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2011 Bentley Mulsanne Review

Hand-Built Ultraluxury

A three-quarter front view of a 2011 Bentley Mulsanne in action

In short: A grand touring sedan for the well-heeled, old school set.

smattering of high-priced luxobarges populates the upper stratosphere of the sedan segment, that rarified sweet spot that makes Maserati Quattroportes and Porsche Panameras look pedestrian.

Sporting massive, round headlamps and a silhouette suggesting a tenuous relationship between staunch upright edges and slightly swept back curves, the Bentley Mulsanne's presence suggests reserved muscularity, a tensile store of energy awaiting a gentle press of the right pedal.

Behind the wheel of this nearly three-ton saloon, the road ahead is framed in a letterboxed windshield surrounded by an architecturally sound assemblage of handcrafted wood, marquetry, and supple leathers. 100 exterior colors, 9 veneers, and 24 varieties of hide are available for order, and every Mulsanne interior is rimmed in a ring of wood. Of course, bespoke hues also enable you to match your Mulsanne to your favorite lipstick or Scotch, if you so choose.

The interior of the 2011 Bentley Mulsanne

A look at the engine of the Bentley Mulsanne

Not quite as erect as a Rolls or elongated as a Maybach, the Mulsanne's cabin is a surprisingly cozy space with scooped doors, exquisitely contrasting textures, and traditional details such as chromed, globe-like air vents with organ-stop levers. The 20-speaker Naim stereo claims the most powerful amplification system on the market, producing 2,200 watts of transcendently clear sound. But the main attraction — at least for those who prefer to ditch the passenger seat and drive — is the twin-turbocharged, 6.75 liter V8 that produces 505 horsepower and a colossal 752 lb-ft of torque while spinning at a mere 1,750 rpm. The mill is classic Bentley: a low-revving eight cylinder that churns enormous waves of power with light throttle input, and the Mulsanne happens to be the first big Bentley equipped with paddle shifters, suggesting there's more to this big five-seater than being chauffeured.

We motored the Mulsanne on intimate country roads snaking through Scotland and Northern England, insulated in the plush interior as bright green hills bled past. This large sedan achieves triple-digit speeds effortlessly, and double-glazed glass mutes external road and traffic noises (though the saucer eyes of fellow drivers suggested that the car leaves quite an impression on the outside world). Along winding stretches of secondary road, the Mulsanne's air suspension performed a commendable job of controlling body movement, and the engine's low-strung torque curve obviated the need for pedal burying. As our grand tour continued into the afternoon, the seats proved to be as comfortable as they looked, quietly massaging our backs as we dodged speed cameras and hugged the hedgerows around tight bends.

Our day-long tour proved that the driving dynamics of Bentley's flagship are as supple and buttery smooth as its slippery silhouette. Though its target audience may be limited to masters of the universe, the thin slice who choose this Bentley over the latest offerings from Rolls-Royce and Maybach will be treated to a meticulously hand-crafted example of modern motoring finished in an old world style — a nearly lost art that elevates this graceful specimen far above the realm of mass-produced, lower priced alternatives.

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Watch a video of the Bentley Mulsanne

Warranty/Service: 3-year/unlimited mile basic; 3-year/unlimited mile drivetrain; 3-year/unlimited mile roadside; 3-year/unlimited mile rust.

Base Price: $185,000 / As tested: $215,000

Technical Specifications

Vehicle type: front engine, rear wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

Engine: 6.75-liter twin-turbocharged V8
Horsepower: 505 bhp @ 4,200 rpm
Torque: 752 lb-ft @ 1,750 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Curb weight: 5,698 lbs
Wheelbase: 128.6 in
Length/Width/Height: 219/87/60 in

twin-piece, 400mm front and 370mm rear brakes with ABS and electronic brake distribution
Suspension: double-wishbone front and multilink rear with electronically controlled air springs and continuous damping control

Traction: electronic stability and traction control with hydraulic brake assist

0-60 mph: 5.1 seconds
Top Speed: 184 mph

EPA City:11 mpg (European cycle)
EPA Highway:24 mpg (European cycle)

standard front and rear head and thorax airbags

Likes: stately road presence; effortlessly torquey thrust; exquisite handmade details add a sense of occasion

Dislikes: interior isn't as capacious as exterior proportions suggest; new offerings from Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce are $40,000 to $80,000 cheaper; low production means a long wait for prospective buyers; since first year is already sold out.


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Photography: AlphaMedia

(Updated: 11/16/12 NW)

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