Bentley Mulsanne saloon
"The Bentley Mulsanne's beautiful interior is a masterclass in British luxury, featuring genuine wood trim, glass switchgear and super-soft leather"
- Good long-distance cruising ability
- Beautiful hand-crafted cabin
- Capable on twisty roads
- Very high asking price
- Quite big on UK roads
- Controls lack delicacy
The Bentley Mulsanne is the British marque's flagship saloon and it offers buyers opulent luxury mixed with scintillating performance. It's powered by an effortlessly smooth and hugely powerful 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V8 that produces a hefty 505bhp.
The Mulsanne's very high price reflects the quality of the hand-crafted cabin, where passengers are spoilt with power-adjustable front and rear seats, super-soft leather upholstery, wool carpets, traditional wooden dash and door trim, independent air-conditioning and a whisper-quiet environment. Buyers also have an almost endless choice of interior colours and finishes, with nine different types of leather available in 24 different colours.
The latest versions are distinguished by LED headlamps and a wider, more traditional-looking grille. There’s also an Extended Wheelbase model with even more lounging space in the rear. It has its own unique rear-end styling that complements its 250mm extra length.
The Mulsanne is fitted with an eight-speed automatic gearbox that also comes with manual shift paddles and is as happy tackling twisty roads as it is cruising in silence on the motorway.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Bentley has added a cylinder-deactivation system to its big V8 engine, so the Mulsanne runs on four cylinders when it's cruising gently. The system cuts in and out so smoothly as to be unnoticeable, but the claimed fuel economy figure of 17mpg is still far from what anyone would consider frugal. The Mulsanne sits in the highest road tax bracket, meaning an annual bill of £505, while servicing costs will be astronomical, too. However, if you can afford to buy a Mulsanne in the first place, you can easily afford to keep it on the road.
Engines, drive & performance
Driving the Bentley Mulsanne is a unique experience; it offers a fantastic sense of occasion. You sit high up in total comfort, but the big saloon is surprisingly agile, with accurate steering and effortless acceleration.
The Mulsanne is capable of 184mph flat-out and can also accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds, which is on a par with some high-performance sports cars. The standard automatic gearbox provides seamless shifts and is best left in fully automatic mode, as the steering wheel-mounted gearshifters add little extra enjoyment to the experience.
Bentley also offers the faster and even more powerful Mulsanne Speed, with 25 more horsepower and a 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds. In spite of bigger wheels and a sportier suspension set-up, it has a better blend of ride comfort and handling ability than the standard car.
Interior & comfort
No matter what speed you drive at, there's almost no perceptible road noise inside the Mulsanne, such is the level of sound deadening. The doors are even fitted with acoustic glazing and electric privacy blinds in the rear. The air-suspension automatically adjusts to provide a comfortable ride on all types of road surface, while the front and rear power-adjustable seats are trimmed in sumptuous leather and extra-thick wool carpets feel very luxurious underfoot. It should be mentioned, however, that only four people can travel in total comfort – the high rear transmission tunnel makes it a bit of a squeeze for five.
The Mulsanne was recently brought right up-to-date with an infotainment system boasting an eight-inch display and 60GB hard drive, while the rear armrest cleverly houses a control panel for the rear climate-control system.
Although leg and headroom are very generous in the regular model, the Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase takes rear-seat luxury to new levels. Complete with curtains that allow an extra degree of privacy, both reclining rear seats have massage functions and occupants can avail of refreshments thanks to a champagne-glass cabinet and folding picnic table. Individual infotainment screens are available for each luxuriating plutocrat.
Progress is naturally very smooth, and this serenity is enhanced by vibration-reducing active engine mounts, which act like giant noise-cancelling headphones, neutralising undesirable trembles from that giant engine.
Practicality & boot space
Despite the tremendous luxury, living with the Mulsanne does have its drawbacks. Its sheer size makes driving in busy towns and on narrow roads quite daunting. We doubt many owners will have any need to reverse-park their Mulsanne, but should the need arise, due care and attention is required. Also, boot space isn't as large as you might expect, nor is rear legroom. It's okay, but this is a sporting saloon as much for the driver as for the passengers.
The automatic gear selector takes some getting used to, especially when going from forward to reverse. Finally, the Mulsanne is certainly not subtle, so expect onlookers to stop and stare wherever you go.
Reliability & safety
Bentley is owned by the Volkswagen Group, and the parent company has ensured that all new Bentleys are highly reliable. The Mulsanne boasts exceptional fit and finish, as every car is hand-built. In the event of an accident, side-impact bars feature in the doors. Also, the sheer weight (2.5 tonnes) and size of the car make it a very safe option. Electronic tyre-pressure monitors inform the driver of any sudden loss in pressure. Front, rear, head and chest airbags are also fitted.
Price, value for money & options
At nearly a quarter of a million pounds, the Bentley Mulsanne is massively expensive, but it's still cheaper than some of its main rivals. It slots in above flagship versions of the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes S-Class and Rolls-Royce Ghost, but isn't as expensive as the Rolls-Royce Phantom. The Mulsanne is a high-performance saloon with a truly hand-crafted feel. The huge list of standard equipment includes adaptive cruise control, parking distance control, voice control, a an infotainment system with eight-inch display and 60GB multimedia hard drive, sat nav and four-zone air-conditioning.