Bentley Mulsanne


Debut: 2010
Maker: Bentley
Predecessor: Arnage



 Published on 28 May 2010
All rights reserved. 

First clean-sheet Bentley in 80 years is challenged by Rolls-Royce Ghost. Which will win the match ?

Mulsanne, a familiar name. It reminisces the first turbocharged Bentley built in the early 1980s. Mulsanne is also the name of the famous long straight at Le Mans. Exactly 80 years ago, Bentley won its last and fifth Le Mans title with its 6½-Litre car (forget the Bentley-disguised Audi which won the 2003 event). That was the peak of its history. Since then, it fell victim to the Great Depression and went into the hands of arch-rival Rolls-Royce. Its cars became badge-engineered and high-performance versions of Rolls, sadly.

Seven years ago, the two marques were split by Volkswagen and BMW. Initially, they pointed to different ways – Bentley prospered with entry-level Continental GT and Flying Spur, while Rolls-Royce was determined to occupy the most prestigious position with Phantom. This year, the inevitable thing finally happens: for the first time in 80 years, a Rolls-Royce clashes head on with a Bentley. On right side corner of the boxing stage is the new Ghost, the first ever high-performance and driver-oriented Rolls-Royce. At the opposite corner is Mulsanne, successor to Arnage and arguably the first clean-sheet Bentley for 80 years. Two boxers, one question: which will win this match ?

If size, weight or torque is what defines the best British performance luxury, then Mulsanne might stand a chance...

Bentley would have us believed the new Mulsanne competes with Phantom. If so, it would win easily in performance and driver appeal. However, the Mulsanne is closer in price (£220,000) to Ghost (£195,000) than Phantom (£275,000). Moreover, its performance-oriented character, hence target audiences, is much closer to the small Rolls-Royce. To the discomfort of Bentley, the Ghost has an upper hand in performance figures – its twin-turbo V12 produces 60 more horsepower; official 0-60 mph time is 4.7 seconds versus 5.1 seconds; kerb weight undercuts the Bentley's by 225 kilograms. In other words, the Ghost sounds more Bentley than Bentley.

As the Ghost has already occupied the highland before Mulsanne is released, the empire's strike-back will never be easy. How to persuade customers that the Bentley is a better car ?

If size, weight or torque is what defines the best British performance luxury, then Mulsanne might stand a chance. For a starter, it is huge, measuring 5.6 meter in length and nearly 3.3 meters between axles. It tips the scale at 2.6 tons. It rides on 20-inch wheels as standard, but most customers are likely to opt for the monstrous 21-inch items which fill better the huge wheel wells.



Design is a touch old-fashioned... and looks too much like a big block of butter.

The Mulsanne also looks longer and lower than Ghost. It tries to appear imposing, but the effort is less successful. Most observers agree its exterior design is a touch old-fashioned – especially the sculpted front fenders, the big round headlamps and the round tail. Retro it certainly is, it just doesn't interpret traditional style in modern ways as well as Rolls-Royce. However, the biggest problem is its bland proportion, which looks like a big block of butter. If you disagree, that is only because it is one of the few designs that look better in photos than in the fresh.

Nevertheless, the interior is absolutely first class. In contrast to the modern, minimalist design of Ghost, it retains the traditional flamboyance of Bentley. Too many switches and gauges might look busy, but when they are bespoke brushed metal items (unlike some plastic switches in Ghost), they can only add to the sense of occasion. The materials and build quality throughout the cabin is top-notch. There is not a single piece of plastic present. Everywhere is covered with leather, solid wood, aluminum or stainless steel. Moreover, you can choose among 9 different wood trims, 9 types of leather, custom stitching and inlays. In this way, the Mulsanne feels even classier than Ghost.


Cabin classier and sportier than Rolls


Bentley says 80 percent of its owners will drive themselves. They will be delighted to find out front legroom is much improved from Arnage, and the front seats can finally be set low enough. The soft leather chair is super comfy. A small-diameter steering wheel with gearshift paddles hint at its driver-focused character, ditto the presence of rev counter and a sport / comfort mode control. At the center console is an LCD screen for the Audi MMI-based control system. It would have been better to hide behind a wooden door like Rolls-Royce. Rear passengers sit at higher level than the front to have a good view forward. The rear seats are heated and cooled, recline and incorporate massagers. Rear seat entertainment system is optional, but individual climate control is standard.

Now let's go to the technical part. The Mulsanne is built on neither a Volkswagen platform nor the previous Arnage platform. It is a bespoke platform developed specially for this car (and its forthcoming coupe / convertible derivatives). If it were developed on a Volkswagen platform, it would have resulted in all-wheel drive, W12 engine hence vastly different driving character. The fact that Bentley is the personal favourite of Ferdinand Piech played an important role in the commitment he made to the English marque. Considering its sales volume is only 800 units a year, Volkswagen could have a good reason not to invest into a bespoke new platform.


Bespoke platform is manufactured at Crewe

So this is Bentley's first new platform in 80 years. It retains the traditional configuration of rear-wheel drive and a super-torquey 6.75-liter turbocharged V8. Its chassis is conventional steel monocoque. Doors, bonnet and front fenders are made of aluminum. Trunk lid is composites so that not to influence the reception of antenna, which is mounted in the trunk. Some suspension bits come from Audi, such as control arms, adaptive air springs and adaptive damping, but you won't tell from the driving. Most important, this car is manufactured at Crewe – not just final assembly and trimming, but the chassis and their pressings are also made in England.

Open the bonnet, the familiar V8 sits there. Externally, it looks indistinguishable from the last one serving Arnage. However, it is essentially a new engine. No matter cylinder heads and block or internals, all essential components are new. Yes, it does retain the same bore and stroke dimensions and the old-fashioned OHV architecture with only 2 valves per cylinder – which limits its revvability and top end power, but it introduces variable cam phasing to the valley-mounted camshaft in order to improve efficiency. To save gas at part-load running, it adds variable displacement, which shuts down valves, cuts injection and ignition in four of the cylinders, effectively turning the V8 into a V4. In addition to the latest ZF 8-speed automatic transmission, Bentley said its fuel consumption is reduced by 15 percent from Arnage. At the same time, its output inches up from 500hp to 512hp, and its world-beating torque is even more impressive at 752 pound-foot, now available from just 1750 rpm instead of the previous 3250 rpm.


Super-torquey V8 is old-fashioned and very Bentley.

That torque dominates its driving manner. In normal driving, the V8 is near silent, because it hardly needs to spin beyond 1500 rpm, even when cruising on motorway at 70 mph. The ZF gearchange is almost undetectable. The superb refinement is just as you would expect on an ultra-luxury car. However, once you ask for performance, the V8 responds instantly with mountains of torque and a distant growl. So much torque that you doubt the need of a gearbox, let alone one with eight ratios. The sensation of instant g-force from very low rev is noticeably stronger than that of Rolls-Royce Ghost - that car is by no means short of torque, but its peak value trails the Bentley V8 by 177 pound-foot, and it needs to be revved to better the Bentley. However, power delivery of the Rolls-Royce V12 is smoother, quieter and more cultured. It is also more eager to rev than the Bentley V8. The latter feels more old-fashioned, more brutal when pushed, or put it this way, more Bentley.

Despite of its variable displacement and few cylinder count, the Bentley V8 is considerably thirstier than the Rolls-Royce V12 due to its inefficient breathing and lack of direct fuel injection. Its combined fuel consumption is 16.7 mpg, versus the Ghost's 20.8 mpg. While its rich buyers are unlikely to care about fuel bills, they may feel uncomfortable with its alarmingly high greenhouse gas emission, which is 393g per km, versus 317g/km of the Ghost. Admittedly, both cars are not friends of the earth, but the drivers of RR may feel less guilty.


Mulsanne is unquestionably the sportier car than Ghost...

Ride and handling continues to distinguish the two cars. The Mulsanne is unquestionably the sportier car. Its suspension setting is generally stiffer. Its 21-inch wheels ride on low profile tires measuring 265/40. In addition to its lower height and lower driver seat, it displays less body roll in corners and control its big body more tidily. In the Bentley, you have the choice of Sport, Comfort or so-called "Bentley" mode for the dynamic control which alters suspension stiffness and steering weight. To your delight, an additional Custom mode allows you to preset your preferable settings, such as Sport steering and Comfort suspension. This makes it more satisfying to keen drivers than the Rolls-Royce, in which Comfort is the only mode on offer. On the flip side, the Mulsanne's sporty tires transmit more road harshness into the cabin. The Ghost rides just like ghost.

It has to be noted that, although the Mulsanne has sportier handling, it steering and brake offer less feel than its counterpart.

So there is no loser in the match. Mulsanne and Ghost are apple and orange. One biases towards driver appeal and one favours refinement, although they look close on paper. In the end, if you really need to choose a winner, I would pick the Rolls-Royce, mainly for its tasteful design, advanced engine and the combination of faster acceleration with lower emission. The Bentley does have its charm in interior decoration and driving character, but it feels too old-fashioned for my taste.
Verdict:
 Published on 5 Dec 2014 All rights reserved. 
Mulsanne Speed


Although a 2685 kg limousine will never be a sports sedan, it is always good to have more power. Bentley retuned its 6.75-liter twin-turbo push-rod V8 to produce an extra 25 horsepower, bringing the total to 530 hp. That might be peanuts by nowadays’ standard, but more important to Bentley is probably the increase of 59 pound-foot of torque. At 811 lbft, it rewrites its own record as the torquest production car in the world. For reference, the supercharged V8 of Dodge Hellcat models produces “only” 650 lbft. With the added punch, the heavyweight Mulsanne Speed can finally sprint from rest to 60 mph under 5 seconds, while on a long stretch of Autobahn you could see it touching 190 mph. That’s the territory of supercars a couple of decades ago.



No, the Speed is not as speedy as an S63 AMG or even its lighter, less costly sister Flying Spur W12. Neither can it come close to the AMG in terms of handling. Despite of the stiffer setting of its air suspension (especially in Sport mode) and the weightier tuning of its power steering, it never quite hides its immense weight and center of gravity in corners. The steering remains isolated from the road surface, and the brakes are too weak for committed drives. More satisfying to drive than the regular Mulsanne? Definitely, but not to the extent of delighting keen drivers. What it does offer is a unique combination of lavish luxury, flamboyant style and bespoke interior with a certain level of performance and control. It pleases a small portion of super-rich who prefer to skip chauffeurs and drive by themselves. We thought that was what Bentley used to be. Now the split from Roll-Royce and the rise of Chinese market has shifted its focus to conventional super-rich buyers. The Mulsanne Speed is just a small step to bring back its traditional virtues. Among the 1100 Mulsannes sold annually, only 300 are expected to be the Speed.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Mulsanne
2010
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Steel + aluminum
5575 / 1926 / 1521 mm
3266 mm
V8, 90-degree
6752 cc
OHV 16 valves, VVT
Twin-turbo
Cylinder deactivation
512 hp / 4200 rpm
752 lbft / 1750 rpm
8-speed automatic
F: double-wishbone
R: multi-link
Adaptive air spring + damping
265/40ZR21
2585 kg
184 mph (c)
5.1 (c) / 4.9*
11.6 (c) / 12.0*
Mulsanne Speed
2014
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Steel + aluminum
5575 / 1926 / 1521 mm
3266 mm
V8, 90-degree
6752 cc
OHV 16 valves, VVT
Twin-turbo
Cylinder deactivation
537 hp / 4200 rpm
811 lbft / 1750 rpm
8-speed automatic
F: double-wishbone
R: multi-link
Adaptive air spring + damping
265/40ZR21
2685 kg
190 mph (c)
4.8 (c) / 5.0**
11.1 (c) / 12.7**



























Performance tested by: *C&D, **MT




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