The return of the Loch Ness monster – We review the 2011 Bentley Mulsanne
Inverness, Scotland—Okay, true confession time: The subtitle of this particular article may be more than just a little misleading. But I did venture to the Scottish Highlands, I did tour the notorious Loch Ness and I did encounter a monster, I swear.
All that said, I did manage to remain land-locked the entire time, circumnavigating the lake while piloting the monster in question—the monster being the latest Bentley. This was not just any old Bentley, mind you, but rather the 2011 Bentley Mulsanne, an all-new addition to the British carmaker’s fleet and a “proper motor car” as the denizens of the Empire would no doubt report.
A choice fact to ponder: The Mulsanne is the first “big Bentley” since the 8 Litre limousine bowed in 1930. Now, make no mistake: There have been other large cars to bear the winged B logo since then, but these vehicles were produced when Rolls-Royce owned Bentley (from 1931-88), so the purists say they don’t count.
Fair enough: The “original” Bentley Mulsanne, for example, was built from 1980-92, but it was really just a variation of the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit/Silver Spur—same underpinnings, different name, different front grille. This latest Mulsanne, however, is definitely a breed apart.
First of all, a revised version of Bentley’s twin-turbocharged, 6.75-litre V8 (505 horsepower; 752 lb-ft of torque) powers the imposing sedan. While the Mulsanne cannot match the company’s speedier models in terms of sheer pace, it’s no couch potato either. The run from 0-100 km/h takes an estimated 5.3 seconds and top speed rolls in at a lofty 296 km/h.
My time behind the wheel didn’t provide the opportunity to verify these figures—the expectedly inclement Scottish weather and slow-moving traffic proved insurmountable—but it did provide ample evidence that the car has significant reserves of power.
The new V8 is not only powerful, it’s very refined: In order to meet emissions regulations and boost fuel efficiency, the engine automatically shuts down four of the eight cylinders when not needed. At other times, a surefooted tap on the gas reactivates the dormant cylinders and produces the desired results after only the slightest hint of lag from the turbocharger.
(Side note: The Mulsanne has an eight-speed automatic transmission, but the engine is so robust, it accelerates smoothly without needing to downshift all that often.)
The big Bentley also boasts an all-new chassis augmented by a new drive dynamics system with four settings ranging from the sporting to the more soothing. This feature, combined with the car’s air suspension and rubber-infused 20-inch wheels, creates a ride that is composed and even taut for such a large car.
(Something worth repeating: This car is very large, both in terms of length and width. During the event, two of my colleagues, also accustomed to driving on the right side of the road, managed to flatten both passenger-side tires on the right-hand drive Bentleys by taking up too much road and, more pointedly, too much ditch.)
For all that has gone into the engineering of the Mulsanne, though, the most impressive aspect of this sedan is the interior, which is a hallmark of the Bentley brand. The passenger cabin offers an inspired blend of traditional British luxury, combined with an appropriate use of technology and some genuine design ingenuity thrown in for good measure.
As one would expect in a vehicle that starts at US$313,500, the seats are covered in genuine leather, the wood surfaces are constructed of real wood, the floor mats are pure wool and everything that looks metallic is forged from metal. (If there is an ounce of plastic woven into any aspect of the Mulsanne, I certainly couldn’t track it down.)
While a certain level of old-school charm is expected from your average Bentley, this car also ticks all the right boxes when it comes to modern-day conveniences. Witness the 60GB hard disc to drive the satellite navigation system, the iPod/USB connector concealed within a leather-lined drawer and the eight-inch multimedia screen that resides behind a power-operated wood veneer door in the centre console.
(Also: The optional Naim audio system boasts 2,200 watts, eight dedicated digital signal processing modes and 20 speakers. I don’t even know what half that sentence means, but when cranked up to 11, this system has the power to make your ears bleed.)
The 2011 Bentley Mulsanne is imbued with no small amount of “wow” factor, thanks to its largely unapologetic exterior design, sheer size, extensive suite of amenities and—it has to be said—base price. While this is not a car for everyone, it just might be a car for everyone with an extra million or two on hand.
Learn more – Bentley Mulsanne