2011 Bentley Mulsanne


The Mulsanne is a car that was never meant to be. While Paefgen and his team fought hard to keep the Arnage alive after Volkswagen Group’s purchase of the storied British marque, there was never a plan — nor the money — to replace the flagship Bentley with an all-new vehicle. As recently as four years ago, the Arnage successor was to be a pumped up Continental Flying Spur. Paefgen was never completely happy with the idea, and when the reworked CFS fared poorly in clinics, he abruptly canned it, and sold the VW Group board on developing an all-new vehicle that retained two key elements of the Arnage’s DNA — rear drive with the front axle centerline pushed as far forward as possible, and a 6.75-liter pushrod V-8 with twin turbochargers.

You can fit the number of Mulsanne components carried over from the Arnage in a reasonably sized briefcase, say Crewe insiders. Despite rumors the new big Bentley would be based on the forthcoming A8, its platform is unique; a mixture of high-strength steel and lightweight aluminum. The engine shares its basic architecture with the Arnage’s legendary L410 V-8, whose design dates back half a century, but apart from the two turbochargers, every single component is new. The Mulsanne’s V-8 is lighter, more powerful and much more fuel efficient than the L410, and drives the rear wheels through an eight speed automatic.

Dirk van Braeckel’s elegant exterior design looks deceptively simple. A strong, sharply creased bone line defines the car’s profile, emphasizing the prominent hips over the rear wheels. The Mulsanne’s bodysides are clean and simple below that line; above it, however, are complexly rendered surfaces that give the car an emotional presence Rolls-Royce’s new Ghost sedan doesn’t have. There are also strong elements of the Brooklands coupe in the low roofline and rakish C-pillars. The most controversial styling elements are likely to be the front bumper and giant inboard headlights, though there’s no mistaking the front end graphic for anything other than a Bentley. Standard wheels are formal looking 21 inchers; sportier five-spoke 22s will also be available.

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