The new Bentley Mulsanne is an opulent power statement, and fit for a queen in Hong Kong
The Mulsanne will delight Hong Kong’s super rich with its speed, style and stealth
I really must protest to Mr Bentley, next time I see him. When one enjoys a ride of rare refinement in a limousine as shiny and self-assured as the 2017 Bentley Mulsanne, one really does expect the whole kit, caboodle and shooting match: the subtle (and ostentatious) sumptuousness; the intricate details (and the big, beefy bodywork); the untrammelled hedonism (and the smidgen of guilt at the utter, oozing, polished perfection of it all. In fact, no – scratch the guilt.)
So where, oh where, were my little flags? You know, the ones that stick up at the front corners of cars – on the wings, that’s it. Because it’s impossible not to feel like some ambassador weighing anchor and cruising serenely across a sea of stares when gliding into public view in this stately thoroughbred.
You don’t buy a dog and bark yourself; and you almost certainly don’t buy a Bentley Mulsanne and do anything as common as actually drive it. Goodness me, no. So you’re going to need a chauffeur to do all that motoring stuff while you do zillion-dollar deals in the back – on one of the optional tablet computers lurking in the pockets of the pews up front. And when it comes to massaging the figures, well, you can do that literally, engaging the rear seats’ massage function to help soothe all those wheeler-dealer headaches.
If the standard Bentley Mulsanne doesn’t quite shout loudly enough or from rooftops of adequate altitude, you can always spoil yourself by going up a notch to the more powerful Mulsanne Speed or, for unbeatable bragging rights, the really big brother of the new Mulsanne family. That is the Extended Wheelbase model, which appends 30 centimetres or so to the “entry-level” vehicle’s already whopping 5.5 metres. It also adds private jet-style reclining seats with extendable foot rests, tables that emerge from a central console and, for committed cork poppers, a bespoke Champagne fridge with flute holders, fashioned, like all the Mulsanne’s elegant extras, by coachbuilder Mulliner.
Not that the oxymoronic “basic”, HK$4.6m Mulsanne, which we tested, was lacking in regal aspect. Quite the opposite: the car is fit for a queen, or to be precise, Queen Elizabeth II, whose Mulsanne – with its satellite navigation software programmed to show Windsor Castle as home base – recently appeared on a British car-trading website. I’ll bet she had little flags.
It’s unlikely that Her Majesty, who likes to take the wheel on occasion, ever drove her official-business Mulsanne, which would be a pity, because if she’d ordered her chauffeur to shove over she would have found it a driver’s car. The 6.75-litre, twin turbocharged V8 engine produces 505 brake horsepower and 752lb.ft (1,019Nm) of torque at 1,750rpm. All that oomph is sent to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission, with sport mode and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters allowing a semblance of manual control.
The Mulsanne also comes armed with a winning combination of speed and stealth. It will move you from stationary to 100km/h in 5.3 seconds before galloping to a top speed of 296km/h. Yet for all its effortless acceleration and imperious bearing on the highway, plus its mighty 2.7 tonnes kerb weight, there’s a certain delicacy to the Mulsanne’s ride, a deft touch somehow recalling the celebrated hydropneumatic suspension system of the Citroën DS.
Not that any perceived fluffiness detracts from the precision of the steering or the Mulsanne’s surprising agility, as demonstrated on the most constricted of country park roads. It does, however, feel like the sort of car you should work up to, perhaps stepping over a BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-Benz S-Class on the way. Financial considerations aside, it’s not a beast you should select from a showroom on a whim, especially if all you have on your CV is, say, a Fiat 500. Consider: the Mulsanne is so long, and the famous Flying B mascot on the prow so far from the cockpit, that, after steering the front end through each corner, by the time I caught up I was somewhat older.
Making a case for the Mulsanne’s environmental friendliness is tough: with average fuel-consumption figures of 15 litres of petrol for every 100km it’s not going to win many green gongs. It might, however, earn maximum points for style. This is a charabanc of class, a steed of style, a motor of magnificence: this is a first-class lounge on wheels, finished with enough leather to give you a fetish and polished timber in sufficient quantities for you to start your own forest.
There’s also an endearing but refreshingly old-fashioned feeling to the Mulsanne, which makes it a tribute to the British attachment to solidity and permanence. The doors close with a soft clunk as they shut out the noise of the world. The fascia dials are simple, the clock analogue. And the electronic touch screen, a non-negotiable evil in just about every modern car, is mercifully unobtrusive at a mere eight inches. Old: it’s the new new.