By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
The 2016 Bentley Mulsanne is more than just a flagship sedan, it is one of the world’s most ornate and expensive mobile status symbols. At over $309,000, the Mulsanne luxury sedan is more expensive than most houses and, to be truthful, is probably better furnished. Handcrafted at the famed Crewe, England, assembly plant, the Mulsanne is the pinnacle of British pomp and opulence, a throwback to a time when assembling automobiles was more an art form than a chore. Available in three trims including a new extended-wheelbase model, the Mulsanne’s highlights include a powerful twin-turbocharged V8 and seemingly endless options list. Still, a Mercedes-Benz S-Class delivers better performance and handling, and costs about half as much.
2016 sees the introduction of the extended-wheelbase Bentley Mulsanne sedan. The longer Mulsanne offers nearly 10 additional inches of rear-seat legroom, airline-style-extending leg rests and a rear sunroof.
Driving a 2016 Bentley Mulsanne luxury sedan isn’t like driving an ordinary car. Cornering, acceleration and braking take a back seat to back-seat comfort, interior fit and finish and a...
... gorgeous handcrafted interior. Of course, being a Bentley, handling, cornering and acceleration are all impressive, especially on the performance-oriented Speed version. The Mulsanne’s 6.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8 produces an impressive 505 horsepower and 752 lb-ft of torque, all transferred to the rear wheels by way of an 8-speed automatic transmission. In the Speed, horsepower increases to 530 while torque is a stump-pulling 811 lb-ft. Zero-to-60-mph runs for the Mulsanne are just a hair over five seconds, while the Speed drops the time to just under five seconds, pretty impressive considering the car’s nearly 3-ton weight. Bentley’s Drive Dynamic Control creates an impressively responsive suspension and steering setup, but truth be told the Mulsanne is most at home cruising miles of smooth expanses.
We doubt many of the 2016 Mulsanne’s buyers will spend much time behind the wheel, which is why Bentley has made the rear seat so incredibly inviting. Reclining rear seats with heat, ventilation and massaging features are available, with extended-wheelbase models adding a power sunroof and airline-style leg extensions.
With the Mulsanne’s power-assisted door closers, if you lack the muscle to completely close the massive doors, the car will do it for you. Once the latch catches, the doors are gently pulled into the sealed position.
Over a dozen hides from Scandinavian bulls line the Mulsanne's interior. Why Scandinavian? The region's cool climate means fewer insects, and that means fewer hide blemishes. Abundant wood and stainless steel highlight this luxurious cocoon, though the latter has been polished to a state that can be blinding when hit by sunlight. Rear-seat legroom comes in spades and the outboard seats, like the front seats, offer heat and ventilation. Unlike ultra-luxury sedans including its own little brother the Flying Spur, individual rear seats are no longer available in the Mulsanne, but this Bentley does offer rear footrests and motorized picnic tables.
At over 18 feet long, it's an understatement to say the Mulsanne makes a statement. At this length, this exotic sedan is longer than some full-size pickups. Aside from its prominent proportions, further attention is commanded from the Bentley's massive radiator grilles, sparkling jeweled headlights and tapered rear haunches. Like the interior, fine exterior touches abound. The doors offer opening and closing assistance, and when parked the side mirrors fold inward to prevent being damaged. The Mulsanne Speed distinguishes itself with tinted stainless-steel treatments and headlights, plus four new exterior paint choices added to the 100-plus already available.
The 2016 Bentley Mulsanne comes with heated 14-way-power front seats, 8-way-power rear outboard seats with heat control, 8-inch high-resolution infotainment screen (neatly concealed behind a veneered panel), satellite navigation system, tinted glass sunroof, quad-zone climate control, power-operated trunk and voice control for many operations. The standard audio system boasts 14 speakers, a 6-disc CD changer, a 60-gig hard drive, plus inputs for SD cards and iPods. Interior and exterior color choices abound, down to the seatbelt hue. Bentley's flagship sedan rides on 20-inch alloy wheels, and its cloud-like ride comes courtesy of an air suspension.
Most likely, the Mulsanne you want is the Mulsanne you'll get. These handmade vehicles take 400 hours to assemble and are tailored to their customers' desires. Among additions are a 2,200-watt/20-speaker Naim audio system, heated and ventilated front and rear seats with massage and 21-inch wheels. The Entertainment Specification includes electrically deployed rear-seat picnic tables optimized for iPads and Apple keyboards. The option features a rear-seat entertainment system and in-car Wi-Fi. Driving and safety features include adaptive cruise control and rear- and side-view cameras. For serious rear-seat indulgence, a refrigerated bottle cooler with champagne flutes is offered for a cool $10,970.
The Mulsanne gets its muscle from a big, twin-turbocharged V8. The engine's 505 horsepower is impressive, but even more so is its prodigious 752 lb-ft of torque, which help off-the-line performance. The 2016 Mulsanne Speed increases both those numbers via engine tweaks that include a new head design and higher compression ratio. The 2016 Mulsanne can go 0-60 mph in just over five seconds and has a top speed of 184 mph, while the Mulsanne Speed goes 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds and has a top speed of 190 mph. All Mulsanne models are rear-wheel drive and feature an 8-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is not a strong point, reflected in its 13-mpg/combined EPA rating and $3,700 gas-guzzler tax.
6.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8
505 horsepower @ 4,200 rpm (530 horsepower in Mulsanne Speed)
752 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750 rpm (811 lb-ft in Mulsanne Speed)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 11/18 mpg
A Bentley Mulsanne isn't bought so much as it is "commissioned." So while the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts at just over $309,000, options and custom touches can drastically increase that figure. Paint options alone can run $30,000, while the rear-seat iPad picnic tables are nearly $13,000. At its base price, the Mulsanne is slightly above the Rolls-Royce Ghost sedan and below the $400,000-plus of a Rolls-Royce Phantom sedan. For just about any other car, we would now direct your attention to the Fair Purchase Price so you could see what others are paying and get the best deal. But we don't expect much haggling when it comes to the Mulsanne. Due to this vehicle's extreme niche, the Mulsanne's resale value is difficult to predict. Even with the best residuals, at the Mulsanne's starting price you're likely to lose many tens of thousands in the first couple of years alone.