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First Drive: Bentley Mulsanne. Image by David Shepherd.

First Drive: Bentley Mulsanne
Bentley's all-new big saloon makes a fitting flagship to the range.

   



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| First Drive | Scottish borders | Bentley Mulsanne |

The decision to replace the Arnage at Bentley must have been a tough one. But that's exactly what the company did, and the old flagship V8 model has moved over to make way for the latest Mulsanne. The V8 cars are regarded by many as the epitome of what Bentley represents, and the firm claims that the new saloon is the opposite of a mass production car. Only tiny numbers will be hand-built in Bentley's production facility in Crewe, but the Mulsanne feels every bit as modern as the cars it competes against - all while retaining Bentley's traditional, hand crafted feel.

In the Metal

Being imposing - but not brash - means the Mulsanne treads that fine line between old and new money very well indeed. It's discrete enough to appeal to Bentley's traditional customers, and striking enough to lure in some new ones too. It's big, but carries its bulk surprisingly well. Bentley claims that the shape couldn't be re-created by any other manufacturers. It's not a car you immediately appreciate, but its lines win you over with familiarity.

Inside, it retains the beautifully hand crafted feel that you'd expect from Bentley's flagship machine. The chrome push-pull air vent controllers remain a tactile delight, while the rest of the cabin is a demonstration of fine materials and skilled detailing. There's modernity now though, with an iPod dock, satnav, Bluetooth connection and a 60 gig hard drive all secreted away behind polished wood veneers and leather. The seats are superb with ample space, though given the scale of the Mulsanne the boot space doesn't look overly generous.

What you get for your Money

Standard kit includes everything you could possibly want for 220,000, but Bentley drivers typically spend about 10 percent more on options. There are plenty of personalisation options on offer, from the paint finishes to additional chrome, larger alloy wheels and hide and wood trim inside. Rear seat entertainment is available too, but the real fun is to be had up front, behind the wheel.

Driving it

True to its roots, the Mulsanne is powered by a turbocharged V8 engine. The new saloon's powerplant shares little in common with its predecessor except its 6.75-litre capacity, as Bentley has reworked it extensively to meet modern emissions and fuel consumption targets. It's a magnificent engine that revs to 4,500rpm and offers enormous pace from mere tick over. Output is 505bhp, but it's the 752lb.ft of torque that really characterises the Mulsanne's drive, with that peak punch offered at just 1,750rpm.

They might be big figures but there's a lot of car to shift - all that hand crafted leather, wood and metal adds up to a not insubstantial 2.5 tonnes. The V8 is more than up to the task though, as 62mph is possible in 5.3 seconds. The way it so easily gains momentum is just part of its enormous appeal. It never feels ridiculously quick - that would be uncouth - instead it gathers pace with the sort of effortless impunity that should be part of the big Bentley experience.

It's quiet too, as the V8's rumble is only really apparent when it's under full load; otherwise there's just a dignified presence that suggests ample performance. The twin-turbo unit is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. All those ratios seem like overkill though, as the V8's spread of torque is so generous. That makes the paddles - fitted for the first time on the big Bentley -superfluous, as much down to the fatigue your fingers will get from constant gear shifts as to the fact that the transmission works just fine on its own.

Naturally, there's the option to fiddle, not least with that gearbox, which gives you Sport or Drive alongside the manual option. The suspension and steering can also be altered via the Drive Dynamics Control selector on the centre console.

Comfort mode creates a silky, cosseting ride that allows the Mulsanne to cope with even the nastiest of surfaces, though push it down a winding road without first changing to Sport and the car does wallow a little. Switch to Sport and control is better, but the steering loads up with weighting that suits long sweeping bends and requires some muscle when you're faced with tighter twists. It's best to opt for the Custom setting and select the tidier body and damping control with the lighter steering.

Do so and the Mulsanne will hustle along with frightening ease. Only its width is a limiting factor on Britain's narrow back roads.

Worth Noting

The twin-turbo V8 engine features cylinder deactivation to reduce its drinking habit, but 16.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 393g/km won't win you any friends in the green party.

Summary

Trying to rationalise a car like the Mulsanne is impossible. Realistically, there are cars that do everything the Mulsanne does for much less money. Similarly, there are others that cost more but offer nothing extra. What the Mulsanne does so well is to continue the Bentley tradition of big performance, exquisite craftsmanship and near limitless personalisation, but brings it all up to date without losing the core character. It's a remarkable car, which Bentley claims will share garage space with at least seven other vehicles. Really though, you could argue that you only need one. And the Mulsanne would do the job very well indeed.

Kyle Fortune - 4 May 2010



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2010 Bentley Mulsanne specifications:
Price: 220,000 starting price.
0-62mph: 5.3 seconds
Top speed: 184mph
Combined economy: 16.7mpg
Kerb weight: 2585kg

2010 Bentley Mulsanne. Image by David Shepherd.2010 Bentley Mulsanne. Image by David Shepherd.2010 Bentley Mulsanne. Image by David Shepherd.2010 Bentley Mulsanne. Image by David Shepherd.2010 Bentley Mulsanne. Image by David Shepherd.

2010 Bentley Mulsanne. Image by David Shepherd.2010 Bentley Mulsanne. Image by David Shepherd.2010 Bentley Mulsanne. Image by David Shepherd.2010 Bentley Mulsanne. Image by David Shepherd.2010 Bentley Mulsanne. Image by David Shepherd.



2010 Bentley Mulsanne. Image by David Shepherd.
 

2010 Bentley Mulsanne. Image by David Shepherd.
 

2010 Bentley Mulsanne. Image by David Shepherd.
 

2010 Bentley Mulsanne. Image by David Shepherd.
 

2010 Bentley Mulsanne. Image by David Shepherd.
 

2010 Bentley Mulsanne. Image by David Shepherd.
 

2010 Bentley Mulsanne. Image by David Shepherd.
 






 

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