What Car? says...
Imagine you’ve just won the lottery or, better still, you’ve struck oil. Or maybe you just happen to have always been a fabulously wealthy person. Whichever one of those scenarios applies to you, if you’re looking for your next car, how about taking a look at the Bentley Mulsanne?
Big, brash and showy it may be, but these aren’t necessarily negatives when you’re looking for a car that represents your status. And undeniably stately the Mulsanne is, too, oozing luxury with a hand-built finish that you can tailor to your heart’s content.
Read on over the next few pages and we’ll let you know all this and more. And if you have already decided this is the car for you, why not visit our New Car Buying site – a discount is always nice to have.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Mulsanne is an epically refined beast. Thanks to foam-filled tyres, even over coarse surfaces there is barely any road noise at any speed, while at 70mph just a hint of wind noise from around the door mirrors disturbs its – and your – inner calm.
Accelerate hard and the big twin-turbocharged 6.75-litre V8 engine is noisier than the silky V12s in the Roll-Royce Phantom and Mercedes-Maybach S600, but it’s a pleasant, throaty rumble that you’ll enjoy listening to. And when you want to cruise, that rumble recedes obligingly into the background.
The standard version may not have the added power of the sportier Speed variant, but it’s still quick. Put your foot down and the long bonnet rises as the Mulsanne accelerates at a thundering rate, slipping smoothly through its automatic gearbox’s eight speeds as it pulls you along assuredly. There’s no need to drive it hard, though; with so much oomph to call upon, it’ll happily haul you from low revs to make relaxed, effortless progress. And of course, if that’s not enough, then the Speed version throws another 25bhp into the mix, making 530bhp in total – enough to make this two-and-a-half-tonne behemoth catapult from 0-62mph in just 4.9sec, which is as quick as many high-powered sports cars.
Around town, the Mulsanne’s sheer size makes it feel rather cumbersome, and if you try to drive it quickly along tight and twisty B-roads there’s an unnerving amount of body roll – even with its air suspension in the firmer Sport setting. The sportier Speed model is better tied down but the difference is marginal, although it does feel wieldier than the bigger Phantom. Find a wider, more open road and the big Mulsanne feels more at home. Now you can pick up the pace, which brings about more reassuringly weighted steering with enough precision to place the Mulsanne where you wish with unexpected ease and lean on the plentiful grip from its large tyres.
If you switch the suspension to Comfort, the ride at speed is generally sublime, the Mulsanne’s sheer enormity seeming to pound even the most unseemly surfaces into submission. Mind you, it can still thud a bit around lumpy town roads, so can't quite match the 'waftmatic' serenity you can rely on a Phantom to produce. And if you really value ride quality above all else, avoid the firmer Speed model that can be inappropriately jerky on occasion.
The interior layout, fit and finish
As you might imagine, you’re not left wanting for electrically powered adjustment at the helm of the Mulsanne. Consequently, no matter what your size or shape, you should find the seat and steering wheel can be tweaked to a position that’ll suit you just so.
Parking it can be a pain, of course. Well, at over 18-feet long, even for the standard-wheelbase Mulsanne, it would be; as a result, it won’t fit in your average supermarket parking bay. And trying to see out the rear is tricky because the end of the boot is hidden and the fat rear pillars – that help obfuscate those noteworthy rear passengers from prying eyes – also hide obstacles from the driver. Still, you do have front and rear parking sensors to alert you to dangers, along with the watchful gaze of a rear-view camera.
Since the current Mulsanne was launched in 2010, Bentley has continued to make improvements; most notably with a new infotainment system in 2016. It is a vast improvement on the previous version, with a sharper screen and a much faster response time when processing your commands. However, the menus are a little confusing, so the Rolls-Royce Phantom’s BMW-based system remains much easier to use. And compared with the two 12.3in dashboard screens sandwiched side by side that you get in the Mercedes-Maybach S600 – for both its digital instruments and its infotainment system – the small 8.0in touchscreen in the Mulsanne looks, shall we say, discrete rather than impressive. It does come with lots of features, though, including a wi-fi hotspot.
The quality of finish to the Mulsanne’s interior is superb. You can choose from a range of 24 colours for the leather, which covers not only the seats but is also stretched tightly over nearly every surface. Except, that is, the face of the dashboard and the door cappings, which come in a choice of 12 beautifully polished veneers. If that’s not enough variety, Bentley’s Mulliner division will create almost any bespoke finish – at a hefty price.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
One word sums up the Mulsanne inside: roomy. In the front, there’s plenty of space for someone tall, with head and leg room aplenty.
If you choose to be driven, sitting in the rear there’s also acres of room to spread yourself out, although if this is to be your regular place to perch, might we suggest you consider the Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase over the regular-sized model.
With 250mm of extra space between its front and rear wheels, and the option of two individual, multi-adjustable electrically operated airline-style seats, this offers a truly first-class experience. Secreted in the central divider are two sturdy pullout tables and you can even add a fridge to keep your Chablis nicely chilled. On all models, you can order a couple of tablet-style 10.4in screens, which at the touch of a button rise majestically from the back of each front seat like Darcey Bussell on a cherry picker.
The boot is large, but not enormous, especially considering the wealthy don’t tend to travel light. At 443 litres, it’s smaller than the Roll-Royce Phantom’s and way off the Mercedes-Maybach S600’s load-lugging capacity, but the boot will still take a couple of large suitcases.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Where does the Mulsanne fit in terms of value for money? Well, a Mercedes-Maybach S600 is a lot cheaper, while the Rolls-Royce Phantom is considerably more expensive. Still, at this level of expenditure, you’ll probably be swayed more by image and finish than list prices.
Be prepared for extreme running costs; anyone doubting that fuelling, servicing, insuring and paying a company car tax bill on a Mulsanne will be a seriously pricey affair is seriously deluded.
Yes, the Mulsanne is well equipped, but nevertheless your dealer will enthusiastically encourage you to dip into the pot of seemingly infinite options, ranging from gadgets such as the upgraded Naim audio system to bespoke trims; these will quickly up the price. And be careful not to go too outlandishly personal, or you’ll severely reduce your Mulsanne’s resale value.
Adaptive cruise control and blindspot monitoring are some of the safety features, but we don’t have a Euro NCAP rating for you, because the Mulsanne hasn’t yet been tested.
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