Automotive pieces of art like a Bentley Mulsanne are owned by those who demand nothing but the best and can afford to spend many hours on multiple visits to the Bentley centre fine tuning their exacting requirements from a huge range of options.
On average this customisation results in an extra 500 hours in the factory while highly skilled craftsmen and women put their hearts and souls into giving you exactly what you want. Do I sound a bit over the top with these statements? Perhaps, but I’ve spent many hours in the British Bentley factory over several years and watched these people in action. They care for their cars and the soon-to-be owners.
Even more importantly I’ve spoken to quite a few Bentley buyers so have a good understanding of their personalties (extremely varied), their backgrounds (just about everything, but often self made), they way they drive (hard and fast!), and their feelings towards Bentleys (they love them with a passion).
The large, imposing saloon in which we have just spent a most enjoyable few days was fitted with a $24,837 Premiere Specifications package which includes the Bentley ‘Flying B’ bonnet mascot, seat cooling and heating, veneered picnic tables in the back, ambient lighting and a rear view camera.
These are the sort of upmarket items you would anticipate in a car like this, with the exception of the rear camera these days is fitted to many cars with a price tag that’s a thirtieth of the Bentley’s.
Also installed in ‘our’ Bentley Mulsanne was a list of items under the heading of Mulliner Driving Specifications. These included polished alloy 21-inch wheels, sports-tuned adjustable suspension, vents in the front guards, diamond-quilted hide panels in the doors and seats, knurling on the ventilation knobs and gear lever, and quite a few other bits and pieces. The Mulliner extras add up to $37,387.
Bentley Mulsanne is named for the Mulsanne Straight that’s such a feature of the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race (think the distance of an entire Grand Prix season covered in just one day). Bentley won at Le Mans five times, most recently in 2003. The British racers totally dominated the event from 1927 till 1930, winning all four events.
Its ‘six-and-three-quarter-litre’ (always spoken out in full) engine is a large aluminium-alloy V8. Its original design dates back close to 60 years, though it has been extensively modified many times.
Though its specifications appear primitive, the big V8 has pushrod operated valves and only two of them per cylinder, in its latest iteration it is force fed by twin turbochargers and produces 505 horsepower, 377 kW, and a ridiculously high 1020 Nm of torque that comes in at just 1750 rpm.
Though the Mulsanne weighs close to three tonnes with four people on board it can shift very rapidly thanks in part to an efficient eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. Zero to 100 km/h in just 5.3 seconds is unbelievably quick for a car like this.
It’s thirsty brute, during our testing it used 12 to 14 litres per hundred kilometres kilometres on easy motorway running, and a huge 18 to 22 litres per hundred around town.
This is a big car and can be a handful in traffic, and in particular in carparks where it would often stick out of standard Aussie length spots. Dings where other cars’ doors are opened against the Bentley’s wide body seem inevitable. Out of respect for someone else’s car we didn’t use carparks.
Owners may need a smaller car for day-to-day use.
On the open road the big Brit is a sheer delight, cruising along in supreme comfort with the smoothness that comes with the sheer mass of a saloon of this size.
The view over the very long bonnet, all the way to the Flying B at the front, is excellent. Road grip is far better than you would expect in a car of this size and there is always plenty in hand from the sophisticated suspension system; after all this is a car built to cover five kilometres every minute where speed limits permit – such as in our Northern Territory. Wouldn’t mind a blast over there sometime.
Total on-road cost of the Bentley Mulsanne as tested is about $870,000 – it will vary slightly state to state according to registration charges.
Would I spend my own money on one? Yes, if I win the lottery, but only if there’s enough left from my winnings to buy something smaller and more suited to day to day driving. Ideally a Bentley GT, though I guess I could put up with something like an Audi A5 – a distant relation to the Bentley – if need be.