On the outside is the classic Bentley matrix grille, chrome-surrounded circular headlamps and long, elegant bonnet with a strong waistline leading to haunches that give a clear relationship to the Bentley Continental GT.
Climb in and you’ll find an unrivalled cabin in terms of quality and opulence, reflective of the fact that each Bentley Mulsanne is hand built. From the wool carpets underfoot to the super-soft leather upholstery, there are high-end textures and surfaces on everything you touch and see, giving the Mulsanne a massive sense of occasion whether you’re the driver or riding as a passenger.
In the back, there’s localised climate control with its own switchgear in the centre armrest, while the rear seats are electrically adjustable, just as they are up front.
There’s also a plethora of choices in terms of colours and materials, with the leather, for instance, offered in 24 different shades. Of course, those willing to pay a little extra can specify almost endless changes.
The dash is highlighted by the genuine wood veneer waistband, which has its graining and pattern ‘mirror matched’, while door trims are covered in quilted leather and every single detail wrapped in leather or surrounded by exquisite welted stainless steel. The cabin reeks of effort and time heavily invested, as the attention to detail is astounding.
At the helm, the Bentley Mulsanne proves whisper quiet, despite being powered by a 6.75-litre twin-turbo V8. There’s 377kW, which is more than the BMW 750i V8 and Rolls-Royce Phantom, as well as a staggering 1020Nm of torque. To put that in perspective, Australia’s top selling car, the Mazda3, has 182Nm, while even a Porsche 911 Carerra has ‘only’ 440Nm.
Not only does the Mulsanne have an amazing torque figure, the full 1020Nm is available from a low 1750rpm. This means that from the high driving position there’s a massive surge from the responsive throttle pedal, and with the smoothness of the eight-speed automatic transmission the classic Bentley ‘Wave of torque’ slogan trumped in its advertisements becomes a truism.
There’s cylinder deactivation to save fuel, but owners won’t care about its horrendous 16.9L/100km fuel figure as much as the fact that it’s both effortlessly fast in a straight line, capable of 0-100km/h in a sports car-like 5.3 seconds on its way to a top speed of 296km/h, but also serene on the freeway.
The driving position and cabin comfort means the Bentley Mulsanne a relaxing car to drive, though, with everything at your fingertips or accessed by the steering wheel-mounted controls. The eight-speed also comes with shift paddles, and despite weighing 2.5 tonnes, the hefty rear-wheel drive Mulsanne is surprisingly capable on winding roads.
Regardless of what speed you’re travelling at, the Mulsanne is near silent and seals you off from whatever’s going on outside the car. It turns the outside into a silent film, as the self-levelling suspension means that it maintains its composure over bumpy roads and keeps you insulated from potholes and speed humps. It’s a magic carpet ride that’s made even more comfortable by the spaciousness inside, with plenty of room for tall adults.
You could point to the transmission tunnel as making the centre rear seat a little less useful, but a Bentley Mulsanne would rarely be used to seat five occupants.
Around town, the Mulsanne’s sheer size makes it quite daunting to drive. It’s nearly six metres long and is 2.2 metres wide, and of course its weight means small movements in a carpark aren’t so easy. We didn’t even try to reverse park it for fear of embarrassment. Of course, the Mulsanne is not a car for the meek or modest, so if you’re not keen on drawing attention to yourself wherever you go, best choose something a little subtler.
At $662,857, the price of the Bentley Mulsanne is considerably less than the Rolls-Royce Phantom, which starts at $809,000, but the Bentley is more than twice the price of the BMW 750i. It also makes much more sense than buying a used Maybach, which went off the market in 2010 and cost around $1 million to buy.
This by no means makes the Mulsanne a penny-pincher’s choice, as servicing and running costs will be astronomical. Yet the Mulsanne, like the Phantom and Maybach, offers an amazing experience as the pinnacle of motoring luxury regardless of recessions, politics and social pressures: they’re simply the best at what they do.
The Bentley Mulsanne is a superbly crafted, hand-built sedan that won’t disappoint even the most ardent of critics.