While paying homage to past Bentley greats, the brief for the new Bentley Mulsanne design and engineering teams was to create a Bentley that represents the pinnacle of British luxury motoring.
The new Bentley Mulsanne, designed and engineered at Crewe from the ground-up, reaffirms the marque's intent to create a new flagship Bentley with refined performance, unparalleled levels of interior luxury and coach building skills to the fore.
The return of the Mulsanne name underlines Bentley's sporting heritage and passion for power and speed. Nothing reflects that prowess better than the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours, a race that Bentley has won on six occasions, where its powerful and reliable race cars thundered down the long Le Mans straight into the famous Mulsanne corner, from which the new model takes its name.
A pure expression of Bentley design
The design of the new Bentley Mulsanne is a unique fusion of sportiness, coachbuilt elegance and solidity. Echoing the Bentley S-Type of the 1950s, the Mulsanne features a bold frontal design dominated by the traditional Bentley matrix grille and highly prominent, classic round inner headlamps with chrome surrounds, flanked by two, smaller outboard lamp clusters, all featuring the latest in lighting technology. The iconic 'Flying B' retractable radiator mascot is available as an option.
The long bonnet, short front overhang and long rear overhang help to convey a sense of power and movement, reinforced by muscular haunches and sharply sculptured lines which flow gracefully from the front wings to the rear. Uniquely designed 20-inch wheels (and optional 21-inch) reinforce the Bentley Mulsanne's powerful, sporting stance.
Design Director Dirk van Braeckel explains the inspiration behind the Bentley Mulsanne's distinctive appearance: "The opportunity to design a new flagship Bentley is something afforded to very few designers. The team set out to create a sculpted form that blended classic Bentley heritage cues with modern lines that allow the marque to stride confidently into the 21st century."
The body is produced in a new manufacturing facility at Bentley's headquarters in Crewe where traditional metalworking skills, developed over six decades, are still used extensively during the nine-week build process. It is the very opposite of volume-production car-buildingâ€¦ but the very epitome of Bentley.
The rear screen, for example is fully enveloped by the coachwork. This provides a flowing, flawless line to the rear of the car, complementing the exquisitely formed D-pillars - whose complex curves can only be created by skilled coach-builders. All spot welds are performed by hand during the Bentley Mulsanne's construction and all panel joints are hand-brazed. These further enhance that 'hewn from solid' appearance and result in an extremely stiff body.
The complex form of the aluminium front wings, impossible to achieve with normal pressing techniques, is created using superforming, a technology usually reserved for the aerospace industry. This also makes the wings both lighter, stiffer and provides superb surface definition. Other lightweight materials, such as the composite bootlid, are used to remove mass wherever possible without compromising quality.
New construction techniques meant the designers could also incorporate details such as the 'floating' elliptical LED tail lights, which uniquely echo the shape of the exhaust tailpipes.
To accentuate the beauty of the bodywork, the Bentley Mulsanne features 'brightware' exclusively in polished stainless steel, including sill treadplates and matrix grilles. Bentley is the only manufacturer in the world to do this. The stainless steel door handles also incorporate the traditional Bentley 'knurling' to their inboard surface for enhanced grip, reflecting the company's typical attention to detail.
The sporting character of the Bentley Mulsanne is reinforced by front wing vents and large diameter tailpipe finishers.
Bentley customers have a world of infinite choice when commissioning their cars. There are 114 paint colours in the range that include everything from unusual heritage colours, special satin and pearlescent finishes and duo-tone combinations. But the choice does not end there. Through the bespoke world of Bentley Mulliner, unique colours can exactly match a customer's vision and taste.
Sumptuous interior meets advanced technology
The latest in-car technologies are discreetly placed within the Bentley Mulsanne's sumptuous interior. A multimedia system with 40 GB hard disc drives satellite navigation, audio/video, personal data, telephone and BluetoothÂ® connectivity. The upper dashboard houses an 8-inch multimedia screen, positioned unobtrusively behind an electrically operated veneered door, while below sits a stylish, leather-lined MP3-player stowage drawer.
A state-of-the-art 14-speaker audio system with Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and 6-CD autochanger is provided as standard while the Naim for Bentley premium audio system may be specified as an option. This forging of two British luxury brands provides customers with the world's most powerful 2200 Watt in-car amplifier, eight dedicated DSP modes and 20 custom-made speakers, delivering an unparalleled sound quality.
A personalised keyless entry system allows multiple pre-programmed configurations and automatically sets radio stations, phone book, seat (including ventilation and massage modes, both front and rear), steering column and seatbelt settings and even the electrically operated rear-seat blinds for side and rear windows. As a world-first, the keyless system operates with the stainless steel door handles which incorporate touch points to initiate communication with the key for verification and entry. The Bentley Mulsanne also features keyless start, having a stop/start button on the centre console.
The Bentley interior design team has continued to develop and evolve the luxurious interiors for which their cars are renowned, based on a large-scale, research programme to identify the classic signature features that have defined Bentleys from the 1920s to the present day.
Armed with this invaluable resource, the Bentley Mulsanne's design team set itself highly challenging targets for key interior characteristics such as material design, smell, colour harmony and handcrafting. Similar targets were set for the operational refinement and robustness of all control mechanisms. The result is a hand crafted interior that fully reflects traditional Bentley values, executed to the highest possible standards, where customers may tailor their cars to their individual specification.
As Head of Interior Design, Robin Page says: "Over 170 hours - almost half the entire build process - goes into crafting the interior of the new Bentley Mulsanne. At Crewe, Bentley's way of working is the opposite of mass production - we start where others stop."
The use of wood and leather hides has increased significantly to create an even more refined and luxurious cabin. While classic design features such as bulls-eye air vents (now also fitted in the rear compartment), high-quality mirror-matched wood veneers, leather hides and hand-finished stainless steel are retained, they are mixed with new touches such as beautiful glass switches.
The entire cabin is encased within a 'ring of wood' waistrail with an unbroken panel of wood gracing the Bentley Mulsanne's dashboard. Inverted dial needles within the instrument cluster are evocative of early Bentleys while the entire dashboard and console design is a subtle reminder of the Bentley wings motif.
Customers may select from an extensive range of premium quality veneers, unbleached for a natural appearance, and two marquetry options: picture frame and contemporary crossbanding. True to the Bentley ethos, customers may also select from a virtually unlimited palette of leather hides, including 24 'standard' colours, of which three are new for Bentley. This unrivalled choice of veneers, leather hides and paint colours ensures that the needs of all customers can be matched perfectly.
Following detailed customer feedback, a traditional tanning process has been re-instated to match the rich, worn leather smell that is so evocative of vintage Bentleys. Only a very few hide suppliers worldwide have the capability to do this.
The carpet of the Bentley Mulsanne is unique to Bentley, its increased fibre depth, density and feel enhancing cabin quality. It is available in a range of colours to complement each individual hide. Pure wool, deep pile Wilton-weave over mats add a further touch of comfort and luxury.
These exquisite materials are fashioned by craftsmen and women with up to 40 years' experience. Each steering wheel, for example, can take 15 hours to hand-stitch (and three times longer if the customer opts for cross-stitching). Stainless steel brightware gleams so perfectly thanks to an intensive 10-hour finishing process. A wood veneer takes two weeks to turn from a rough root ball into a full set of mirror-matched, fine-polished leaves.
Re-engineered V8 engine and new chassis: power, refinement and efficiency
The Bentley powertrain engineers were set three objectives for the Bentley Mulsanne:
To produce the effortless torque from extremely low revs that customers expect of a grand Bentley
Dr Ulrich Eichhorn, Bentley Motors' Director of Engineering, explains the reasons behind the Bentley Mulsanne's V8: "Using our V8 guaranteed the immense power at low revs and unstressed performance that are the hallmarks of a flagship Bentley. But we also set our engineers the challenge of maintaining high levels of refinement at any speed and, equally important, improving efficiency."
To achieve a significant reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, the Bentley Mulsanne V8 sees the introduction of two new control systems: cam phasing and, a first for the ultra-luxury sector, variable displacement.
The pioneering use of these two technologies in combination allows the Bentley Mulsanne's engine management system not only to adjust the V8's breathing for improved engine idle quality and torque delivery, but also to close the valves of four of the eight cylinders for maximum fuel economy when cruising.
New lightweight componentry including pistons, connecting rods and forged crankshaft reduce reciprocating mass and internal friction for improved engine response.
In the new Mulsanne, the 6Â¾-litre V8 develops 512 PS (505 bhp/377 kW) while the massive torque (1020 Nm / 752 lb ft) is now delivered even earlier at 1800 rev/min. This dramatic improvement in torque delivery from just above idle and right across the rev range ensures that with a mere tap of the accelerator the driver is immediately rewarded with that characteristic deep, muffled V8 burble and phenomenal acceleration.
These new technologies are complemented by the new eight-speed automatic transmission which, for the first time on a flagship Bentley, comes with steering-wheel mounted gearshift.
Overall, CO2 emissions and fuel consumption are reduced by more than 15 percent, in line with Bentley's environmental commitment.
Prodigious power and torque are complemented by an all-new chassis, unique to the new Bentley Mulsanne. Both lighter and stiffer than previous flagship Bentleys, the new chassis benefits both ride and handling.
A new Drive Dynamics Control system operated by a rotary switch mounted next to the gearshift selector, can be used to select from three standard modes - Bentley, Sport and Comfort - offering precise calibration of suspension and steering control systems.
A fourth mode, 'Custom', allows the driver to select bespoke settings via the multimedia system to 'tune' the Bentley Mulsanne to a preferred driving style.
A new air suspension system with continuously variable dampers creates an even more refined and comfortable ride at lower speeds, yet can reduce the Bentley Mulsanne's ride height automatically at high speeds to reduce lift and improve aerodynamic stability. With 20-inch alloy wheels and 265/45 ZR 20 tyres as standard, dynamic handling is assured. Customers may also opt for 21-inch wheels, available in two styles, fitted with 265/40 ZR 21 tyres.
While the all-new Bentley Mulsanne pays respect to the past, it is a thoroughly modern luxury car that offers the world's most exclusive driving experience - a unique fusion of power, refinement and elegance.
Bentley Motors Chairman and Chief Executive Dr. Franz-Josef Paefgen says: "No other car maker can offer such a blend of performance and refinement in a single vehicle. The new Bentley Mulsanne is a car that evokes the Bentley philosophy of building the best luxury grand tourers in the world."