2017 Bentley Mulsanne First Review

By James Tate on June 24, 2016 10:00 AM

As someone whose job it is to assess and review automobiles for you, the driving public, it can be difficult to translate a vehicle like Bentley’s new 2017 Mulsanne. Objective measurements fail a car like this—not simply because you could swing three to four S-Class Sedans or a pair of Maybachs for the same money as one Mulsanne—but because the more time you get to spend with the Mulsanne, the more you realize that it doesn’t regard “common” concerns like performance figures or practicality. The Mulsanne is unabashed “lux” in a way nothing else out there is, and it demands respect and admiration if for no other reason than for its owners being willing to be “that guy.”

The exterior of the 2017 Mulsanne sees revisions to both the front and the rear of the car. New LED headlamps now sit on either side of a grille that carries a nod to history with its vertical bars, but retains the familiar crisscross grille from recent models behind that. Combined with changes to the rear, this Mulsanne looks more rare and imposing than ever—there will be no mistaking it for any domestic lookalikes. The 2017 Mulsanne is massive with a road presence to match, especially when those LEDs dash up behind you at Autobahn speed.

Extended wheelbase added

In addition to the Mulsanne and Mulsanne Speed, the 2017 brings the new Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase. The extra 9.8 inches are all for the rear cabin, which gets tables that deploy from the console, integrated 10-inch touchscreens in the back of the front seats, and blackout curtains. Riding in the Extended Wheelbase, it seems like the perfect version of the Mulsanne; one to be chauffeured in.

The 6.8-liter, turbocharged, pushrod V8 produces 505 horsepower and 752 lb-ft in the Mulsanne and Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase, with the Speed bumped up to 530 horsepower and 811 lb-ft. Those are big numbers, but bear in mind the Mulsanne weighs just shy of 6,000 lbs., so it takes a lot of effort to be the “sporty” alternative to Rolls Royce. The V8 also features cylinder deactivation (seamlessly transitioning to four cylinders when the oomph isn’t needed). Bentley has focused on quieting tire and road noise: new air springs, a kind of tire foam that cuts tire noise in half, and active engine mounts that push out-of-phase noise into the chassis are all present.

Deliberately, the engine comes across a little loud from behind the wheel. Not surprisingly, the nearly three-ton land yacht doesn’t exactly deliver a sports car-like experience; you tend to shuffle the steering wheel turning it lock to lock, and you’ll forever be searching for any sense of road feel. As a giant luxury cruiser, the Mulsanne is outstanding, and when you decide to mash the right pedal it delivers all the acceleration you could want. An odd quirk of its big, low redline V8 and long gearing is that the Mulsanne accelerates in much the same way a powerful diesel car does – you often don’t realize just how much speed you’ve accumulated until you start to notice wind noise, look at the speedometer and think, “oh, my.”

New tech

The 2017 Mulsanne has some new tech features to go along with all the wood and leather. Apple CarPlay is now available, and the rear tablets connect via the car’s 4g. Oddly, the tablets are Android-based and thus can’t use CarPlay like up front. There is nothing particularly future-forward about the tech in the Mulsanne, but everything fits in with the rest of the interior and the overall aesthetic with the exception of the buttons on the dash, which look like they could have come off a Volkswagen Passat from ten years ago (a simple change of the font on the buttons would go a long way here) – nothing a Bentley buyer is going to notice, though.

The question you may be asking as you read this is “Why Mulsanne, then?” To be one of the approximately 3,500 people buying Bentleys you have to have the sort of appreciation that you would for a fine watch; no, it doesn’t tell the time any better than a Casio, but in your head you know that one guy worked tirelessly to put 200 parts together to make the thing tick just right, and without electricity. You’re buying it to know, somewhere in the back of your mind, that it’s built with the absolute best of everything. Like the inside of a Patek Phillipe.

Pay attention to pieces and finishes; the paint is insanely deep and absolutely devoid of orange peel, like a custom job you’d find on the best hot rod you ever saw (it takes about twelve hours to polish said paint). The hand-braised, seamless body uses a welding process that would be impossible at just about any other price point. All of the surfaces that look like metal—the vents, for example—are metal. It takes four years to master the woodworking techniques to create the matched veneers. You have to be the rare person who has the money to drop upwards of $400,000 on a vehicle and also really cares about the little things, and likes knowing their car is a unique expression of high-level craftsmanship.

Consider that Bentley offers 100 shades of paint, 24 colors of hide for the interior, twelve species of wood for veneers, and bespoke embroidery, and you get the idea. At its core, the 2017 Mulsanne is about a display of achievement not unlike having a piece of art. Few may have any appreciation for this, and of those who do many fewer will be able to purchase one. The Mulsanne remains a great example of a car company blatantly unwilling to do what everyone else is doing. That’s a rare quality – and perhaps the trickiest characteristic to nail as cars become more homogenized; one nearly as admirable as the 400 hours it takes to build a Mulsanne.