Automotive potency and British royal elegance are communicated by no more than three brands today: Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin. Only two of these brands can claim to be tried and true creators of drivers’ cars (Aston Martin and Bentley); two can boast executive-level cars where spending cosseted time and conducting business in the back seat are almost more favorable than driving (Bentley and Rolls-Royce). You’ll notice that only Bentley nails both. The car that accomplishes this feat is the Bentley Mulsanne ($289,900), that Crewe flagship imbued with generations of British motoring, racing and bespoke history, and with a level of in-car technology that’s unmatched in today’s market. I recently spent time in both the front and back seat of the Mulsanne, rocketing down the 101 from San Francisco at the helm and getting the limo treatment in Monterey.
Riding in the back seat of a car often feels more like a punishment than a privilege. Gone are the high levels of involvement and control. The Mulsanne makes the backseat not just palatable, but desirable; acres of meticulously chosen and hand-crafted exotic wood and leather beckon passengers. But the Mulsanne has more than that. Aside from the illuminated champagne cooler, the leather pillows with contrast piping emblazoned with the Bentley logo, the heavy-as-hell door-mounted ashtrays (go ahead, smoke a
Cuban stogie back there), 43 inches of legroom and button-activated blackout window curtains, the Mulsanne is the ideal place to conduct business on four wheels thanks to its Entertainment Specification package.
Most of the time, internet connectivity on a smartphone is enough when being shuttled around, but the Entertainment Specification package provides a rolling wi-fi hotspot, in addition to twin iPads and keyboards; you’d never know they existed until, with the push of a button, chrome-trimmed tables unfold from the backs of the front seats, and the iPad displays and keyboards open up like techno-oysters carrying their wealth of internet riches. The iPad easily slides into the leather frame of the folding device tray to use and/or charge, and the ergonomic Apple wireless keyboard sits perfectly in the custom-fitted tray. What’s most impressive about them is the simplicity: this top luxury car brand could have outfitted the Mulsanne with $20,000 Ego laptops quilted with diamonds just to show off, but instead they’ve installed a clean, intuitive system that can go portable and leave the car without delay. Business wins out over showmanship, oddly enough: conducting research and replying to all-important emails is a breeze, making long stints in traffic downright productive — and the pedestal footrest offers the reward of a brief nap.
…the iPad displays and keyboards open up like techno-oysters carrying a wealth of internet riches.
The driver doesn’t have to slum it, either. The Mulsanne contains one of the most handsome cockpits ever to grace four wheels, with an 8-inch multimedia screen concealed by a beautiful veneer panel that retracts when the screen is in use. A leather-lined device drawer in the center stack houses and charges iOS devices. If you and your chauffeur want to swap positions, settings for the seat, seat belts, steering wheel, radio stations, ventilation/massage functions, and phone contacts are fully customizable — making the Mulsanne personal beyond just the hides you choose to sit on.
When you need to scratch the itch to drive rather than ride, the Mulsanne will redefine your view of how a large executive saloon navigates the road. Despite its heft (5,984 pounds), the Mulsanne moves with authority. The 6.8-liter twin-turbo V8 is good for 505 horsepower and a pavement-rippling 752 lb-ft of torque. When 60 mph arrives in an astounding 4.9 seconds, you can actually feel it. That’s faster than a Porsche Cayman. Of course, when I mashed the gas, something like a few gallons of gas sacrificed themselves for the exercise. Furthermore, the Bentley flagship steers with surprising precision; weaving through traffic on California’s 101 caused relatively little stress.
Bentley has made good on their goal of becoming the premier luxury automotive brand by refusing to rest on their rich laurels of comfort and craftsmanship; instead, they’ve set their brand apart from the rest, infusing their cars with speed, driving excitement and cutting-edge technology. The Mulsanne is its most excellent example, offering distinct pleasures in both the front and the back seats. Although the promise of the new Mulsanne Speed makes me that much more inclined to spend all of my retirement savings. Oh, how good it is live large.