What's New for 2011
The 2011 Mulsanne is Bentley's all-new super luxurious flagship.
Compromise isn't a concept easily associated with the 2011 Bentley Mulsanne. In every way, it seems that the designer and engineers never uttered the word "no" in its creation. They were more likely to have shouted, "More!"
While the smaller Bentley Continental captivates the new-money hip-hop crowd, the Mulsanne is decidedly old-school. Dignified, yet possessing high-tech smarts, it replaces the long-running Arnage as the marque's new flagship. It's longer by about 7 inches and packs a lot more equipment, but thanks to the increased use of aluminum, curb weight has actually decreased slightly.
A lot of work has gone into updating the "six-and-three-quarter-liter" V8, a concept that runs deep in Bentley's heritage. The configuration, displacement and even the pushrod-operated valves remain the same, but just about everything else has been redone to save weight and improve performance. Horsepower and torque are up slightly, and another improvement is the new eight-speed automatic transmission that replaces the old six-speed unit. If you go by EPA fuel economy estimates, the Mulsanne gets 30 percent better fuel economy than the old Arnage.
That spirit of improvement has also touched the voluminous cabin. Those expecting a flawless leather-lined and wood-trimmed interior will not be disappointed. Nor will those expecting the latest modern conveniences, thanks to a helping hand from sister company Audi, as the new electronics interface is very similar to Audi's MMI system. As one would expect, customers can choose from a seemingly endless list of colors for the exterior and interior, or specify any color they can dream up.
Those lucky enough to consider purchasing a 2011 Bentley Mulsanne don't have a wide assortment of comparable alternatives. But that small group of competitors is just as impressive. Some, like the Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG or Rolls-Royce Ghost are relatively close in price. But the Mulsanne is closer in image to the Maybach 62 and Rolls-Royce Phantom -- cars that exceed the $400,000 mark. For the extra hundred grand or so you'd be saving, you might actually get more with the Mulsanne.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Bentley Mulsanne is offered in one very well-appointed trim level. Standard features include 20-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lights, heated and auto-dimming outside mirrors, a power trunk lid, front and rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, a self-leveling air suspension, selectable drive control (Comfort, Normal and Sport), keyless ignition/entry and a concealed battery charging port.
Inside the cabin, occupants are treated to leather upholstery for nearly every surface, wood trim, glass switchgear, heated 14-way power front seats with memory, heated eight-way power rear seats with memory (outboard seats only), four-zone automatic climate control, a power tilt-and-telescoping multifunction steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and power rear-window privacy screens.
The Mulsanne's electronic interfaces include a navigation system, Bluetooth, a multimedia interface controller with voice control, a 14-speaker audio system with a six-CD changer, a 20GB music server, iPod connectivity, USB/auxiliary audio inputs and mini USB ports for smartphones or cameras.
Well-heeled clients will likely indulge in the long list of options that include 21-inch wheels, a "Flying B" radiator mascot, chrome exterior accents, rear privacy glass, ventilated seats, a heated and wood-veneered steering wheel, alloy pedals, a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, ambient mood lighting, a Naim premium audio system and twin 8-inch rear-seat monitors. Besides the numerous color choices for the body and interior upholstery, buyers may also specify custom colors -- for an additional price, of course.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Bentley Mulsanne is powered by an all-new, twin-turbo 6.8-liter V8 that produces 505 horsepower and 752 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic with shift paddles is the sole transmission offered and it channels power to the rear wheels. In Edmunds testing, a Mulsanne hauls its 6,000 pounds from a standstill to 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds. No surprise then that EPA-estimated fuel economy is 11 mpg city/18 mpg highway and 13 mpg in combined driving.
Safety features for the 2011 Bentley Mulsanne include front and rear side airbags for the head and thorax, stability control, traction control, antilock disc brakes with brake assist and automatic hill hold.
Interior Design and Special Features
While other manufacturers tout "attention to detail," Bentley treats the 2011 Mulsanne's cabin with more of an "obsession with detail." Nearly every surface is covered in leather; it even lines the trunk. And this is not just any leather. Bentley reverted to the old style of tanning that yields an exquisitely supple feel and a more pleasant scent free of chemicals.
Switchgear is either glass or polished stainless steel and all knobs are knurled in traditional Bentley style. The navigation and audio systems will be familiar to anyone who has used the same controller interface in a modern Audi. The screen is clear and legible, and operation is easy once you learn the menus.
Naturally, comfort is paramount with any luxury car, and the Bentley Mulsanne excels in this arena. The seats are shaped for a variety of body types and there is enough head- and legroom for taller passengers. In the event you need more legroom -- chauffeuring an NBA center, for example -- the front passenger seat can slide all the way forward to accommodate. The trunk is similarly spacious, with room enough for several golf bags and large suitcases.
Despite a portly 5,700-pound curb weight, the 2011 Bentley Mulsanne moves with the urgency of a much lighter car. Its 505 hp might not sound all that impressive, but the 752 lb-ft of torque certainly is -- especially when all of that power opens up from only 1,800 rpm.
Yet such potency doesn't detract from the big Bentley's emphasis on luxury. Unless you floor the pedal, you won't even notice the presence of an engine. Acceleration is likewise deceptively quick, forcing the driver to closely monitor the speedometer. In the curves, the Mulsanne is sure-footed, but certainly not nimble. But sports car handling is not this car's priority. The Mulsanne is built to carry occupants in ultimate luxury, insulated in a silent leather-lined bubble. And on that score, it achieves magnificently.