Bentley Mulsanne: Design Analysis

Chris Hrabalek analyses the new four-door flagship from Bentley

Launched last week at the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the new Bentley Mulsanne is proof that the Bentley spirit continues flawlessly into the next decade. Replacing the 11-year-old Bentley Arnage, and likely to enjoy an equally long lifespan, the Mulsanne is the connoisseurs’ Rolls-Royce Phantom and an appropriate present for the Bentley marque’s 90th birthday.

In every market, one can identify a brand that’s hiding behind the obvious, a brand that’s appreciated by the select few – a brand that elevates itself above the common choice. Ever since the magical tales of the Bentley Boys, with their spirit to enjoy life to the extreme, a Bentley has been more than a mere motor car.

While the earliest Bentleys were agricultural at best, and those of the 70s and 80s spoiled by an abuse of the brand in the form of badge-engineered Rolls-Royces, one finally has the feeling that the Bentleys of today, although foreign-owned, connect to the heyday of the 30s to 50s.

The Bentley Mulsanne is 100% proof. It is powered by the classic 6.75-litre V8 engine, a format that has propelled Bentleys since 1959, and which shares more characteristics with a locomotive power-plant than an automotive drivetrain. It is a two-fingered salute to all the Teslas of this world.

Styling-wise, the Bentley Mulsanne is spot on. While the front ‘face’ might be a touch too controversial for the average English aristocrat and will certainly sharpen the scalpels of aftermarket coachbuilders, the overall volume is pure Bentley. The surfacing is as modern as a car with an above-average lifespan can get away with. A short front overhang paired with a long rear one, a super-dynamic C-pillar and shoulder line – all are in stark contrast to the static styling of Goodwood’s finest.

While it’s obvious that the Bentley Mulsanne was positioned against the very top end of luxury four-door limousines – a market currently shared between the Mulsanne’s predecessor, the Arnage, the Rolls-Royce Phantom and the Maybach 62 – it is another vehicle that will be the biggest headache for Bentley’s Marketing & Sales team: the new Rolls-Royce Ghost.

In a global recession, anyone that doesn’t hate his hard-earned money will consider and reconsider all the market has to offer before putting pen to paper. New cross-brand, cross-segment and even cross-‘new vs. used’ comparisons are blossoming as a result, comparisons which would previously not have found their way into the wildest dreams of the average marketer. All of a sudden, one finds oneself choosing between a nearly-new Phantom, a brand-new Ghost, or half a Bentley Mulsanne.

This factor, not to mention how the Rolls-Royce 200EX Concept at Geneva (the preview concept of the Ghost) stunned onlookers with its level of finish and sheer appearance, will have an impact. Added to this is the fact that the Ghost shares an equal amount of ‘novelty factor’, while hitting less hard in depreciation terms (due to the lower purchase price).

The Mulsanne owner’s choice will not have been made on ‘value for money’. Unlikely, too, that the choice will be made on a like or dislike of the secondary driving lights, a ‘quote’ from Bentley’s 1955 Continental Flying Spur S1. No, what will seal the deal is the fact that the Bentley Mulsanne represents an uncensored indulgence in the finer things of life. It’s far beyond mere prestige, or communicating one’s status to the outside world. And in this context, the Bentley Mulsanne is the only choice.

Bentley Mulsanne: Design Analysis Bentley Mulsanne: Design Analysis

Bentley Mulsanne: Design Analysis Bentley Mulsanne: Design Analysis

Text: Chris Hrabalek
Photos: Bentley

ClassicInside - The Classic Driver Newsletter
Free Subscription!