big Bentley would be based on the forthcoming A8, its platform is unique; a mixture of high-strength steel and lightweight aluminum. The engine shares its basic architecture with the Arnage’s legendary L410 V-8, whose design dates back half a century, but apart from the two turbochargers, every single component is new. The Mulsanne’s V-8 is lighter, more powerful and much more fuel efficient than the L410, and drives the rear wheels through an eight speed automatic.
Bentley Mulsanne Pebble Beach Reveal
Dirk van Braeckel’s elegant exterior design looks deceptively simple. A strong, sharply creased bone line defines the car’s profile, emphasizing the prominent hips over the rear wheels. The Mulsanne’s bodysides are clean and simple below that line; above it, however, are complexly rendered surfaces that give the car an emotional presence Rolls-Royce’s new Ghost sedan doesn’t have. There are also strong elements of the Brooklands coupe in the low roofline and rakish C-pillars. The most controversial styling elements are likely to be the front bumper and giant inboard headlights, though there’s no mistaking the front end graphic for anything other than a Bentley. Standard wheels are formal looking 21 inchers; sportier five-spoke 22s will also be available
The Mulsanne looks like it’s been milled from a solid billet of metal, as there are no visible body seams. The front fenders are huge, single piece superformed aluminum items. The complex body in white is difficult to build, insiders admit, requiring more extensive -- and expensive -- hand finishing than even the Arnage. That’s one reason the Mulsanne’s body shop was located in Crewe, where Bentley still employs craftsman metalworkers. “This car could never be built in Germany,” says one insider.
The interior features all the traditional cues you’d expect of a Bentley -- lots of leather, glossy wood, and sparkling chrome -- but with a tastefully modern execution. Rear seat room looks to be spectacular, and the only discernable non-Bentley piece of hardware is the steering wheel that appears to be built around a four-spoke Audi armature.
A glance inside the car at Pebble Beach revealed a speedo and tacho whose needles park at the two o’clock position and sweep clockwise around the dials, and a knob on the center console that offers the choice of comfort, sport, and custom modes, presumably for suspension, transmission and throttle calibration. A fourth position shows only a Bentley logo, suggesting drivers can choose a combination of calibrations, and program the system to recall it, much like BMW does with the M button in its M cars.
The Mulsanne is a hugely significant Bentley, the first in the company’s 90 year history that will have been designed, engineered, and manufactured entirely at Crewe, and the first British Bentley not to share components with a Rolls-Royce since the 1930s. The Mulsanne is said to be ready to go on sale now, but Bentley will wait until the worst of the global recession is over, launching it in mid-2010 in Europe and the fall in North America, with a price tag north of $300,000. The car has been engineered to allow a long wheelbase model, and you can expect coupe and convertible variants in the future.
|2011 Bentley Mulsanne|
2011 Bentley Mulsanne
2011 Bentley Mulsanne
2011 Bentley Mulsanne