The latest from Bentley, Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase, goes beyond excellence and embraces perfection
As I landed at the Innsbruck airport, the rejuvenation that the place, which is situated about half way between Munich and Verona, brings with its pleasant coolness in the June air and panoramic views of the Alps is indeed a blessing; something not many places on earth are able to offer. Although the charming environs shifts you to a soothing state of mind, I was eager to dissect the latest from the architects of mobility and comfort, Bentley. After all, they had invited me to try their ‘masterpiece’ believed to be a result of the automobile maker’s fixation to perfection, and then making every thing else speed towards it.
The Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase took me to Schloss Elmau, a 1916 monument seeped in history and now a luxury hotel in Bavaria. The drive, which took about three hours, gave me ample time to enjoy the serene sights while also experiencing the car’s performance.
Sitting in the rear I could make sense of why the car is considered a new pinnacle in Bentley luxury. It offers an extra 250 mm of legroom for rear seat passengers. Light floods into the rear cabin, courtesy of an expansive glass sunroof. Should the glare become too much, the Alcantara sunblind can be closed at the touch of a button located in the veneered rear console.
The air conditioning controls are accessible from the rear seat, as is a state-of-the-art entertainment system, featuring fast wireless connectivity, high-resolution video screens and the option of the world’s finest in-car audio system. Airline-style reclining seats can be commissioned, giving travellers in the back the chance to relax as they might on a private jet.
A 4G LTE telephone and internet connection, coupled with an in-car WiFi hotspot, enables all occupants of the car to use messaging, media and cloud services, including music streaming and downloads. Access can be achieved through passengers’ laptops, smartphones, tablets or devices built into the car.
Twin 10.4” SMART tablets can be deployed at the touch of a button, emerging from the front seatbacks and adjusting electrically to the optimum viewing angle. The Android-based system provides access to media streaming from the cloud, Skype video calls, TV, internet radio and music on CDs. The tablets themselves can even be removed and operated independently of the car.
Although silence has been the experience within the car, thanks to the car’s extensive soundproofing, Bentley has ensured that there is sound that suits the occupants ears. My chauffeur was keen to display the sound system of the car, which had the optional Naim for Bentley system – created in collaboration with Cambridge-based audio engineers Naim. It features 20 custom-made speakers, a 2,200-Watt amplifier and eight DSP modes. Together with the acoustic glazing and soundproofing used in the creation of the Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase, I must say, it delivers a great audio experience.
Further scrutiny was left for the next day when I was taken on a drive from Germany to Austria on fast sweeping roads, alpine passes and derestricted autobahn, where I could can experience the unrivalled combination of high-speed performance and refinement.
The performance of the Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase represents a fine balance of luxury and power. The same 6¾ litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine that enables it to glide through the city in near-silence can also propel it from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds (0 to 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds).
Inside the cabin, however, I could hardly hear the engine. Even as the throttle opens and the exhaust note builds to a powerful roar, all is calm inside the cabin.
There are four driver-selectable settings, each introducing different settings for the suspension’s Continuous Damping Control (CDC) and the power steering. The Sport mode instantly tunes the car for improved handling, with lowered ride height, optimum engine response and increased steering feel and accuracy.
The well briefed chauffeur surely knew his job well. While he gave me the speed experience of the car, he also displayed the effectiveness of its stopping power. Controlled by its massive 400 mm front brake discs (370 mm at the rear), mobility is indeed well tamed.
The face of the car is unmistakable. A wide front grille sits in front of the familiar Bentley matrix, notable for its stainless steel vertical vanes, each one angled outwards from the centre. Matching stainless steel Flying ‘B’ wing vents can be found behind each front wheel arch, while the rear of the car is adorned with similarly finished tailpipes. A retractable Flying ‘B’ radiator mascot can be commissioned as an option, to complete the picture.
Sharper, sweeping lines characterise the fenders, the bonnet and the boot, with bumpers emerging seamlessly from the bodyshell. The powerline, a Bentley hallmark since the 1950s, still runs down the side of the body, lending a sense of power and performance to its sleek, sophisticated lines. But on this car, its route along the rear fender has been subtly extended, ensuring that the car’s extra length appears natural.
Believing in small surprises, I could find my way to a discreetly hidden bottle cooler. It holds two bottles – keeping them in a canted position to avoid spillage, even when they are open. It features a powered, frosted glass cover and white LED lighting, with holders for three bespoke champagne flutes, designed by David Redman of London and inspired by the Mulsanne wheel design.
A multitude of interior options have been created for the new Mulsanne, each one thoughtfully designed and crafted to unparalleled standards. Accessories include illuminated treadplates, coined-finish door handles and the iconic Flying ‘B’ mascot. And for the true connoisseur, a range of personalisation services are available courtesy of Mulliner, Bentley’s bespoke commissioning department.
The Mulliner Specification comprises a carefully curated collection of sport-themed additions, all designed by the Mulliner team. They include handcrafted details from diamond quilted interior trim and beautifully knurled controls in polished stainless steel, to a 21” Radiance alloy wheel and unique Mulliner treadplates. The result is a more dynamic edge to the interior and exterior.
I was told that from fine details like the steering wheel upholstery to bespoke commissions such as jewellery trays or humidors, almost every visible feature of the Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase can be customised since Bentley believes that while every car is crafted from the finest materials, what really makes each car special is the vision of its eventual owner.
As I was driven back to the airport in the car I was dissecting for a day and a half, I soaked in the Bavarian air and told myself, ‘There is nothing mundane about the place, and even the Mulsanne.’