Bentley's renaissance was prompted when Volkswagen took the reigns of the fabled marque in 1998, injecting the 91-year-old brand with modern engineering and style elements. But a small chorus of purists complained that there was too much platform sharing in the nouveau Bentleys and that details like the immediately identifiable metallic VW shift gate betrayed the brand's storied heritage. Enter the new Mulsanne, the first "true," all new from the ground up Bentley in 80 years—which reflects a complete vision of the British brand through the prism of VW's engineering, design and research and development prowess. Starting at a breathtaking $285,000, the Mulsanne's optional equipment list is short, but its customizable variables are nearly endless; this isn't a mass-produced, off-the-shelf car, but rather a bespoke sedan with impeccable details that make the six-figure Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series seem ordinary in comparison.
What's to Like
What's not to like? From its edible interior and sweeping lines to its effortless power and quiet composure, the Bentley Mulsanne exudes an air of calm, stately elegance. Onlookers may make their own judgments about the overinflated egos of Mulsanne drivers, but with all that sound insulation inside the cabin, who cares about those chattering, jealous types? Let them eat cake!
What's Not to Like
As luxurious as the Mulsanne may be, this three-ton sedan may strike some drivers as a bit too dear for daily use. Though we love plush interiors and paint finishes that look like they're three feet deep, exposing those delicate surfaces to the harsh world of belligerent drivers and unforgiving weather saps some of the enjoyment from this beautiful machine.
Climb into the driver's seat of the Bentley Mulsanne, and you're presented with a large, imposing steering wheel clad with the traditional "Flying B" logo, analog counterclockwise sweeping speedometer and tachometer dials and a knurled shift knob that feels delightfully old school. Shift into gear, and the twin-turbocharged V-8 makes nary a peep as you ease effortlessly off the line. Power, from virtually any engine rpm, comes on with immediate and gratifying propulsion. The eight-speed automatic transmission seamlessly diverts that power to the rear wheels, and the suspension, which can be set to one of three levels, soaks up most road irregularities, especially in "Comfort" mode.
Though there's some vagueness to the Mulsanne's steering feel, the car's plus-sized body is sufficiently controlled in turns, thanks to the air suspension's independent control of heave, roll and pitch. Most impressive is the Mulsanne's sound deadening and larger-than-life road presence, which makes 100 miles per hour feel like 50....