If you ever needed an excuse to drop around $600,000 on a luxury cruiser – look no further. Paul Maric drives the Bentley Mulsanne from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara to see if it's worth the hefty price tag.
In a place like Los Angeles, it's hard to stand out from the crowd, especially when it comes to cars. In this place it's not uncommon to see kids driving Range Rovers and the upper echelon of society getting about in Rolls-Royces.
So, you can imagine our surprise when people fell over themselves to get a second glance at the monstrous 2017 Bentley Mulsanne.
Finished in a stunning Porcelain colour, the Mulsanne we piloted came with Bentley's iconic winged B hood ornament and stunning 21-inch polished classic alloy wheels.
Regardless of whether we cruised down Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica or Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, the Mulsanne cut a sleek line in traffic – partially helped by the fact it was still sporting its British registration at the front.
Instead of just swanning around crowded LA streets, we hit the road to sample the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara to find out whether the Mulsanne could do sweeping bends as well as it does highway blasts.
The Mulsanne has recently benefitted from a specification upgrade that includes Bentley's new infotainment system, first seen on the Bentayga off-road warrior.
As the last word on both luxury and prestige, the Mulsanne aptly uses an engine powerful enough to power a sizeable super yacht. At 6.75-litres in capacity, the turbocharged V8 produces an impressive 377kW of power and a whopping 1020Nm of torque.
To put that into perspective, that's more torque than a twin-turbocharged V12 Mercedes-AMG SL65. So yeah, a lot.
At 5575mm long, the Mulsanne is a full 1.6 metres longer than a Toyota Yaris and it certainly looks that way as it rolls gracefully down the street.
Lashings of chrome adorn the front and carry all the way down the sides and to the rear. Trainspotters will recognise the B-shaped tail lights and lower front air dams. Not to mention Bentley insignia within the LED headlights.
The only thing more imposing than the torque figure is the price – $533,016 before on-road costs. That's before you select options – such as the $6550 hood ornament, the $39,168 entertainment specification or perhaps even the $63,764 personal commission Satin paint.
Bentley customers can also go down the path of personalisation by custom design arm Mulliner. Customers can colour match, select unique veneers across the interior or even bespoke inscriptions on the seats.
Inside the cabin it's everything you expected, and more. Unlike some limousines, the Mulsanne is designed to both be driven and driven in.
The second row is genuinely the final word on luxury. Our car had optional lambswool carpet in the front and rear that was both soft to the touch and deep enough to lose a finger or two when pressed.
Those after a genuinely relaxing experience will fall in love with the almost $40,000 entertainment specification. It increases the speaker count to 20 with a 2000W amplifier, adds polished wood tray tables in the rear and includes the best rear seat entertainment system on the market today.
Two 10.2-inch screens rise out of the seat backs to sit neatly at eye level. They are Android powered and include 4G connectivity with internal 32GB SSD storage. The Android operating system means users can install a raft of applications from the Google Play Store.
Native to the screens is a Google Maps implementation allows high-speed navigation and pinch-and-zoom functionality with destinations sent to the driver if required.
Hidden beneath the centre seat base in the second row are a set of controls that allow passengers to adjust seat position, massage function and heating. It's also the spot passengers can secure their glasses.
Speaking of which, also fitted to our car was the optional Champagne cooler and bespoke crystal glasses. Hidden behind a elegantly retracting glass panel with backlit LEDs, the refrigerated compartment holds two bottles of champagne and chilled glasses. Mind you – be prepared to fork out $21,565 for the optional privilege.
Lighting in this part of the car is excellent thanks to LED projection from the roof and within parts of the door. There are also roof-mounted vanity mirrors to help check one's self out prior to hopping out of the car. Retractable blinds also raise and lower from the window panels and on the rear window.
Boot capacity is 443 litres, which is good, but not great. That space reduces further if you option the refrigerated Champagne cooler due to the refrigeration unit and casing required for the unit to operate.
At the front it's equally as comfortable. Each seat in the car feels like a big hug with soft padding at the bottom and gentle bolster on the sides.
Every surface has purpose and is lovingly crafted. The wood is soft and flowing, while the air vents are heavy and metallic, cold to the touch. They are opened and closed with a gentle pull of the metal lever that actuates the open and close of the vent.
Engine temperature and fuel levels are displayed using an analogue gauge in the centre of the cabin. Both gauges flank a time piece, but one that isn't Breitling branded like most other Bentleys.
Beneath that are the vehicle's climate and audio controls. While functions have been condensed thanks to the new infotainment system, there's still a lot going on in the lower stack and alongside the knurled gear lever.
The 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is a huge step forward for Bentley. It's precise, easy to use and very quick. It's backed by a 60GB internal hard drive for music and file storage.
It also features Google Maps overlay for added detail, which is obtained by a data connection powered by an onboard SIM card. Particularly good is the voice recognition system that works in unison with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Despite its impressive performance credentials, starting the Mulsanne is quite a sedate and pleasant experience. It turns over with a mild burble before settling into a peaceful thrum.
The first thing you notice at low speeds is the heavier than expected steering. Unlike a lot of modern cars, Bentley still utilises a hydraulic steering system instead of an electrically assisted one. This makes the steering a little heavy around town.
The ride around urban Los Angeles and Santa Monica is nothing short of incredible. It's a big call — but this is one of the best riding cars on the road. Sitting on 21-inch alloy wheels, it shouldn't ride anywhere near as well as it does.
Potholes, corrugations and oddly joined concrete sections make driving in Los Angeles a pain in most cars, but it's simply uneventful in the Mulsanne. We had this car at the same time as a Lamborghini Huracan and it wasn't the keys for the Lamborghini I grabbed when we needed to head out for a drive.
At both low and high speeds, throttle response from the monster V8 engine is urgent. Offering eight gears there's rarely a time you need to do more than breath on the throttle to have the Mulsanne move with pace.
If you do decide to stand on the throttle, the hefty 2621kg car moves and it moves quickly. It dispatches 0-100km/h in just 5.1 seconds and in-gear at speed it pins you back in the seat as the inverted rev needle races around to redline.
The ride can be adjusted through a number of firmness and height settings until you settle on a mode that suits your drive.
On departure from Santa Monica, we selected the car's comfort mode to soak up miles through to the coastal town of Malibu. The drive from Santa Monica to Malibu can be riddled with traffic, so it's always good to pick a time that's not too busy, otherwise it's rolling gridlock.
Along this stretch of road you'll see amazing scenery as you pass multi-million dollar homes with absolute beach frontage. It's only bettered by fleeting glances at the incredible ocean with waves lapping on the beach.
The 30-minute drive to Malibu is a relaxing one that has you roll through a city littered with celebrities. Where Beverly Hills is a bit cliche, Malibu offers residents gated communities a stone's throw from the beach.
It's a cool place to celebrity spot, grab a bite to eat or, as we did, hit some canyon roads. The canyon roads wind their way through to the Ventura Freeway, which is a more express and direct route to Santa Barbara.
We slipped the Mulsanne into its sport mode, connected on to the Latigo Canyon Road and stepped on the gas. The winding canyon road offers its own uniquely impressive views as it snakes through to the Ventura Freeway.
Despite its massive dimensions, the Mulsanne simply scoffed at the corners thrown at it and barely raised a brow as we mashed the throttle to get it up to speed.
The brakes performed incredibly well, with the only negative though paid directly to the steering, which lacks feel. It's neither light and comfortable, nor sporty and heavy, making this the main downside of driving the Mulsanne.
If you're not keen on the canyon roads and want to continue along the Pacific Coast Highway, it stretches along the coast from Malibu for around 30 minutes to Oxnard, where it joins the Ventura Freeway.
At Oxnard, the run into Santa Barbara is a 40-minute barrel down a scenic highway with epic views of the coast. It's a fast moving freeway, so it's worth slowing down to soak in the sun gleaming off the ocean while sipping on some French Champagne – as long as you're in the back seat, of course.
The drive into Santa Barbara is equally as stunning with palm tree lined streets and classic Spanish style buildings. Our final destination was the pier that stretches out on to the ocean and can be accessed by car.
It's the perfect spot to park and go for a long stroll, pleasantly surprised the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles is only a stone's throw away.
If you're ever wanting a leisurely drive away from Los Angeles along the coast and like the idea of a relaxing location, Santa Barbara is the ticket. And, if you're lucky enough to be in a Mulsanne, you'll relish the near perfect ride and huge slabs of torque as the V8 engine gets on song.
If, on the other hand, you want something with a bit more pace and a stack of corners, check out our recent drive story on the Glendora Mountain Road with the Lamborghini Huracan.
Click on the Photos tab to see more images of the 2017 Bentley Mulsanne by Sam Rawlings.