FEATURES : AUTOMOTIVE

Test Drive: Bentley Mulsanne

By Tom Ran

Published June 1, 2012

Bentley Mulsanne in Black Velvet.

Photo: Staff

Bentley Mulsanne in Black Velvet.

Bentley Mulsanne in Black Velvet.

Photo: Staff

Bentley Mulsanne in Black Velvet.

The signature Flying 'B' radiator mascot.

Photo: Staff

The signature Flying 'B' radiator mascot.

Sumptuous hand stitched leather steering wheel.

Photo: Staff

Sumptuous hand stitched leather steering wheel.

The design of the tachometer is inspired by past designs with the position of the needle on top rather than the bottom.

Photo: Staff

The design of the tachometer is inspired by past designs with the position of the needle on top rather than the bottom.

Dark stained Vavona veneer.

Photo: Staff

Dark stained Vavona veneer.

Left: The patterns on Vavona veneer wood grain, surrounding the bullseye air vents, mirror each other. Right: Passenger controlled ventilation system.

Photo: Staff

Left: The patterns on Vavona veneer wood grain, surrounding the bullseye air vents, mirror each other. Right: Passenger controlled ventilation system.

LED headlamps.

Photo: Staff

LED headlamps.

While the Black Velvet and Extreme Silver Mulsannes are standard color options, customers can request any color to their liking.

Photo: Staff

While the Black Velvet and Extreme Silver Mulsannes are standard color options, customers can request any color to their liking.

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Craftsmanship and heritage are words that are tossed around lightly these days—few brands can really own these distinguishable traits as well as Bentley can. With its birth dating back to 1919, there’s no denying the rich history behind the automotive company.

With assistance from the Volkswagen Group, Bentley was purchased in 1998 and given new life. They transformed their image from stuffy luxury to a younger and more exciting one. Volkswagen bolstered Bentley with the resources it needed, but left the company to do what it did best… build cars of the highest quality. Though production was increased, the intimacy and caliber of manufacturing that Bentley is known for was maintained with the majority of the cars still being built by hand, in Crewe, England.

I experienced first hand what the expression “spare no expenses” meant when I test drove the new Bentley Mulsanne. I was joined by three other journalists outside the Standard Hotel. Parked right in front were two very well groomed Mulsanne waiting for us, one in Black Velvet and the other in Extreme Silver. I naturally gravitated towards the Black Velvet.

The origins of the Mulsanne dates back from 1980 to 1992, when the car had a twelve year lifespan. It was reintroduced in 2010 when then Chairman Dr. Franz-Josef Paefgen decided to crown the Mulsanne as the flagship vehicle for Bentley. It was Dr. Franz-Josef Paefgen’s tip of the hat as he retired in 2011— it had to be the finest vehicle that Bentley has ever created in its storied history. And it is.

The attention to every aspect of the car is unparalleled. Over 500 man-hours are spent to produce a Mulsanne. Being inside one you quickly understand why that is. The finest leather is procured from bulls living in open pastures. Without any barbed fencing to blemish their hides the result is a consistent and flawless interior. Hand stitching can be seen throughout the cabin from the steering wheel and dashboard to the seats and doors. The wood pattern in the lush dark stained Vavona veneer has a mirror matching finish – one side is reflective of the other. It’s the pinnacle in craftsmanship.

As a passenger you’re cradled by the velvety leather seats. As a driver you’re in command of the luxury liner. Every function of the car is within reach of your fingertips, there’s so much ease in adjusting the mirrors, audio and of course the speed. Though the power under the hood is substantial, a V8 engine that generates 505 horsepower, our expedition was a leisure one.

Cruising along the highway at 70 miles an hour was effortless and deceptive. You wouldn’t realize that you’re driving at that speed when the traffic and road noise are silenced and smoothness reigns within. The eye catching silhouette of the Mulsanne coupled with speed of excess over the 55mph limit made us bait for a traffic cop. The Mulsanne ahead of us was pulled over while we gently glided by. They were fortunately given a warning and sent on their way.

We took the Mulsanne up along Henry Hudson Parkway escaping the city and transitioning onto Saw Mill Parkway. The road didn’t quite open up for us to really push the engine’s potential. Then again, we weren’t on a racecourse and frankly after the incident, we were better off driving closer to the speed limit.

After all the additional features are added, the price tag hovers around $350,000. The Mulsanne is not for everyone. It is for the most discriminating customer after the very best in craftsmanship, engineering and class and it was incredibly fun to drive.

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